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Peter Tea June 2015 Write-Up

                                             Peter Tea Bonsai
                                                     June 2015

Japanese Black Pine and De-candling
For many of us in the Bay area, June is the time to De-candle our Japanese Red/Black Pines. For others living in warmer climates such as Sacramento or Fresno, de-candling may starts in July. So why the difference?
De-candling is one of very few techniques we perform solely based on the time of year. Depending on how long our growing season is, the time to de-candle will shift. Also,
the size of our tree and age will determine if we de-candle early in the month or later in the month.
A few years ago, I wrote an extensive blog post about the concepts of de-candling. Instead of re-writing it all here, please visit that post to get a refresher in how and why
we de-candle our Japanese Red/Black Pines. In the post, there are plenty of pictures of the process and what the tree does afterwards. If you still have questions, please feel
free to email me.
**If you plan to de-candle your Japanese Red/Black Pine, you have the option to wire the tree at that time as well. If the de-candling is partial, you can still wire the tree but
have to be extra careful not to break any sensitive candles or needles. The safest time to wire the tree is during the Winter.**
Cutting Back Black Pines
For those of us that decide to develop Japanese Black Pines to Bonsai, it’s important to know what kind of cuts we can make. There are two types of cutting in Bonsai.
1. Complete removal of un-needed branches for the design of the tree.
2. Cutting back to promote back-budding/division or cutting back to a division.
The cutting itself is easy though the where, why and when is the difficult part to learn. Don’t be intimidated though and go for it! That’s part of the experience creating Bonsai. Gaining more experience cutting will fine tune your skills so that you know you’re cutting enough and not over cutting at the same time.
Is that the only way we can cut the tree? For de-candling, is the Summer the only time we can cut the candles?
Since you’ve all been taking my workshops, you know that the answer is, “It depends on the situation and what you’re wanting the tree to do.”
What if I cut into the middle of a currently growing candle?
What if I cut the new candles off at different times of the year?
…and can I only work with the new candles?
Needles Buds and Terminal Buds
Don’t forget about the needles bud! At each set of needles, there is ONE needle bud there. We don’t normally see them unless they start to grow. If you cut into the needle bud area of the candle, the needle buds closest to the cut point will start to grow. Just know that they take longer to grown then the terminal buds. That’s why when working on young or developing Black Pines, we don’t focus on pulling needles. Removing needles means we are reducing the potential of branch development on a larger percentage of the tree. Once the needles are gone, the needle bud goes with it.
The terminal bud is the big bud at the end of the branch. This area can have multiple buds depending on the strength of the tree and the individual branch. Normally when we de-candle, we are cutting back to the previous year’s terminal end.
A problems that many of us have when develop Black Pines are that we’re too focused on cutting back to an existing division in the branch or the technique of de-candling. Or
we’re too focused on Black Pine schedules that were meant for refined trees.
Typical Japanese Black Pine development model:
Repot right before Spring
De-candling in June or July
Wire, cut, pull needles during Winter
The Standard Model is correct and useful, but incomplete in learning how to develop Japanese Black Pines from unrefined to refined Bonsai.
During the workshop, I will illustrate how we could and should deviate from the standard model (depending on the tree’s situation) to develop Japanese Black Pines from unrefined to refined Bonsai. When we work on your trees, we can then apply those techniques together to further our understanding of the tree’s reactions and the process of developing it into Bonsai.
High Mountain Pines
High Mountain Pines are all pines that grow in high elevations such as Ponderosa, Japanese White Pines, Scots Pine, Lodgepole Pines, Pinion Pine, etc.
These high mountain Pines are not normally de-candled either because they have a tougher time coming back from such a huge loss in foliage. Many times, the branches that are de-candled tend not to grow a second set of candles and the tree becomes weak. I have met several people who say they de-candled every year with, “good results,” on
High mountain pines, but when I see the tree, they are always weak and not doing well.
There is a time though where we can potentially de-candle a high mountain pine but not for the same reasons that we do it for a Japanese Red/Black Pine. It’s mainly done to promote back budding. Due to the dangers of this technique, please ask me in
person how this is done and if it can be applied to your tree.
Trees to Work on this Month
If you don’t plan to work on or have any Japanese Red/Black Pines, then here are some other tree species to work on this month:
Any tree where the foliage has hardened off/
Working on Healthy and Stable Trees
What ever tree you decided to bring to work on this month, be sure that it’s growing well. There is no point in working on a tree that is sick or weak. If the tree is sick or weak, then we have to first figure out why and what we can do to get the tree stronger before we continue its bonsai training. Also, if you plan on wiring (stress) a tree, make
sure it’s firmly planted in the pot and not moving around too much. If the tree starts to rock back and forth during the work, it’s just extra stress on the tree.
I hope that you all are staying cool and hydrated. I’ll see you all at the workshop!

Peter Tea’s December Write-Up

Peter Tea Bonsai
December 2014

Winter Work

Winter is a great time for us here in Northern California. For the most part, we don’t have to deal too much with snow and extreme cold weather. While everyone in colder climates are moving their trees into Winter storage, we are busy working on many of our trees.

Conifers and Broad Leaf Evergreens

During the Winter, we can spend a good amount of time working on Conifers and Broad Leaf Evergreens. During this time we can cut and wire the tree if needed. The only exception is if you plan on repotting the tree. Normally I recommend not style the tree in the Winter and then repotting it in later Winter or early Spring. This could be too stressful for the tree and cause it to become weak for the rest of the year. Either style the tree and wait till next year or repot the tree and style it a year later.

The Cold

If you do live in an area where it freezes consistently every night, be sure to protect your recently worked trees. Keep them in an area that stays above freezing for several weeks before putting them back in the cold. Don’t worry about the lack of sunlight for the protected trees because they don’t need much of it during the Winter.


Normally I use copper wire for conifers and aluminum wire for broad leaf evergreens. If you plan to wire a tree this month or throughout the Winter, be sure to have all the sizes needed for wiring.

Recommended Wire sizes we should all have:

Copper: 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20 gauge
Aluminum: 1.0 or 1.2, 1.5, 1.8 or 2.0, 2.5, 3.0, 3.5 mm

Deciduous Trees

If your deciduous trees are still in the middle of turning color this month, then we can still work on them. We can fully defoliate the tree and do some light cut back. Other than that, there’s not much to do from this point on till after Spring unless you plan to repot them at the end of Winter.

Trees To Work On

During this month we can work on just about every tree except for tropicals.