Yeah… my tree needs a bit of ramification still, so when needles are removed in the winter, it still looks okay.
But, I still needed to do it anyways…because it gets super dense during the growing season and needs more sun on inner branches/adventitious buds/needles for less leggy needles/growth, less pests [I found sooty mold sometimes in the densest whorls], balance all that strong apical energy, etc. I think balancing energy on a taller niwaki (more spread apart branches and apex) is more drastic and bare needles (than a smaller bonsai).
Ratio of needles to roots is an excellent way of thinking.
The needle number also changes dramatically for different seasons, and I think most energy collection happens most in summer and fall when sap is flowing most (before Momiage/needle pluck).
Yeah, I see your point about thin’ness. Maybe I should leave more until a dense silhouette forms.
I think once the overall main structure/scaffolds/branches/shape is decided and set, we must begin branch development (different topic than needle reduction). I read for niwaki, the most important is to avoid “extensions” or “extending branches” (via candle pinching and also needle reduction).
…which I am very new at, since during this recent Momiage/needle-pluck, this was also my very first time to thoroughly prune/trim a JBP (aside from candle removal last summer 2019), because in Dec 2018 I only did needle-reduction and left all those pollen cones alone.
This time, I cut off all the pollen cones (and its’ hidden center bud) as I was reducing needles (only because I was already at it working hard). I also reduced many slightly older whorls to just 2 lateral twigs/branches (I found way too many whorls that were too dense, with 3-5 twigs). So, even though this thinned my trees even more so after a needle-reduction, at least it will improve it greatly in the future.
I believe (not so sure), ideally, I should’ve left the pollen-cone-candles alone during Momiage until spring/summer, and just return to them in the spring/summer during candle pruning/pinching. Anyways, the removal and trimming of all of them, will help me gain ramification and develop non-extending-growth branches.
I will return to the trees in the summertime (or maybe spring) to pinch/remove the center candles and leave/shorten any 2 side-candles.