It has been a busy couple of weeks. Autumn has begun and with it a range of seasonal tasks. I have been madly plucking Japanese black and Red pine needles. Here in Melbourne we have a convention coming up for which I have to prepare a few trees so I tried to get my needle work out of the way early on.

It took a long time this year. What hadn’t really dawned on me until now was that needle pruning takes more and more time each year. Now this is not a bad thing, its more a by-product of a successful technique. As ramification increases, so does the amount of needles you have to remove. Where last year I was removing needles from one candle there are now two candles at that location that need needles removed from them. Not only are there more needles to pluck, but also the space you have to pluck them in becomes more and more cramped forcing you to use tweezers to negotiate the cramped conditions.




2012 after needle plucking.

The above tree has wholly been grown in Australia and has come great leaps and bounds since I learnt how to properly care for it during my first trip to Japan. It is becoming a nice little tree although it is not perfect and it bears the marks of many of my early mistakes. That being said it has taught me a lot and although I have though about selling it on a couple of occasions I think now I would find it a little hard to part with. After all I have invested a huge amount of time into it.

Perhaps this is something to keep in mind when deciding on how large your collection should grow. How much time do you have, and will this time be enough to maintain your trees to a high level? Bearing in mind that as your trees improve and refine, in turn their maintenance times increase. I really enjoy growing pines but I am very aware of the time I have to spend on them each year. Needle plucking, pruning, wiring and candle work all add up. On a tree that is starting to get refined I am guessing I would be sending 6-10 hours on each of them over the year. When you add up all the pines you grow and then the time you spend on them, combined with the tasks you have for all other species you grow you begin to realise that there is a limit to how many trees you can look after to a high level. I lean towards keeping a smaller collection that is well maintained rather than a larger collection that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. That said it is hard to turn down a good tree.