How to proceed with this JBP?

I’m at a point with one of my black pine’s that I’m thinking I need to encourage some back budding down low to avoid not having enough branches, or having branches that are too long to build something from. So I think my options are these and I’m trying to decide what is best:

  1. leave it alone and rely on the vigor of the tree to produce backbudding down low and on the lower branches. Assist by controlling the vigor of the sacrifice through needle pulling and pruning.

  2. Decandle the lower branches and also reduce the number of branches on the sacrifice. In his post “Reducing growth on pines” Jonas mention that decandling the lower branches is not always reliable in producing back buds if the sacrifice is too strong.

  3. Decandle the entire tree knowing that this will slow down the tree but might be worth it if it generates the backbudding I want.

  4. Let the tree build some strength with new needles then cut back the new growth (including sacrifice) sometime this summer/early fall leaving at least several needle pairs of new growth.

  5. Something else I’m not thinking of?

Also I should have mentioned that I am hoping to continue thickening the trunk so I plan to leave the sacrifice for probably many more years. Does anybody have any thoughts? The pictures might tell a better story. Thanks!

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The first question is where the line of the trunk will be (will the apex follow one of the younger low branches?). Next I’d want to know how big the final tree will be and whether there’s a need to stimulate new branches.

With that info you can make a plan about how to treat the low branches. One approach would be to reduce the sacrifice branch to one or two main shoots (the bigest ones) and then decandle or cut into old needles on the lower branches to stimulate additional ramification on the lower branches as needed.

If you have ideas about the above questions we can help with the plan.

Thanks for the reply Jonas. I would say that yes I was planning on transitioning the apex to one of the younger lower branches. My hope was to build a shohin sized tree although I’m not wed to the idea. I should say that this is one of the first I’ve grown from seed that is reaching this point. I find growing from seed difficult because the decisions you make have a big impact down the line. For instance, although I mentioned my goal was to build a shohin sized tree, i somewhat feel like the bottom part of the trunk isn’t all that interesting and that perhaps the curves I put in the trunk would make a better taller tree. Then again, I’m not looking to build an award winning tree or anything, nor do I expect that. For me, it’s about the process and learning experience at this point. Always appreciate your help. Thanks.

I agree - growing bonsai from seed is challenging!

As I look at the lower branches, I find that most angle downward - a tricky starting point for continuing the apex. That said, the lowest branch on the left side in IMG-7451 could be a candidate for a new apex. Alternatively, you might be able to use the trunk up to the top branch (on the right) in image 7450. The main thing if you go this way would be to create some movement in the upper part of the trunk just below the top branch on the right.

If you go for the smaller tree, you can let the trunk thicken for a while and bend the future apex into position. You might also decandle the future apex - or cut into the old needles - to tighten up the internodes.

If you go for the larger tree, you’ll still need to add movement to the new apex, but the main thing will be to let the trunk thicken for at least a couple years.

Those are two specific recipes for working with the tree - there are plenty of other options and styles available from this starting point.