The Black Pine Duet

Updated: Oct 8

After we got through all the Trident Maples, I was task to work on two Black Pines.  The work is never over it seems.  Haha!  Mr. Tanaka says that the wiring season is starting to I’ll be doing a lot of that for the rest of the year.  The first Black Pine I worked on belongs to a customer and the second one belongs to Mr. Tanaka.  Normally, September is not the best time to work on Black Pines because the needles are still soft so I had to be very careful not to break the needles.  The safest time to wire is after November.  These two Black Pines were not de-candle this year so the needles had more time to harden off.  Lets do this!


Here is the customer’s Black Pine that I worked on. It’s a root over rock style.  I always appreciate a root over rock Black Pine because they take so much time to make.  Mr. Tanaka at this point had already cut off unwanted branches so all I had to do was wire and style the tree.  The tree is about 53cm tall.




What I did and what I learned

The main thing I did on this tree was bend many of the branches downwards.  Black Pines always look older when the branches are down.  I wired most of the branches and made fan shaped pads out of them.  I cut off skinny branches that were too long instead of bending them around to shorten them.  Shortening branches with heavy bends is one way to make a tree look good for a show or a demonstration, but inevitably always have be to removed and replaced with a more suitable shorter branch in the long run.  The ends of the small branches I slightly curved them up so that the needles are pointing slightly up and outwards.

For the most part, Mr. Tanaka didn’t  change the tree too much.  He did however moved the lowest right side branch to the right to show off more of the trunk.  It’s important to show off the transition from roots to trunk.  How I set the branch hide that transition so that it went from roots to foliage and the trunk was missing.  The lower part of the trunk is the core of the tree and always needs to be seen.  If you don’t see a trunk, the tree doesn’t really look like a tree anymore.  It looks more like a bush.  I always thought that the roots and rock were used in place of the trunk but it turns out that that is not the case. That was what I learned the most on this tree.

Future plans for the tree

Next year the tree will be de-candled to develop more ramification in the branches and shorter needles.  Obviously the needles are way too long for this size tree.  We’re also going to focus on the over health too so the tree might get repotted in the following Spring.

To the next one…


Here is the second Black Pine that needed to be styled and wired.  This tree is about 74cm tall and the trunk is about 21cm wide.  I was surprised that Mr. Tanaka gave me this tree to work on.  He bought this tree earlier in the year and I didn’t think he’d allow me to work on it so soon.  It was a funny story when we brought it into the workshop.  He was talking to a visitor and the visitor ask if I was going to be working on the tree.  Mr. Tanaka says yes, then said that I do good work.  I looked at him and laughed (nervous giggle really) and Mr. Tanaka looks at me and says, “oh, is your work not good?  We can put this tree back if you feel you’re not ready for it?”  I quickly said no! and told him I was ready!








Here are before and after pictures for comparison

What I learned and what I did

I don’t have a picture of Mr. Tanaka’s adjustments because Mr. Tanaka said he wasn’t going to change the tree at all.  We sat down and looked at the tree and the photograph together and he suggested one thing.  He said that on the top right of the tree, there is a branch that looks like it’s bend too far down and a small empty space is seen above it.  He said that I should bend that branch up slightly and bend a branch above it down to fill in that space.  I thought it looked a little strange too but decided to see what Mr. Tanaka would say, and what do you know?  All the trees that I have worked on so far, there were a lot of things that I wanted to do and always hesitated because I’m just not 100 percent sure of myself yet.  It always seems to turn out that I should have done it because Mr. Tanaka ends up doing it when he adjust the tree anyways.

On this tree, I did mostly the same thing as I did with the first Black Pine.  This tree has a lot more branches then the first one so I was able to play with the pads a bit more and practice in getting them rounder and fuller looking. Awhile back, Mr. Tanaka said that the lower pads should always be larger then the ones above it.  I had a chance to practice doing that on this tree by slowly making the pads smaller as I moved up in the tree.  This also forced me to make the necessary cuts to reduce down pad sizes.  I’ve always wondered what was going through a professionals mind when they started cutting branches that they deem unneeded in the over design. By thinking about pad size, I now have one more piece of information I can use when decided what branches needs to stay and which needs to go.

Future of the tree

Unfortunately this tree will be going to auction in the next month so I’m not sure what’s going to happen to it.  Hopefully it will go to a good home and the tree continues to develop.  I can see the tree getting more ramified and fuller in the future.  The bark on the trunk will continue to get thicker which will improve the feeling of age in the true.  The biggest concern with this tree is that the main lower left branch is too skinny and needs to thicken up.  Allowing that lower branch to grow out and thicken will greatly improve the interior structure of the tree.  I hope that the tree can make Mr. Tanaka some money and prove the little value I have to the nursery ;o).

A note on Mr. Tanaka’s teaching

One of the things I appreciate about Mr. Tanaka’s teaching is that he’s never overbearing when I’m working.  He doesn’t say much and will only glance over every now and then.  He doesn’t stand over my shoulder and correct every little mistake I make.  We talked about it and he said that if he was to correct me while I was working on the tree, the work would no longer be mine.  He believes that even if one pad looks strange during the wiring, everything will get a final adjustment when the wiring is done, so there is no point in commenting about it until the end of all the corrections.  I believe by him doing this, my confidence level has increase greatly because I feel like I have control of my work and that he trust that I will do a good job.  There’s no atmosphere of anxiety in the workshop that I’m messing up all the time and that helps greatly living a life where I don’t have much control over anything.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a large White Pine that needs to be wired and styled…


Thanks for reading.


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