These are the beginnings of flowers/cones correct? (and not regular candles/buds)

These are the beginnings of flowers or cones on a JBP correct? (Not regular candles/buds)

It it okay to clip/twist these off and remove them during winter Momiage(old needle removal) on my Niwaki JBP?

I’ve already finished Momiage and pruning of 1 tree today. Took 4-5 hours (5’ trees). Got one more big tree to go. Winter Momiage on a niwaki JBP can be such a pia, lol.

Here’s my Momiage work I did today…

And I still have to do this one… maybe next weekend (not looking forward to it lol… major pia)

The round buds are the starts of pollen cones. I leave these alone to avoid damaging the new shoots.

As for the thinning work, I’d leave more needles on the tree to make sure it continues to grow well.

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Ah, I see. Yes, that’s what I was guessing - pollen cones.
Some had a regular candle in the middle, but most were also just small clusters of pollen cones.
I cut them all off anyways (on the 1st tree I did so far), since I was already at it removing old needles and also pruning (reducing any multi-branch whorls to just 2/bifurcation). Hope it’s okay to cut them off at this time in January… and hope they ramify and send energy to make new buds/candles at the cut-ends and bases of remaining needles before spring.

I did the exact same needle-removal (Momiage) last winter Dec 2018 (but that time, I didn’t cut off any pollen-cone candle/shoots, only needle removal)… but I still expect to see the same flush of foliage this year.
The “before” pics I posted is almost all new foliage from just the last growing season. And, the “after” pics is what it looked exactly like in Dec 2018, after I removed the old needles.

As for the needle number…
I’ve studied this (for niwaki, not bonsai) obsessively for the past 3 years… mostly had to translate because it isn’t done in the US much (only the rare Japanese gardeners in the US). I’ve also seen many pines all over Japan after this was freshly done, and it looks quite beautiful with the almost bare branches and very visible branch structure…ready for the next season’s flush of foliage.

It is a technique very commonly done in Japan in wintertime for Niwaki (but, not for bonsai I guess, because bonsai are much smaller and need more foliage for health). I’ve seen pines all over Japan after this was done and it looks quite beautiful with their almost bare branches and very visible branch structure.

This time around, I left 6 pairs of needles per shoot/branch tip end (a good middle ground, not too much nor too little). Kyoto style leaves more, around 8-12 pairs. Also, a niwaki nursery owner here in SoCal told me he leaves only 3 pairs, wow (I’ve seen some of his trees after a fresh pruning). Last year Dec 2018, I left 3 pairs per shoot (as per that niwaki nursery owner’s recommendation).

Had free time today, so I finally finished my last small niwaki JBP. Wasn’t too bad, only 3.5 hours. Maybe I’m gettin faster.

Same deal - left 6 pairs of needles per tip (sometimes 3-4 pairs if I mess up and pull out too many on accident), and also prune and try to reduce any whorls to 2 laterals. Also removed those pollen cones.

Last 2 pics …the biggest JBP branch I’ve ever cut off. It was worrisome to do lol, since it was so big, substantial and old. But, I thought about it for maybe a year.

It was covering/hiding the trunk/base too much from the front view. Also, there was already 4 other branches coming out of the same location/whorl of the trunk (as we all know, we ideally only want 1 branch per trunk location, to avoid bulging).

So, the reduction/removal of that big branch should help in bulging some… though still not perfect, since there’s still 3 more branches too many, at that trunk-whorl/location.
But, I don’t think I can get rid of the others (at least not yet), since I wouldn’t be left with much of a tree anymore and also would have too many cut scars at that location.

Nice progress! Makes sense about removing the branches incrementally - I follow a similar approach when working with trees that are thin.

As for the number of needles topic, I too find it interesting. Over time I think less about how many needles to leave per branch and more about the number of needles per tree. (Or, put another way, the ratio of needles to roots.) If a tree is thin I don’t know that it makes sense to treat it like a dense tree with a mature silhouette. Am still experimenting with different approaches to see which approaches produce which results. Will continue to share any findings along the way.

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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.

Sounds like you’re off to a good start, and you can make adjustments next year based on how the trees do this year. Will look forward to seeing the progress!

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