My first bonsai - Pinus pinea

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My first bonsai - Pinus pinea

Postby Phil Hansen » Mon Dec 15, 2008 2:33 pm

Hi there,
Can anyone give me advice please on maintaining a stone pine bonsai that I recently inherited from a friend. I have never had a bonsai before and don't wish to lose it through ignorance.

It is supposed to be about 3 years old with a central trunk and 6 branches. Some of the upper roots are above the top of the pot. I have no idea if the roots have been pruned recently and I am equally clueless as how to go about it. How often do I need to change the growing media and prune the roots? I tis currently growing in what looks like a pine potting mix with small pebbles through it (I assume for drainage). Also some of the outer needles have browned off.

Since becoming the custodian, I have: a/ Soaked it in water and let it drain off. b/Fed it with a weak Seasol solution.
c/Lightly rubbed off the dead needles.

I wish to reshape it at some stage, but my main priority os to bring it back to health. I will include some photos when I get to it.

Any general advice would be gratefully received.

Phil
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Re: My first bonsai - Pinus pinea

Postby taffyman » Mon Dec 15, 2008 4:28 pm

Hi Phil.
I don't have much experience with pines - they're not too keen on the humidity up here. The link below gives you some information on them. I noted from that page that it will readily bud back on old wood, and that's unusual for a pine (Y) .
It appears that the dead needles are common for this type of pine and isn't a problem - unless of course it was suffering through lack of water or overwatering.
General care for most Pinus species:
Feed every 3 to 4 weeks from spring to early winter.
Repotting time is early to mid spring.
Best time for pruning branches is late summer.

As long as the tree is healthy, I wouldn't worry about repotting it till next spring. I'd advise you check that it really is moist through the rootball though. Use a chopstick and gently scrape away some mix from between a couple of the roots. Through lack of watering it is very easy for the small amount of mix in a bonsai pot to become water repellent. Phil, I'm not suggesting you haven't been watering it, because obviously you've done the right thing in dunking it thoroughly, but previous care can have a bearing on the state of the mix. Dunking it in a seasol solution now and again is a good idea - you can also use Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate). Both can help if the tree isn't doing too well. In the long term seasol would be the better option as it is a good soil conditioner, whereas the Epsom salts can give an immediate boost. I use it when I've done any repotting - especially where I've done some pretty heavy root reduction.
If the previous owner was mixing up his own blend of potting mix (like I do) then yes, there should be small pebbles or grit through the mix.
A general potting mix for pines and junipers, cupressus etc would be a decent brand of potting mix and have some extra very coarse sand added to the mix. This helps drainage. Pines etc don't like wet feet at all. They need to be kept moist but not wet.
For feeding, virtually any type of fertilizer is ok if you're giving liquid fertilizer during the year. Charlie Carp, Nitrosol etc are all fine. When repotting I'd suggest adding some extra chook manure, blood and bone or cow manure. Any of the Osmocote type fertilizers are ok as well, but don't just sprinkle them on the surface. Dig little holes in the mix and put a few balls in each hole then fill it in.
The roots above the top of the pot shouldn't be a problem at the moment, and when it's next repotted you can have a look at maybe cutting them back or planting the tree a little deeper to just cover the roots.

Hopefully imonetoo (Eric) will see your topic and have more information as to requirements more specific to your area.

http://www.geocities.com/erniekuo@sbcglobal.net/stone.htm
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Re: My first bonsai - Pinus pinea

Postby Phil Hansen » Mon Dec 15, 2008 9:08 pm

Taffyman,
Thank-you graciously for your response and advice, I have only owned the tree for a week. Its' history is relatively unknown to me, so I can only take it from what I can see.

Thank-you for the link, it is interesting to see how a mature pinea bonsai may look. I particularly noted the length of the needles in relation to the tree size. Mine seem to be the same length as those found on a natural (?) tree, yet those on the older bonsai appeared to be in better proportion. How does one achieve this through action, or does this occur as a condition of the cultural practice? :-?

When I repot in spring, do I need to prune the roots and replace the entire potting media? I can easily create a mix of well drained and nutrient rich media as you suggested, but do I need to repot it from bare roots?

Will tip pruning, as suggested in the link, reduce the needle length, so that it seems more size proportionate?

Sorry!!! So many questions, insecurities and hesitations. :-@

Pinus pinea grow really well here naturally - Mediterranean climate, dry summers etc, so my feeling is that I should be able to keep it outdoors year round, I just don't want to *&%# it up.

Thanks,
Phil
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Re: My first bonsai - Pinus pinea

Postby taffyman » Mon Dec 15, 2008 10:33 pm

You're very welcome Phil. You give a lot of very useful information to others here on GE so you deserve some back in return.
One thing: There's really no need to apologise for asking questions - I've asked heaps and got very good advice each time.

With some of the Cedrus family - Cedrus Atlantic etc, the needles naturally reduce as the tree gets older but not so much with pines. The shortened needles are the result of pinching the tips out. The needles are actually made up of a number of individual segments. Never cut the needles to length with scissors or pruners, they will go brown at the ends and don't look very good. Always pinch them out with your fingers. When you pinch them out, you are actually separating them at the segment join. Scroll down towards the bottom of this link. I put a bit there with photos about how to pinch out a juniper but the same applies to pines:

http://gardenexpress.com.au/forum/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=5516

Most pines grow 'candles' which are the new growth and you'll see them in the clumps of needles. Let them grow a bit, but before they put out new needles, pinch then back by 1/3 to 1/2 their length. This will induce more dense foliage pads.

With regards to re-potting. If you were working with a fig and most other species, you can hose every trace of old soil mix without any problems. With any of the pine family, and Junipers - and possibly for Cupressus, Cedrus, Thuga etc, NEVER, EVER completely bare root them. They have a symbiotic relationship with a fungus called Michorriza. The fungus converts nitrogen into a form that pines etc can take up. Without it, the tree is almost certain to die. In return the tree supplies nutrients to the fungus. When you take it out of the pot, comb the roots out, but leave some soil on them, especially up near the trunk (the fungus will spread from there).

On re-potting it's also a good idea to keep some of the old soil mix from close to the roots and include it in with the new mix as you pot the tree up. This will also ensure the Michorriza is present for the tree to use. You don't need much - one or two tablespoons will be plenty.
If there is still plenty of space in the pot, you may not need to prune the roots, but if the pot is full - especially if the roots are starting to wind round the inside of the pot, yes prune them back a bit. Being a pine, they aren't as vigorous in growing roots as say members of the fig family (my figs get re-potted at least twice a year because of the huge amount of roots they put out).

All pines are best grown in full sun, just make sure it doesn't dry out. Because of the limitations of keeping it in a Bonsai pot, you may need to give it some protection from frost. The trunk and branches etc will survive freezing conditions without any problems, but if the roots get frozen, the tree will most likely not survive. I know in very cold winter climates (UK etc), they are put into boxes filled with straw that covers the pot and soil mix but not the tree as a whole. A shadehouse in our climate would be adequate during the coldest winter months - it just needs something to keep the frost off the roots and pot.

Something that some people new to Bonsai don't realize (not because they're dumb or anything) is that even in winter, Bonsai need to be watered. Because of the limited amount of mix in the pots, even in the winter they can dry out fairly quickly. All plants, whether dormant or not still need water to survive. They have the idea that because a tree is dormant - especially deciduous ones, that they don't need water. A tree or any plant in the ground for that matter still takes up water in the winter - albeit a lot less and a lot slower than during the warmer months. For that reason, overwatering during winter can also cause problems. As long as the soil mix is just damp they don't need watering - and a good rule of thumb (as with anything in a pot, is to poke your finger into the soil. If your finger comes out damp, it doesn't need watering.

Hope that answers some of your questions Phil. If you have any more, please don't hesitate to ask (Y)
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Re: My first bonsai - Pinus pinea

Postby Phil Hansen » Tue Dec 16, 2008 8:37 am

Thanks - you've given me a great start,
Phil
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Re: My first bonsai - Pinus pinea

Postby alpinebonsart » Sat Jan 03, 2009 7:45 am

Phil Hansen wrote:Hi there,
Can anyone give me advice please on maintaining a stone pine bonsai that I recently inherited from a friend. I have never had a bonsai before and don't wish to lose it through ignorance.

It is supposed to be about 3 years old with a central trunk and 6 branches. Some of the upper roots are above the top of the pot. I have no idea if the roots have been pruned recently and I am equally clueless as how to go about it. How often do I need to change the growing media and prune the roots? I tis currently growing in what looks like a pine potting mix with small pebbles through it (I assume for drainage). Also some of the outer needles have browned off.

Since becoming the custodian, I have: a/ Soaked it in water and let it drain off. b/Fed it with a weak Seasol solution.
c/Lightly rubbed off the dead needles.

I wish to reshape it at some stage, but my main priority os to bring it back to health. I will include some photos when I get to it.

Any general advice would be gratefully received.

Phil

Hi Phil you have inherited one of the hardest pines to work with as your first Bonsai . The info i will give is only a guide as i have 1 only and they can be a difficult specimen . Fistly this pine has juveile foliage which is light blue and soft and 20mm long ,then when the adult foliage appears it is green up to 100mm long and twisted .The branches appear staggered up the trunk and usually only left-right direction with very sparse front-back growth . They have an ugly swelling at the trunk that cannot be rectified , hence this is why they only appear as broom forms in Bonsai. The canopy conceals the swollen branch bases . Needle reduction is very difficult , however the juvenile folige can be restored and maintained by servere trimming and pinching back the new shoot continually , it is better in lenght and you end up with a nice Blue Pine . If yours has long green needles cut the branches back to the start of the mature needles and it will back bud continually .The new groth can be maintained by pinching the tips out , for every tip removed 2-3 back buds will appear and you can compact the tree over 1-2 years . Try not to rub the old dry needles off as this is were the new buds appear .They have an upright growth habit hence the broom style is best suited . Ijust like to be different , mine will 1 day be an informal upright or a raft style group.Sorry i couldnt post an image in the reply .http://alpinebonsart.blogspot.com/
This is my blog ,worth a look i will post a pic on it or you can email me and i will send one your way.Cheers Ian
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Re: My first bonsai - Pinus pinea

Postby Phil Hansen » Sun Jan 04, 2009 2:00 pm

Hi Ian,
Thanks for the info. I've checked your blogsite. I really like your shapes and particularly the group plantings.
You have given me much food for thought as to how I might approach my pinea.
Thanks,
Phil
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Re: My first bonsai - Pinus pinea

Postby alpinebonsart » Sun Jan 04, 2009 4:51 pm

Hi Phil glad to help , here is a pic of the tree it has been savage in height as well as branch length to remove the adult foliage still toying with its design due to the direction of the foliage.
100_2157.jpg
PinusPinea - Italian stone pine after servere cutback to remove the adult foliage
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