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Thread: Reducing the size of pine needles?

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    swords's Avatar
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    Reducing the size of pine needles?

    I picked up a Pinus mugo with an interestingly shaped trunk for use as the start of a bonsai but I'd like to reduce the size of the needles and increase the number of branches before I start to do what I wanna do with it. Have any of you made pine needles smaller, is that possible? Should I be root training at the same time as reducing the needles?

    I scanned google for bonsai forums tonight, many seem to have incomprensible layouts (is it that hard to make a legible page?) or seem to be having arguments. Since I know some of you are into the potted trees I thought I'd check with my trusted source!

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    rattler's Avatar
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    granted i havent read my books in a year but in the case of long needles like the mugo you actually trim them to the desired length.....

    i would also wait on root training till you get it to the size your looking for....once you root train growth slows way, way down......it will grow faster in the bigger pot so i would keep it in that until your closer to the finished product your after......since your looking for more branches i would defiantly leave it in the bigger pot.....
    cervid serial killer
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    Let's positive thinking! seedjar's Avatar
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    Best get out your finger nail clippers and get to shaping. And what rattler mentions is correct - you may want to let it grow out before you start working with the roots. If you want to speed things up, you might consider potting up your subject in a bonsai container (ie wide and shallow) and then plant the tree and pot outside someplace safe. I've been told that even with a potted plant, you can get up to five times the growth in a year by growing outside and in the ground as opposed to indoors or on a bench.
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    swords's Avatar
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    Really? Just cut down the needles to the length I want like I'm trimming hair? lol!

    Won't new needles on new branches be as long as the original? Will the old needles eventually get long again necessitating another "trim"? I know defoliating maples and things is said to make the new leaves grow smaller but this will be the first time I've ever played around with a pine. I picked up a couple Bonsai books at Half Price Books but they only show shaping a pine with wires (I prefer shaping by pruning and weather not wires) but there's nothing on reducing needle size at all. I want to eventually mount this one to a big vertical chunk of lava rock I just want it to be longer and more horizontal in the "final" shape before I attempt it. If it improves speed then for now I'll leave it potted in it's nursery gallon, or even a bigger pot maybe? For the past 2 weeks I've had it situated over the edge of my patio in the wind/open air so it can work on orienting and weathering by itself.

    When the little 3" or 4" tall birds come by and sit on it the whole sense of scale is blown!

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    The Consuming Flame EdaxFlamma's Avatar
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    I would definitely get the top of the plant how you want it (ie big pruning etc) before you start trimming roots by any large amount. You can uproot it and "train" its roots around the lava rock. If you want to keep it in the gallon (bigger the better) you can take an old orange juice carton cut the bottom out of it, set it on top of the pot, fill it with dirt then plant your pine in the top of the orange juice container. This allows you to lengthen the root system naturally or at the very least control where it's going. If you wanted you could even put the lava rock inside the OJ container so the roots grow around it naturally. Then when you see roots at the bottom of your gallon pot slowly cut off say an inch or two of the carton and wash away the soil exposing the roots. If they are the size you want them, let the dry in the air and continue to remove tiny amounts of OJ box and soil. If not, fill the soil back and let it grow some more.

    Just a thought,
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    Whats it to ya? Finch's Avatar
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    There are cultivars with very short needles out there that would be better suited for what you wan to do, but they are very slow growing and not commonly available.
    that makes no logic

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    swords's Avatar
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    I actually prefer the larger size bonsai in the 12"-24" range.

    I saw a "dwarf mugo pine" today, just because there was a garden center and I had to at least look. The plant itself was short (no trunk) but the needles are still 2" long. It looked pretty much like grass growing out of a bunch of horizontal rhizomes - lol!

    I think I will repot mine into a rubbermaid with the plant sticking out of the bottom corner so it has to get more twisted, battered by the weather and grow against gravity. Perhaps affixed to the rock inside the container would speed things along in the root department too?

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    ive got mugo's and dwarf mugo's out in the yard......the dwarfs stay shorter but thats about it......needles are identical in length.....

    yeah find a rock yah like......train the roots around it than pot it up in a bigger pot with the rock subsurface.......you will wind up with some real natural looking roots on rocks when yah unbury it, wash off the soil and start trimming....should give yah a heck of a headstart......
    cervid serial killer
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