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Informal Upright Five Needle Pine

Updated: Oct 8, 2020

The next tree I was tasked to work on is another Five needle pine.  Surprised?  Once the end of Fall and the beginning of Winter arrives, I’ll be more focused more on Black Pines and Maples.  In this post, I will talk about what I did on this tree, share some tips on fan shaped pads and an overview of when to work on Five Needle Pines and other high mountain pines.


Before I started wiring the tree, Mr. Tanaka said, make the spaces on your spirals bigger and use less wire.  It surprised me a bit because I thought my wiring was pretty good.  I talked to Mr. Tanaka more about this and he said that my wire was good, but if I can do the same work with less wire, that is better. He said, “your wiring is too good.”  What???  I didn’t really understand what he meant by that but after working on this tree, I started  understood what he meant.  The way I wired the formal upright in a previous post was very strict to the rules of wiring.  I wired it so that I could just about bend any area of the branch I needed.  I believe what Mr. Tanaka was trying to tell me is that the wiring doesn’t have to be that refined and applying the wire only on the areas I need to bend is more efficient and important.  I guess with the cost of copper these days, I don’t blame him.  I do often wonder how some of the pros were able to get a tree looking really good without wiring every branch.

On this tree, I tried to focus my wiring on the areas I know I needed to bend and I didn’t wire every branch.  It turns out that not wiring every branch is more difficult then wiring every branch and get the results that you wanted.  I saw that I really needed to have a sense of what I wanted the tree to look like before I applied the wire.  Before, it’s always been somewhat cloudy to exactly where I wanted everything and having ever branch wired catered to that because I could move any branch anywhere I wanted. I would say that this is my first attempt at styling a tree without wiring almost every branch.

What I did and what learned

As I was wiring and setting the branches, I was thinking about some core principles in style.  I looked at all the branches coming out of the trunk and made sure that they were all in sync with each other (Mr. Tanaka always refers to it as the bones of the tree). Did any of them needed to be brought down any more or were they all in good position.  I ended up guide wiring the second lowest left branch down slightly.  Once all the main branches were looking good, I started making nice round fan shape pads.  The largest pad on the tree is the key branch which is the lower left.  On the right side of the tree I started playing around with making large and small pads here and there to give the tree a bit of a more natural soft feel.  I noticed on all the good White Pine bonsais, the pads are never really one large pad but multiple small pads that make up a large pad.  This technique is much more tricky then it sounds. Making one large pad is easy compare to many small pads within a large pad.  I also tried to keep the lines of each pad nice and clean so they can be seen clearly, especially for a 2D picture.

The most important thing I learned on this tree was how to use less wire and still make the tree come out nice.  I’d say that I probably used about 20 percent less wire on this tree then other trees I’ve previously worked on.  It was difficult at first but after awhile of head scratching and restless nights, I got the hang of it and pressed on.  I wouldn’t say that I’m proficient at it yet, but getting there.

Thoughts on the future of this tree

As this tree gets older, I would like to see more branch ramification on the sparse areas and perhaps more branches to cover the trunk a little bit more at the top.  I’m not a big fan of seeing the trunk line from bottom to top.  I prefer to see more of the bottom and have the top disappear into the foliage.  There are a couple of pads on the tree that I would have liked to make a little bit more fuller and rounder but the tree lacked the branches to do so at this point so that will be something for the future.  Overall, I’m happy with how the tree came out and what I’ve learned.

Mr. Tanaka’s thoughts

Since the people of Kinbon magazine (Japanese bonsai magazine) was here doing a article on Mr. Tanaka, he didn’t get a chance to really critic and adjust the tree.  A few days later though, I showed him the picture and here is what he said.  Mr. Tanaka said that overall the tree looks very nice and the picture came out good.  He said that he’d like to see the key branch slightly longer in the future. He also likes the space between the key branch and the branch above it and said that was good (I was somewhat concerned with that). He did add that there is a large side branch off of the key branch that needed to be brought down slightly to hide it a bit. After a few grunts he said that the tree looked good and that I did a good job. (Yes!)

Here’s a before and after of the tree together

A tip on creating fan shaped pads with many branches vs. few branches

Five needle pine and high mountain pine time table.

I may have stated this in previous posts but it’s worth repeating.  Here is a time table of when to work one your five needle pine or any other high mountain pines.

Jan-March (Winter)= repotting

April-May (Spring) = pinching new grow where needed (this step is only for more refined trees).  If it’s a developing tree, you can begin feeding the tree.

August-November (Fall) = remove old needles, reduce new branches to two and wire the tree.  This is also the time to start feeding refined trees til Winter.

and repeat….  pretty straight forward huh?  Depending on your area, the time table may be shifted forward or backwards. This schedule is good for Japan and the US and I believe most countries in the northern hemisphere.  In the southern hemisphere where the seasons are at different times, adjust it according to the season.

Also note that high mountain pines do not like a lot of water so take care not to over water the trees and allow them to stay on the dryer side relative to other species.


I would again like to thank all of you readers out there for visiting the site and subscribing.  I’m getting more readers every day and it’s amazing that there are people all over the world doing Bonsai.  Seeing Bonsai grow more and more in the world  motives me  more so to keep writing and to continue to spread information.  I hope you all enjoyed this post because I’ve enjoyed writing it.

Well there you have it.  One more tree done and many more to go.

Thanks for reading.

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