Blackpine not budding

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Blackpine not budding

Post  R3mco on Fri Jun 08, 2012 12:36 pm

Hi everyone,

I am concerned over a blackpine (kuromatsu) that is not budding at the moment.
Some background info:
1. Bought in spring 2009
2. Let it recover in my yard for about 2 years
3. Repotted early spring 2011 as it started to bud
4. In those 3 years never did anything on it except remove dead needles and fed it from spring till autumn
5. It has been outdoors thru every winter reaching temps of -15 Celcius at the lowest
6. The tree is about 35-40 years old

Here are 2 photos I made (crappy iphone photos Smile )

I am kind of worried that the last winter was perhaps too brutal on it, although all my other (bigger) pines and junipers stayed outdoors through the year and show excellent signs of health, lots of buds and shoots. You can see the pointy tips, but nothing is coming out. It's already June ...
I was planning on doing some styling this winter, get some shape into it, maybe some deadwood work too, but perhaps it's better to make funeral arrangements than think about styling Razz

Anyone have a suggestion what I can do? Maybe use some vitamin stim packs to envigorate it?

Thanks for reading!

- Remco


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Re: Blackpine not budding

Post  marcus watts on Fri Jun 08, 2012 3:14 pm

Can you gently tap it out of the pot and see if the roots have rotted away after last years repot or if they are nice, healthy and living with many new tips.

My hunch is the soil was holding too much moisture after repotting and the roots are now damaged....because they can not supply the tree with sap the buds are not developing. if feeding continued with damaged roots the problem would have got worse. If there is a poor rootball but signs of life i would pot it into pure pumice, or kiryu or similar - no moisture holding material at all (akadama, bark, organics, etc etc). Keep the rootball dry in periods of heavy rain too...

Generally speaking a white pine can take a cold winter very well, but a black pine naturally grows in milder areas - right down to actual sea level, and does not like unprotected winters.

check the roots and pop a picture up if you can

cheers Marrcus

marcus watts

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Re: Blackpine not budding

Post  R3mco on Fri Jun 08, 2012 9:25 pm

Thanks for the reply Marcus,

I'll check the roots in the morning and take a few snaps.

I find it kinda strange though, that it might be the soil... The mix I use on all my pines is 3 parts akadama (2 line) and 1 part black lava.
But like you said, if I damaged the roots too much, that might be a problem.
I remember when potting from the nursery soil to my regular mix, there were a lot of long brown roots curled up on the bottom of the pot. I removed them immediately of course. Not a lot of mycorrhizae in the roots because of the bad nursery soil (organic with lots of sand). I was hesitant to bare root it back then, but I gently raked out the old soil and replaced it with my normal pine mix.

What actually happens when a pine doesn't sprout but lives on thru the summer?

Anyways, tomorrow new pics, and hopefully we'll see what the problem is Smile


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Re: Blackpine not budding

Post  marcus watts on Fri Jun 08, 2012 11:36 pm

hi - its the soil.............

akadama is the key ingredient used to hold moisture - not the free draining 'dry' ingredient you imagine it to be - that mix would be good for maple or beech. I nearly killed a specimen white pine won in a raffle 14 years ago using too much akadama - after rootpruning the tips rotted rather than regrew - as each root section died so did a branch. luckily i put the tree in pure large grit and saved the last 2 branches and the apex - now 10 years later it is just about looking like a bonsai again

pine mix in my SW England location is 10% akadama (mild, warm, prolonged wet periods)- in drier climates 20% is absolutely plenty. 75% akadama is like a soggy bog compared to what they thrive in.

the tree should go in 100& pumice / lava to recover if any roots are still living - treat it like a newly collected tree. I think it will still be alive in the top sections - they look a better green in the pictures.

good luck


marcus watts

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Re: Blackpine not budding

Post  R3mco on Sun Jun 10, 2012 12:52 pm

Yesterday I had some time to investigate more, so I took it out of the pot and took some snaps of it, check it out:

Two closeups of the "candles" in the strong zone:

Four shots of the soil:

Three closeups of the bottom and side roots:

This is the lava I bought, it's a bit big, so have to crush it to make smaller particles.
The stuff is "out of season", so only could get the softer red lava, but it looks really nice for free drainage soil:

What do you think Marcus?
Should I emergency repot it to the red lava or use some other substrate?
I have a lot of hard akadama laying around (3 line) mixed with japanese grit particles (2-1 mix I use for junipers), can I make use of that in the future (maybe make a 2-2 or 2-3 mix), or should I make a totally different mix with 1 part akadama and 3 parts lava and perhaps 1 part grit?

The grit btw looks like this: warning large image

Thanks for the help!

- Remco


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Re: Blackpine not budding

Post  marcus watts on Sun Jun 10, 2012 10:48 pm

excelent pictures - they show the answers/ story perfectly.

At first glance it looked like a few growing root tips were visible - but no, they are pieces of pine needle. Looking closely there are 2 distictly different roots visible - light brown plump ones and darker shriveled ones. There was excelent root growth after repotting - (last summer) - as the lower pot has a lot of root mass - but this also has the most black shriveled roots suggesting thery were killed off in the winter. There is lots of beneficial fungus and i think this is keeping the tree alive - but again this is a nice healthy creamy white in the upper pot only and darker / dead / drowned in the lower pot..

if it were my tree i would loosen the soil in the lower half of the rootball and shake it off - i expect many of the black shriveled roots will fall away too - i believe the upper section is more alive as conditions were dryer and it looks healthier. Then i would line the pot with the lava rock and tie the tree in well - if you could get sphagnum moss add a little to the lava - but dont worry if not - i would not use a bigger pot as this means more moisture. Keep the tree warm and on the dry side - once new root tips form the buds will wake up - if the existing buds fail new buds will form once the roots are growing.

I would keep the tree in the lava mix for this year and next - quite dry, winter protected. once it is growing again and can be repotted make a soil mix up for this tree - 8 parts lava, 2 parts akadama.remember to feed too as no nutrients are in the soil.

from appearance the soil mix you used was fine for summer but too wet for autumn / winter / spring, thats all.

Good luck with recovering the tree - dont overwater ! BP grows when dry, slows when damp and stops when wet.

cheers marcus

marcus watts

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bud development on pine

Post  fuzei on Mon Jun 11, 2012 5:23 pm

(before you shake the lava rock 'soil' off the roots)

for a pine bud to elongate, the tree needs mycorrhizae. (and vascular hydraulic pressure)
For the tree to initiate a request for mycorrhiza to engage, the tree needs to sense a nutrient deficiency. When a nutrient deficiency is sensed by the tree, (a plant) the hormone strigolactone is produced by the plant, that travels to the roots and engages mycorrhiza.

Lava rock in my experience sequesters salt, and salt is a fertilizer. As well you have fertilizer rounds on the tree.
This would disable the production of strigolactone in a plant.
You might like to soak your lava rock in water for a week and have it tested for salts, just so that you know that that is not the problem. (i'd take 2 samples, one from the tree & container and one from your supply of lava rock)

If you scratch one of the dessicated larger roots in the photo with a fingernail will the 'outer skin' be loose and the inner stem a carrot colour? (and is an indicator of excessive fertilizer being available)

How much direct sunlight has the tree had this year? how many hours per day, and how often has it dried out almost completely?
(determines the capability of hydraulic vascular pressure and part of a trigger that enables a lack of nutrients to be signaled to the tree that inhibits bud development and determines whether the tree has had enough cold days to 'come out of rest'. iow's the dormancy may have been too deep and the moisture has not moved back from between the spaces between the cells
(was the cold snap sudden or progressive this year? and what was the candle length last year?)

The beneficial fungi, mycorrhizae, is not visible to the human eye..... and is detected as an indicator, when the roots tips look like a white noodle ... and is still not visible to the human eye.. fertilizer and salt, also inhibits mycorrhizae.. try really hard not to fertilize until you have an abundance of candles.. Smile
thanks... I believe the background information you might add from these questions will benefit many that have encountered similar symptoms & problems, increasing the informational value of this thread. Every problem is an opportunity to add more information to a forum: a virtual body of knowledge.


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Re: Blackpine not budding

Post  R3mco on Tue Jun 12, 2012 6:30 pm

Marcus, thanks for the help and your knowledge!
I was surprised to see the long elongated roots crowding up the bottom of the pot.
I took the photos about 2 days after watering, so indeed the soil keeps too wet, and the roots that grow in that part do come off pretty easy.
The akadama also was already somewhat broken down and soggy at the part where soil touched the pot.

Tomorrow I'll repot the tree into the lava, the way you suggested. Hopefully it invigorates the tree and keeps it alive Smile
I will keep you updated Smile

Edzard, I haven't looked into salt deposits in the bonsai soil too much, since I water only with rainwater which contains no extra minerals (like tapwater does).
The only minerals getting into the soil are the ones I use in the fertilizer. I currently use a 5-6.5-3.5 organic fertilizer (biogold), but soon I am going to switch over to a homemade mix, 12-15-6, and it has done the job quite well on some smaller trees in training.
The tree stands in full sunlight, except between 1 and 3 pm, then the sunlight gets blocked by a large atlas cedar in the backyard.
I never let a tree dry out completely, I just find it too dangerous. When I am not sure when to water, I either scratch away some soil on the top to determine where the moisture starts, or I use a toothpick to see if the tree needs watering.
This year's winter was kind of strange, it started like every other winter, but kept on long and came back in the nights in march and april, sometimes 18 celcius during the day, -4 celcius at night, so I had to move my trees back into warmer spots in the garden, so it wouldn't freeze them to death during the nighttime Shocked

I have to say I am impressed by your knowledge on mycorrhizae and general knowledge of nutrients in plants, did you study for it?
I am just a novice "bonsai" grower, so I haven't looked that deep into the smaller behaviour of plants.

Strangely enough, I repotted all my other pines (2x mugo, 3x sylvestris, 1x nigra) as well last year, in the same mix, and they are doing quite well.
Seems the blackpine species is a lot more unforgiving in my wet climate. If I went by the books (Pines from Bonsai Today et al.) surely would have killed the pine already!

Anyways, thanks for all the help & advice and I'll keep this thread updated!
- Remco


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Re: Blackpine not budding

Post  marcus watts on Tue Jun 12, 2012 7:09 pm

fuzei wrote:Remco...
(before you shake the lava rock 'soil' off the roots)

your post is really intersting, and excelent for ongoing pine health, cheers for a good read

- this actual tree though had not been potted in lava up until now but mostly akadama, so it is unlikely the salt build up has blocked the 'grow' message - the soil used was 75% akadama and this is the soil component that is holding too much water, was drowning the roots and stopped the tree growing - this is why i said shake it off asap... It needs an emergency repot into totally free draining soil, very minimal watering, protecting from heavy rain and absolutely no fertilising for the rest of the year. I totally agree with your observation about fertiliser on the pot too - there should have been no fertilising before the buds had elongated and the needles hardened - this excess in contact with non functioning roots would not have helped the tree at all. Bonsai Fertilising is very misunderstood, in trying to get faster growth people can slow a tree to a halt and easily end up worse off.

once the tree recovers a better balanced soil mix can be blended but for now air flow and minimal water are all that is needed i think. plus 100% full sun, especially if you can mix a little sphagnum into the potting mix.

cheers Marcus

marcus watts

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Re: Blackpine not budding

Post  fuzei on Thu Jun 14, 2012 6:59 am

Remco.. education-wise I credit and thank many of the people on this forum, and from a time when this forum was a Listserve where the excitement was a once a month e-chat on the bottom of a PC that needed 2 hours to boot up and another 2 hours to get 'on-line': Nina Shiskoff for her endless patience with my questions and I still refer to her pages on pages of notes, Andy Rutledge for his encouragement through his own changing times, Alan Walker for his thoughtfulness, Jim Lewis for his ever patient admonitions of 'Hit Think before Send'..... and numerous other people, such as Khaimraj Seepersad for his insights into cultivation traditions, not to mention Chris Cochrane for his artistic insights and boundless energy in Japan... And there are names missing that do not seem to be on the forum anymore...
All of these people nudged one to seek out the science behind the bonsai and garden techniques that were 'only' passed on advice. Now I specialize in Japanese gardens and arboriculture. And still have much more to learn, and hope opportunity continues.
The point of mentioned these people, is that i think you are in the right company for answers, as forums are a living memory knowledge base, and one should ask the questions of people, while one can. And, question their answers for understanding so that you build on what they know.

Back to your tree as this is hardly about forums except as an opportunity for knowledge:

reading through your opening notes a number of times, in my opinion, the problem you have is that the JBP is a more tropical oriented pine than the others. By this I mean that the problem is one of not coming out of dormancy, in a species that does not require dormancy, but does go into quiesence: torpidity, slowed function rather than dormant. JBP can go into dormancy when the conditions are extreme. And come out of dormancy.

Dormancy: being when the water in the tree cells moves between the cells to provide protection to the cells from bursting in the freeze cycle, and, when the tree comes out of dormancy acquires a state of 'rest' that is broken when the temperatures freeze and warm to extreme temperatures.

and, you mention that you did not allow this temperature cycling to happen, as you protected the tree from the cycle that moves the water back into the cells from being between the cells.

Now you basically have a tree that is in stasis, 'rest' that comes after dormancy, slowed transpiration and function. And is known as quiescence if there is no cold period in association (and stages preceding dormancy). When this stasis goes on too long, and there is moisture in the roots, between the cell walls and can not return to the cells, decay sets in, and roots die. The fungal growth you see is enabling decay. And excess water enables decay.

Natures way of breaking the 'rest' cycle for your area and year was the +18C and -4C at night that you had. If a tree is kept from this cycle, you get what you have. When the winter is colder than normal, nature seems to compensate with additional extremes of temperature that bring things back to life.

to put this into context, Tilia spp and other woods have a difficult time coming out of 'rest' and the process applied is called 'sweating' in the nursery industry. Interesting to me is that the nursery industry insists that one should not 'sweat' a conifer, and I have never found out the reason why one should not. (and am still looking, any research tracks are appreciated if anyone knows of any).

What i do know, since I live in an area predominated by chinooks, is that this problem often happens with introduced species that are in the nursery.

Marcus has you transplanting for a soil causing a root problem. And I observe a natural problem of breaking a dormancy cycle in a species that does not need or do well with dormancy.

the solutions are similar, except that transplanting breaks the vascular pressure a plant needs to come out of rest and compounds the problem.. The tree needs to compartmentalize before it can use vascular pressure.

my point is, that before you 'shake the soil off ', you may wish to enable the tree to come out of 'rest' first. then initiate the sequence for strigolactone and mycorrhizae so that you would be in a position to be able to repot successfully.

my mind growth question for Marcus is.. how do you propose to break the tree out of 'rest'?

fortunately for the commonly recommended remedies, repeated dry cycles induce quiescence, and repeated wet cycles break rest*, if the tree can sustain itself through the compartmentalization process to be available for the mycorrhizae...
--- then this should reactivate the vascular pressure that would push moisture back into the tissues and buds.
* only if there is a dry/wet dry/wet cycle and optimal heat + moisture for the buds as in Japan.

-- you are thinking only of roots.. I am thinking of the entire cycle. Hence, naturally a difference.

I don't know what a blocked grow message is from salt buildup.. do you have link to a research paper on that? But, I am familiar with reactivating growth using magnesium salts (bath salts).. is that the same thing?

Remco, Idea if you don't shake the soil out, the tree will not fall over when it is out of the pot while drying out and duplicating the moisture and heat requirements of spring in Japan.
thanks for reading, hope it was enjoyable for ongoing health.. we all need Sleep edzard


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Re: Blackpine not budding

Post  R3mco on Thu Jun 14, 2012 11:44 pm

Marcus and Edzard,

Thanks for your replies! Very Happy

The day after you posted Marcus, it rained (again!), so I had an excellent chance to see what it would look like in the soil being wet.
And you were right, there was a lot of water still in the soil the day after, too much to be honest. Even more than you see on the pictures

So I decided to repot it into the lava. What surprised me was that the roots fell off real easy, I only had to shake a little and use my fingers to loosen the soil and a lot fell off. I didn't even have to use force or use tools.
Then I inspected more into the core of the rootsystem, and there were very nice normal roots, they had grown a little since the repot last year.
Since the soil broke away so easily and all the elongated "dead" roots came off, I placed the tree into the pot again after I filled the bottom with lots of course lava (about 8mm). Then I tied it down real good with some wires through the holes in the bottom, and added some medium (4mm) lava from the bottom till the top of the rootsystem, like a normal repot. In total, maybe 1/4 to 1/3 of the soil was removed, including the dark brown roots.

I will post some pictures of the tree tomorrow, didn't have the chance to take some snaps.

Edzard, that is some great knowledge you have about trees coming out of "sleep" and getting the kickstart they need to actually get to the 'growing again' part of the yearly cycle. I have to let it sink in for a while to get a general feeling about it. While I am writing this post I still can't totally grasp it, but I'll "get" it eventually. Do you know some articles on the internet you recommend for reading on this subject?

The possible problem here is, in the Netherlands the weather fluctuates like mad sometimes. March and April can give us anything, from snow, freezing temps, hail, rain and even tornados (small ones Smile ), or just general nice weather with no rain for a week. Within 2 days it can go the other way around real quick and it might rain for a couple days.

I keep my trees 100% outside though throughout spring, summer and fall. I move the deciduous trees into a cold outer house (with windows) the day it freezes below -5 C.
Couple of times a week I open the doors, so the air inside gets a refresh and no fungi starts to grow around or on the trees or the soil for that matter.
The bigger conifers are kept outside all year round. I didn't move them back into the outhouse even when it started to freeze again in march, including the pine in question. I only moved them to a more sheltered part of the yard that doesn't let the cold penetrate as much, and move them back to their spot after a day or two.
The biggest problem we had last year was the cold dry air coming from the east (Russia). It killed off a lot of trees, even in nurseries. I've heard a lot of japanese maple nurseries in my country had to throw away almost their whole stock because they died from the dry air. My local bonsai supplier is warning me every year about it, since he has some troubles with the cold dry winds too in the past.

Anyways, back to the pine:
I think that the JBP might have gotten a hit with the fluctuating temperatures and because it was either too wet (with the wet soil) or it froze too hard on some nights and might have had a too big of a hit to recover properly.
Either way, it was holding too much water. On a cellular level, I have no clue about the change coming from being in a solid state between the tree cells, protecting the cells with water between cells, my knowledge doesn't reach that far (except from my biology lessons in high school, but that's only basic cellular stuff).
I do know that if the soil is frozen and the tree is in sunlight, it tries to suck up water thru roots, but since the soil is frozen, it can't retract water and dies.

I don't really have an idea what might happen now that I've transplanted the tree to a much more free draining soil. It might die though, the chance for it is big. I pray it doesn't happen though Laughing
It is one of the trees I was planning to style after the fall, and of course hope to backbud after some candle pinching. Maybe in 2 years time, we'll see!

Your dry/wet dry/wet cycle does look very good and I was thinking the same, maybe it stimulates the tree some way.

Off topic: The chinook phenomena sounds like a horror scenario, temps raised from -20 to +10/+20, how do you handle it in deep winter?

Thanks again for all your advice and recommendations!
Follow up post tomorrow ...

Cheers, Remco


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Re: Blackpine not budding

Post  R3mco on Sun Jun 17, 2012 9:46 am

The promised photos:

A closeup of the new soil

A photo of the soil before adding the last layer of lava

The old soil from the nursery
This is the part still worrying me, it's organic soil, mostly consisting of clay and sand and very hard to remove during repotting. I've had this on some other trees as well and it made me bare-root it if I wanted to get rid of.

Some roots that fell off immediately

A closeup of a root where I scratched off the surface

Another closeup of a root where I scratched off the surface

A shot of where it currently is standing
It's in full sun, on the edge under a roof from the terrace, so it doesn't catch rain, but is still outdoors.

Greets Very Happy
- Remco


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Re: Blackpine not budding

Post  marcus watts on Sun Jun 17, 2012 11:12 am


fingers crossed for the tree - the new soil looks perfect and it is great you have observed first hand how the soil components combined with local weather patterns effect the conditions in the pot. The excelent pictures show the roots that drowned, froze, began to rot etc and the survival of the tree will be more likely now they are removed - a dead root lump holds more water than akadama!

Recovery is totally dependant on the remaining living roots - i hope there are enough. Position is good now - outdoors but not in the rain, so another box is ticked Very Happy

Are you aware of the company canna ? they specialise in very good plant fertilisers, tonics, additives etc and have 2 products essential in my opinion to help this tree - rhizotonic I really rate very highly - you would not believe the root recovery I have had on trees that have had a lot of root removed for one reason or another - I mean trees that should have died have recovered.

Cannazym is the follow up product - it contains enzymes that break down dead roots and turn them into useable plant food - this is my long term ace to maintain rootball quality for longer periods of time. I totally rate the tonic, have seen the results this year, the enzyme product makes sense but will take longer to see the results

my most recent blog post begins with black pine soils and wet weather, and also how we need to adjust to the weather conditions when choosing pruning methods. A non typical black pine season

good luck - i would water with rhizotonic and mist the foliage with it too.

best regards Marcus

marcus watts

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Re: Blackpine not budding

Post  FrankP999 on Sun Jun 17, 2012 12:13 pm

I have been following this very interesting thread and have a couple of questions.

1. You said "The tree needs to compartmentalize before it can use vascular pressure." Will you please explain?

2. You said "initiate the sequence for strigolactone and mycorrhizae " Again, some more details on the sequence would be really helpful.

Thanks Edzard and others for this interesting conversation.



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Re: Blackpine not budding

Post  R3mco on Mon Jun 18, 2012 12:47 am

Marcus, I have heard of the stuff, they use it here to grow weed Smile

I think it's actually a Dutch product (who would have thought with a name like that Laughing ).
It isn't that expensive here, about € 12,50 for 250ml.

Thanks for the tip!


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Re: Blackpine not budding

Post  Sakaki on Mon Jun 18, 2012 12:27 pm

Dear Marcus & Edzard,

I personally would like to thank yo both!
Though you've been trying to solve Remco's problem in foreground, i believe tha you've also contributin' much to my and other IBC people's knowledge in background.
Thanks guys!



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will science catch up with folklore?

Post  fuzei on Mon Jun 18, 2012 4:31 pm

Thank you both for the questions: the only time to change a garden is when the garden asks..., and,
it takes time, effort and peoples questions with answers that stay on the forum, to build a forum that offers value.

bonsai was once a means of becoming educated about nature and how nature works.

It amazes me that all Remco needed in the beginning was a plastic bag, some straw, dead grass or the deluxe version: store-bought cotton balls, some morning sun with a later transplant. He mentions the folklore attached though not in completion, and as a result, the mycorrhizae was thrown out with the bath-water.
Now we have to buy mycorrhizae instead of inoculating with other local mycorrhiza from pine in the next pot. A few white pine roots, mixed with a willow root slurry in a blender, water this into the pine and voila.. instead we are going to also spray mycorrhiza on the foliage..

and another folk-tale is born. Rolling Eyes

Folk-tales and folk-lore are necessary though. Without simplification of concepts we would not grasp the beginnings of problems nor follow through to an end.

The second part to the lore of sunscalding is being able to apply the advice in reverse. The folk-lore of pine was that one "do not over-winter pine where the morning sun can reach the tree".

If we reversed that information, then to get a pine to break dormancy we would need the morning sun.
Morning sun, in the spring, is mostly 650/660 cycles of red spectrum light that causes growth initiation in most plants and seeds.
This has a second part, another folk-tale about 'what grows first':
Pine: buds first (then roots*)
Maple: roots first (then buds*)
* added by me for clarity.

this means one needs to get the roots of a maple working first and then work on the buds. Maple needs heat units in the soil to stimulate the buds. This means that in pine, one needs to have buds stimulated before the roots are functioning.

why? because water has more weight, more pressure than air. This pushes moisture up most trees. Some trees pull moisture. Cut a flower it droops: place it in water and the head comes back up.

Compartmentalization: we all know that trees don't heal and, even if we wish they would, they still don't.
They break into compartments.
When a wound occurs an airbag explodes at each cell and seals off that cell. If the sap is flowing, maples for example, they bleed. The airbags are having trouble sealing the compartments because the vascular pressure from the roots is being pumped up the tree. That is when die-back occurs...
But, if you cut the roots at the same time, then the vascular pressure will slow down, sap stops running, the tree droops because there is a vacuum loss on both ends. Sometimes, this can also cause pump failure, and the tree dies.
-- ergo, we transplant maple before the buds are out and the sap is running, or when sap slows down through the roots,... as in pine roots, that need to seal off compartments when transplanted and stop the sap running out not up.

With pine, folk-lore is a good thing, as mycorrhiza is not visible to the eye except when inhabiting a root (the white noodle). Mycorrhizae was not known to pre-science man, except as the reaction and timing of a sequence of events that becomes pine lore and becomes an educational tool.

As a 'buds first' plant, one that lives with dormancy, nature has provided mechanisms for survival. As the ground is frozen and thaws, water collects above the frozen frost line and 'drowns' a plant for the first few months of spring. We here in the montane, still have a water table level of 1" below the surface in June.

This 'drowning' is a continuous vascular pressure that is available for buds when they start growing before the ground has thawed and becomes dry enough for mycorrhizae to function. This means that the roots need to be soaked and waterlogged. In pine when the buds begin to grow, there is a pressure that becomes suction that draws this moisture up into the plant. If either side is broken, the water intake is broken and recovery takes longer.

The advice to Remco was to remove what happens naturally in nature every spring.

'Growth' in pine begins when the pine 'calls' for nutrients. The soil needs to dry for this to happen. The advice was sound at the point for 'growth' but not for bud elongation and overcoming dormancy.

The 'growth' call is made via a hormone called strigolactone, and this engages the mycorrhizae. It is not known at the (this) moment whether this hormone also allows penetration of the pine root cell walls as well as simply a call and exchange.. much is not known yet, at least no by me.
In all this, mycorrhiza need to have a dry enough environment to colonize and populate the soil. Humidity and warmth with a cool damp cycle.
Ergo the soil needs to cycle through wet/dry cycles. And each cycle, is a growth cycle.
But first we needed pressure and then suction...

Mycorrhizae can not be activated if they are not there... buds will not elongate.
Repotting causes the roots to be broken, and the vascular suction stops if 'one end of the hose is released'. disconnect the vacuum hoses on any engine and the engine runs ragged.

the objective was to have the buds grow first with optimal heat and moisture conditions, then, dry out the roots with the original colony of mycorrhiza, as mycorrhiza are also 'tree-specific',
and with the mycorrhiza in the tree roots, repot as per the normal repotting cycle.

In essence then, the actual nature of how frost and water behaves on pine coming out of dormancy, being in rest, enabling cyclic growth of roots and understanding bud growth cycles was not understood. Nor was the folk-lore listened to, nor the science researched.

Remco received the advice for a tropical deciduous plant that at most endures growth pauses (rest, quiescence, not 'summer dormancy' but SD is good folklore stuff thumbs up and people remember folklore)

Remco's pine was only supposed to be in rest or quiescence as it is out of its growing zone. The JBP should, would normally not have a cold dormancy, but a period of quiescence. Torpidity or slowed process, if that is clearer, then go into rest, rather than being actually frozen and stopped.

hence, the advice is right, sort of, except understandably, cold dormancy - actual cold response, is often misunderstood unless you watch it happen in nature as the frost leaves the ground.. (hard to watch, and easily overlooked in warmer climes.)
In spring-melt, roots are flooded. This 'wet' does not kill roots, this is normal nature.. for bud growth..

in essence following the advice has:
- removed the capability for the buds to elongate,
- removed the ability for vascular pressure to assist,
- removed the mycorrhiza to enable bud elongation, need to recolonize
- roots need to compartmentalize before vascular pressure can resume and buds can elongate

and, we still need the original solution of sun and moisture with optimal bud growing climate.

one just needed the buds first elongation and then drying the soil by simply removing the bonsai from the pot and standing it on the counter, letting the soil dry out. Put the bag with moisture over the plant by day, remove by night. Create optimal heat humidity cycles. Give the soil mycorrhizae and roots air on Natures cycle.. and, transplant to drier soil with the unique mycorrhizae embedded in the roots.

Remco.. just a personal note.. under the overhang is not good for pine.. dew, dew-point condensation opens pine buds, adds moisture humidity for mycorrhizae. Pine function at night. You are repeating the 'dry-cold' cycle..
and, have the lava rock tested for salts, because in my experience, all red lava rock has salt.., maybe not in northern Europe though..? my cousins around Leer say it has salt..

Dry cycles, ones that cause mycorrhizae to withdraw from actively feeding pine, are the start of quiesence in pine.
Dry cycles, initiate 'summer dormancy' / quiescence. This can be done anytime. not recommended, but can be done. It is useful technique.

When moisture and cooler temperatures return, the pine moves into rest, and with 'wet roots', the pine BUDS respond to the light, heat and moisture, and activate the vacuum, that dries the soil, that causes nutrient deficiency that engages mycorrhizae and produces candles so that the roots grow.

The main part to remember here is that pine can be transplanted anytime the roots look like white noodles. And, normally, this is also the time that the candles are 1/3 to 1/2 extended for the cultivar norm. This includes wild mugo pine, nursery pine and bonsai pine. Naturally, if it gets cold right away, August frost here, then transplanting in 'late-summer' is not a catch all repotting time: and that was the original problem before Remco's situation that called for premature repotting.. If it gets too hot right away, then the later cooler cycle is better. Each geography is unique..
--- just look for white noodle roots, tune into the cycle of nature and transplant.

have we all fallen to Sleep Sleep Sleep ?
... thks for reading: mighta been better as a 3 part mini-series .. edzard


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Re: Blackpine not budding

Post  marcus watts on Mon Jun 18, 2012 9:40 pm

hi Edzard, glad you had so much time to write such a good 3 part serial (i enjoyed it:D )

I ask myself why to complicate a very obvious and common European problem though ....rain (lots) + cold + too much akadama = very wet soil = dead roots = black pine not grow properly = unhappy tree. SO>.....make new pine soil dry & keep off rain, consider the canna products i suggested as they are not mycorrhiza but excelent products for root recovery - i only speak with actual user experience and observation, not passing on folklore, A person should only comment on a product or method if they have used it properly i feel .

bonsai health is nothing more than just common sense, the ability to sense your tree's happiness or unhappiness, and knowing when to ask for a little help..........its why we all read the forum and then ask for help when we are stuck for answers. Once the answers or opinions are offered you look a little more at who is writing and decide whether to take the advice or not - it should be a simple process

i have found actual mature bonsai behave differently to the same tree species in nature or planted in a japanese garden or nursery - over the years I have found the shallow bonsai pot conditions needed for health and happiness for many years can be different to simple gardening - and you need a sixth sense for your own personal climate and garden - the plants tell you what is right, this is the true learning process of instinct that you can not get from any book or teacher

cheers Marcus

marcus watts

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Re: Blackpine not budding

Post  fuzei on Tue Jun 19, 2012 7:48 am

Marcus wrote:
I ask myself why to complicate a very obvious and common European problem though ....rain (lots) + cold + too much akadama = very wet soil = dead roots = black pine not grow properly = unhappy tree. SO>.....make new pine soil dry & keep off rain, consider the canna products i suggested as they are not mycorrhiza but excelent products for root recovery - i only speak with actual user experience and observation, not passing on folklore, A person should only comment on a product or method if they have used it properly i feel .

complicate? 3 things: sunlight, a plastic bag and low tech moisture holding material.
Who complicated?
decide whether to take the advice or not - it should be a simple process
then your process is simpler than sunlight, a plastic bag and moisture ?

bonsai health is nothing more than just common sense,

umm, common sense begat folklore..

i only speak with actual user experience and observation, not passing on folklore,
.. combine common sense with actual user experience and observation, and folklore is born...

the plants tell you what is right, this is the true learning process of instinct that you can not get from any book or teacher

more of where folklore comes from.. but you are not passing any folklore on, right? just science..

Once the answers or opinions are offered you look a little more at who is writing
.. then a bit more for your reading pleasure... Heading: "bonsai leadership", read the names...

I try not to look at who is writing for fear of bias, and try hard to understand and reflect on what they wrote and understand that what they wrote is valid to them. And I remember the risk they felt in telling and asking someone else, and it is I who need to catch up with their thinking so that I can understand the topic from their perspective, and see with their eyes. And, I learn a great deal from people... oft times the 'most unknowledge-able' is the most learned.. and I am thankful for their kindness and generousity of sharing their curiousity, delights, frustration or angst. I know I don't know things, and there is always more to learn.

thank you Marcus.. for the education... I shall ruminate a while on how I might have improved my delivery...
I wish for you that you may fulfill your motto,
try to raise the bar each time - and always keep an open mind
how about a bit of conferring that we'll both try with open minds... ? ~ edzard


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Re: Blackpine not budding

Post  abcd on Tue Jun 19, 2012 12:11 pm

For lows trees , i use frequently with good results , particularly on pinus sylvestris,
anhydrous sugar ( C6 H12 O6 ) , directly assimilated by the leaves and roots, 25 gr / L water .


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Re: Blackpine not budding

Post  BonsaiJim on Tue Jun 19, 2012 2:17 pm


Its been may years since I've hung around the e-bonsai world; the other day I was purchasing some Black Pines... I was literally just wondering a few days ago if you were still out there! I missed you stretching my brain! Thanks for the "essay"!


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Re: Blackpine not budding

Post  BonsaiJim on Tue Jun 19, 2012 5:32 pm

I find myself often in this same boat despite my more conducive climate- tipping pots to mitigate the deluge/drought effects. But JBP grows just fine in the landscape, even in salty seaside plantings...

Edzard, Shall we add in the typical proffered advice for "root rot" of treating with a fungicidal drench... further killing off the mycroryyzza... Twisted Evil

What I fear is that you have offered a wonderful lesson that closes the barn door but how do we get the horse back to the farm?

He missed the boat, did not recognize his tree was not breaking dormancy and did not "sweat" the tree to wake it up prior to repotting.... some where in here we have rotted the roots, so now what? I think there was a tipping point where the tree will not "sweat" itself back in action, no? We have a lethargic tree, no roots...

Better course of action than a repot? Is there a certain risk at this point of there being "bad" fungi in the rotted system that would preclude adding back old soil to reinoculate?

Edzard, your educational treats illuminate us as to what a tree wants to do (versus putting a tree in a pot means the tree wants to something different), regardless of being wild, cultivated, potted...

It is our failure to create/adjust the environment that allows the tree to thrive is where the complication comes in. IMO- the tree still wants to do what it is genetically programmed. While to an extent any changing "system" can overwhelm a tree and kill it (even mother nature), we have the ability with bonsai to parry and counter but we need the knowledge to do so.

Greatest tidbit I got is that "...pine can be transplanted anytime the roots look like white noodles. And, normally, this is also the time that the candles are 1/3 to 1/2 extended for the cultivar norm. "

I learned this with TX persimmons- trees that will go into stasis for several years after being collected (how many collectors have thrown them on teh compost pile after they failed to bud out after 2 years!!) people say they repot them and then they go dormant again for 2-3 years... so I repot them when I see signs of budding- thereby telling me it WANTS to grow NOT go dormant. No problems... its all about understanding the materials, its dynamics and what its going to do given the pot environment and climate... not complicated at all!

SO....if my JBP is not extending or is too fast, I need to figure out why- weather, my culture methods- what aspect created this dilemna and then decide how I need to stick my nose into things to really screw it up! Very Happy

More folklore- plant in XXXX and repot pines (or XXX) in the spring... How many times have I recreated a big bonsai cutting?


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What a great thread!

Post  Joe Hatfield on Tue Jun 19, 2012 7:15 pm

I nominate for "Best Thread of the Year Award"... If one existed.

Very insightful information. I have had some questions pertaining to a ponderosa pine that I think have been cleared up via this thread.

GOOD STUFF! cheers

Joe Hatfield

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Re: Blackpine not budding

Post  my nellie on Tue Jun 19, 2012 9:55 pm

Agree by all means!
One more plus into IBC library of excellent tutorials!
Thank you all the tutors!

my nellie

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Re: Blackpine not budding

Post  marcus watts on Wed Jun 20, 2012 12:37 am

i welcome detail and information at all times - but blatantly simple problems only need short simple answers dont they?- nothing is gained from extended waffle apart from self gratification for the writer - if you live in a wet climate 75% akadama is not the correct soil for a black pine - no folklore there, just 'bonsai basics lesson '1' Get the soil right'. If you have roots that are rotting from high amounts of 'wet' akadama then the soil will have to be changed if the tree is to stay outside and live, this is just fundamental basic common sense - no need to complicate the matter further. even putting a bag over the tree for a while in the sun will not suddenly make the soil components behave any different this coming Autumn & winter - it will stay too wet again and the problem will be the same this time next year if the tree survives the winter.

I live in a very wet climate and am happy with the long term health of my bonsai collection - and they are all here for all to see , warts and all Laughing - 15 or 16 years ago I thought akadama was the perfect soil for my pines - the ungrafted japanese five needle pine pentaphylla did the same as this BP, but it is a weaker tree and as each root rotted so a branch died - the soil was changed, the remains of the tree saved (just top 3 branches) and it has taken 12 years to get the tree even close to the quality it was before -big lesson learned, so i have first hand experience to pass on to this thread and have not lost a branch on a pine since - so why are my experiences folklore?

I personally believe all people offering detailed advice to others here should begin with an up to date gallery thread of their own personal bonsai trees as in life actions always speak louder and clearer than words - it is the easiest way to see if the writer is doing it for real or just one who likes to talk a lot...........equally importantly this is a worldwide forum community with countless climate zones - an understanding of the countries weather conditions is essential before anything else. Many of the things dismissed earlier as folklore are actually the culmination of first hand experience, plants are very easy to keep happy if the basics are right.

good fun thread this, i hope it will encourage a few more new gallery entries - they are really interesting as you can look, digest, conclude and not make comment.

best regards Marcus

marcus watts

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Re: Blackpine not budding

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