Although there are many forestry species of pine planted around Australia, Pinus radiata is by far the most prolific. Known as radiata in Australia it is also known as the Monterey pine in places such as America where it is indigenous to.

As it has been planted on mass it is one of the few coniferous species that you can find to dig. They produce seed well and generally anywhere you find a plantation you will also find feral seedlings. This is so much of a problem in some areas that they are declared weed species.

The up side of all this is there are many opportunities to dig and grow these pine as bonsai.

The below pine is a radiata that i obtained  through a friend. He had sourced it from an old grower who had no longer been able to care for it.

When i received it, it had a lot going for it; old bark, nice nebari and a trunk with some movement and age. These were all factors that encouraged me to pursue its future.

That said it also had a whole host of problems.

It was quite sick and all the needles were yellow. It had lost most of the lower branches and those that remained all were angled upwards and had foliage mainly at the tips. When I cut the tie wires in the pot it fell over because it had barely any roots.

I re-potted and fed the tree back to health over the corse of a year and then began to think about styling.

The beginning

This was the tree before styling began

As the branches were all old with quite old bark i was reluctant to bend them into their future downward position in one go as i was pretty sure they were going to be brittle.

Early days

After the first round of bending

After bending the branches into the above positions almost every branch had began to crack. It was now a matter of letting the tree grow out and recover before completing the bending.

A year later the tree had been growing strongly and was ready for round two. I had slowly increased the downward angle of some of the branches over the course of the growing season but they had not yet reached their final possitions.

Next step

The tree had recovered well and it was time to make some decisions.

I had decided that the first branch would be removed and i would fill this visual position with a ‘Nozoki no eda’ or peeping branch. This type of branch is basically a first or main branch that originates from behind the tree but occupies the space a first branch would. This style of branch is often seen is junipers.

The branch removed

The branch removed

I removed the branch and began to wire the tree. You can see the result of this first real styling in the image below.

the first styling

After the first styling

The tree was fully wired into shape and some jin was created at the base of the removed branch. I left it long for future use as a guy wire attachment point and still have not removed it. I will probably get around to shortening it and refining it this winter.

Since the above photo the tree has grown strongly and has had one re-wiring. It was starting to take shape and was ready to be un-wired.

before wiring

After some strong growth.

I un-wired the tree and did a small amount of re-wiring mainly to the tips of the branches.

It is nice to reach a stage with a tree where you no longer have to wire every main branch.

After a basic wiring.

After a basic wiring.

Above is how the tree ended up after a basic wiring. It really needs a full wiring which i plan to do this coming winter. Hopefully this seasons growth will fill a couple of gaps in the apex and generally give some more weight to some of the foliage and at the same time strengthen some of the weaker buds so i can reduce the branches to them.

The tree is really only beginning its journey to become a refined bonsai but most of the structure is there. Unfortunately the day that i took the above photo it was raining so the bark is dark and it is hard to see just how nice and crackily the bark is.

Radiata’s are a tree that i am still really trying to work out how to grow well. Last year i tried to treat them like a black pine and cut all new growth off around christmas time. It did not respond very well and didn’t really produce any back-budding. This year i am going to grow them a little more like some of the other growers in my area. That is they pinch out strong growth as it appears and continue to do so throughout the growing season.

I was kind of hoping that there would be a calendar bases technique i could use to remove the new growth but at this time it doesn’t seem like there is. Perhaps overtime i will understand them more and then will be able to develop a better method. In the mean time i will just enjoy watching them grow and the work associated with those phases.

If anyone has any techniques that work with these pines, please share them in the comments.

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