You’ve seen this loblolly pine, Pinus taeda, before. I first potted it in 2013 when I started working with the species. As you may recall, I’ve noted before that I’ve never had any luck with Japanese black pines, despite the fact that they seem very well suited to the climate of the Deep South. I love pine bonsai, so I figured that if I couldn’t grow loblolly pine then it must surely be me and I’d need to give up forever. So with a few specimens in hand that I’d gotten back in 2012 I went to hacking and wiring and in the case of this tree, potting. It was a pleasant surprise to me that loblollies seem to really respond well to bonsai techniques.
This is a photo I took of this specimen in October of 2014. What I saw here was a tall pine with its foliage mostly concentrated in the upper reaches of the tree. So I wired some movement into the new apex and wired the branches downward, giving them a trim in the process to bring them closer to the trunk.
Here’s a shot from today. You can see the development of the tree in the past year. I let a leader run in the apex to thicken it so it can support the branching I need. I’ve pinched the growth in the branching along the trunk in order to keep it from getting too rangy. I want this tree to give the appearance of a classic tall pine. To do this, I can’t let the branches get too long.
You can see in this photo that I wired the tree to the pot so it wouldn’t tip over. I cut the roots back hard when I potted the tree. In the process, I learned that the root system wasn’t as stable as I’d like. So the wire was a good way to keep the tree upright until the roots got stronger.
In this photo I’ve removed the guy wire – the roots are nice and strong now – and also pruned back the apex. Now I’ve got the profile of this tree back where I want it. It looks more believable.
The left-hand branch remains overly long and will need to be brought back in next year. I have to be careful when I do this. There’s a small bud halfway back on the branch, but I can’t cut to it until next spring after the candles begin to extend. Otherwise I risk the entire branch.
Of course, in studying this tree it occurs to me that the left-hand branch may need to come off altogether. I’ll probably wait and see how it looks once I’ve chased it back. If that doesn’t make the tree look right, then I can take the branch off.
Finally, I put some wire on one of the smaller branchlets on the lowest right-hand branch. I think this makes the silhouette look much better.
I refrained from doing an excessive amount of pruning on this tree in 2015, as I needed the branches to gain strength. It’s for this reason the needles are a bit long. Loblolly has at least three rounds of growth in each season, which allows you to get must faster ramification and needle length reduction. I expect to be able to put some effort into these techniques in 2016.