I bought this ponderosa from Andy Smith in April, 2009 at a workshop hosted by the Iowa Bonsai Association. I knew instantly what I wanted to accomplish with this tree, but it was Andyís technical skill and advice that allowed me to do it. Originally, the part of the trunk that bends sharply was straight, extending more or less vertically. I wanted this brought down so part of it was parallel to the soil. Andy made a small pie cut on the trunk. We wired and bound with raffia, and then bent it as you see.
After 2 years, the wire and raffia were removed. The tree has stayed exactly as we put it.
I had to repot the tree in 2010 as the soil was turning to mud. Two years later, I repotted again, using the shallow oval you see here. During this repotting, the roots and nebari were exposed. This ponderosa has always been hard to pot up. The roots, despite a lot of growing, remain trough-like, shaped like a ďVĒ if you look at them from the end. There is no flat bottom for stability. Iíve used a guy wire to position the tree correctly.
After the repotting, the candles didnít open last year. This year, they opened, and as they extended, I cut away the old dead needles. Iím hoping to keep the needles relatively short. I know theyíll grow out some, but the tree looks better with shorter needles.
Iím stopping fertilizer in order to encourage less growth. Any advice on how to do this will be appreciated.
ponderosa 6-6-13 ul.jpg
I'm still working on ways to shorten the needles. When I get it nailed down I'll share everything I know. -- The general consensus that I've heard so far is that the more branchlets you have the tighter your foliage will become.
Do you have Larry Jackals book? He discusses his Ponderosa technique there.
I believe Brian is experimenting with some things too. I'm very curious to hear how it's working out for others.
I swear Walter Pall described a technique where he cut last year's needles before/during candle elongation. This would then reduce the energy sent to the developing candle. Im not sure. My ponderosas are 4 years out of the mountain and just repotted into bonsai pots this year. Last year I cut needles as a way of balancing energy. The trees responded pretty well with the bottom half strengthening considerably. They will certainly backbud pretty well when properly cared for. Proper and effective techniques for shortening needles would really elevate this species. I have seen some pretty awesome ponderosas(mostly at Nature's Way), but most had ridiculous squiggley 5" needles. No good. I am going to search for Pall's info.
fredtruck (June 7th, 2013)
I do have Larry Jackel's book. I've read it several times cover to cover, including Walter's essay. The needle length is a difficult problem to solve. My tree has back budded very well. The tree has ramified well, compared to what it was at the beginning. I think this is because of how I winter it...in a large, passively solar heated room which rarely goes above 40 degrees, but doesn't freeze either. I know this is contrary to what most will advise, but it is what is working for me.
Last edited by fredtruck; June 7th, 2013 at 12:41 PM.
Last years needles on all of my pines were short. Not just mine... but pines everywhere, even in the mountains. It was an insane drought year; the driest in 118 years. -- I've read that Collin Lewis uses a technique for severely restricting water during candle growth. This technique scares me a bit though...lol
Larry's book is a must if your passion is ponderosa.
Is there any particular super secret technique(s) in larry jackal's book? I keep hearing about this title, but no clue where to get my hands on it. Cut needles dont bother me much, so that is probably the technique i will use for the time being. I swear, you could probably make a living grafting JBP onto ponderosas.
He has a number of techniques listed. There are brief essays by a number of prominent bonsai artists like Dan Robinson and Walter Pall, to name two. They all give their various takes, but I don't imagine there's anything there you haven't heard before.
I had a workshop with Larry about a month ago. His book is out of print. But he's working on a second edition! Should be out soon.
Late in the summer, cut old needles off, leaving about 1/4 to 1/8 inch of each needle. Obviously, leave all of this year's needles alone. You get short needles by having lots of twigs.
Withhold fertilizer until late summer/early fall when the needles have hardened off. Once they have hardened off, they won't grow any longer. So fertilizing then won't make long needles. But it will give strength for backbuding over the winter.