top of page


The Study Group


A reminder for new study group members and seasoned study group members.


The intended purpose of the study group is for us all to learn more about bonsai and take home skills that we can apply to our own trees.  I am here to help guide you (not do it for you) in the process of learning bonsai and exploring the possibilities.  You have a voice in the process too!  I will let you know my thoughts but I’d like to hear your thoughts and plans as well.  The only expectations I have of the participants is an open mind and an eagerness to learn.  Give me that and I will teach you everything I know!


All in all, at the end of the day, we should all be having FUN doing Bonsai.


May Writeup


The May Write up is important for this month as well so please review it again before our next workshop together.  If you feel you understand it and don’t have to review it, then you definitely need to review it again.  ;-)

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.

bottom of page