Compacting the Apex of a White Pine

Here’s one for the nerds of bonsai—‘How to create an apex’ is unlikely to raise the ardor of those with a passing interest in bonsai. But hopefully those who are dangerously close to being nuts about bonsai will appreciate the following photos:


Japanese White pine at the beginning of the day, before removing several of the lowest branches


Konnor cleaning up his tree prior to wiring


The prepped pine before wiring


Here we’ve leapt forward a bit…the whole tree is wired and most of the branches are set, with only the apex remaining to do—


Apexes are tricky. No two ways about it. Many trees, even when you’ve shortened the higher branches as much as possible, still have the kind of legginess that this tree has. The question is, how do we compact the long branches to form an apex? By making a lot of bends up there…


Partly finished, the branches were curled and snaked around on top until the buds were all close in…the more close, snaky movements you make, the smaller your apex can become.


Most of the snaking finished with only lowering of the branchlets to do-


Essentially finished with the apex-


And the completed tree, from the new front. We forgot to measure it, shame on us! It’s somewhat larger than a dinosaur toy and yet smaller than a modest sized redwood. That’s in inches. I’ll work out the conversion to centimeters soon.

Next Post: Photos from my teaching trip to Johannesburg, South Africa!

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  1. bonsaikc says:

    Beautiful tree! Don’t give away all the secrets!

    • Carolyn says:

      I really appreciate ANY & ALL tips and secrets…I’m not good at bonsai creation but I LOVE it…many of us finatics need all the tips we can get!!! Carolyn.

  2. bonsai eejit says:

    Reblogged this on Bonsai Eejit.

  3. backcountrydan says:

    Beautiful! Very elegant.

  4. Beautiful work! You brought out the best this tree had to offer. I look forward to seeing it develop over the next few years and fill in. As always, thank you.

  5. Craig Walker says:

    Oh no I must be a bonsai nerd! Another awesome post, thanks again.

  6. Graham says:

    Close to a bonsai nut here – too bad I have a day job. Great work as usual Michael, gives me an idea for one of my Shore pines (smaller but very similar in stature).
    Cheers Graham

  7. As always a very interesting and helpful post. Thanks again.

  8. Beautiful work – looks great!

  9. Elliott Farkas says:

    Great post! I am definatly a bonsai nerd! It’s interesting as you get more and more into it that what would have been just blab a few years ago, is now something I reread many times.
    I recently struggled through the “apex conundrum” with my bonsai teacher on a juniper with a sparse, leggy top.
    In the old, and very often outdated Naka books, an apex is simply built like the rest of the tree, first branch, second to the back, third to the other side, etc to a tip.
    Your post is the way the “experts” do it. Owen Reich of Kouka- en calls it the “evil coiled viper style” and my teacher shuffles his feet like he is dancing when he refers to it.
    Please keep the secrets for us bonsai nerds flowing!!

  10. Daniel Dolan says:


    The lower branches were removed…….approximately 2 “stubs were left……these were then removed, it appears.

    In traditional Japanese Bonsai practice it was explained to me, no jin are created on White Pines because, in nature, these are soft woods and would weather away.

    Do you ever jin White Pines?

    Thank you for this post.

    Best regards,


    • crataegus says:

      We removed the stubs because not particularly interesting jins could have been made from them, and the simple elegance of the trunk did not seem to be enhanced by small jins. Jins on White pine in general are not a problem, actually, the Japanese White pine wood will outlast Black Pine by decades because it impregnates more resin in the wood. Same with juniper. The native pines like Ponderosa and Limber are equally durable relatively speaking. But I disagree with jins not being created on White pines, many in fact are. Shari too, whereas you don’t see much of that on Black pines.

      • Daniel Dolan says:


        Now this is exactly the detailed, Wikipedia-style, reply that helps a great deal.

        Thank you.

        Best regards,


  11. Marty says:

    I like the way the apex was compacted. However, I still see a large flat trunk cut just below the apex. What is the plan to either hide or eliminate that? Is it possible to cut it at an angle?

    • crataegus says:

      The cut on the top is part of a staged process. The new leader is too small to cut back to closely. So once it has developed more caliper, yes, the stub will be removed at a slight angle, but by then the tissue will have died back to where the tree wants it to be. So I’ll follow the tree’s decision.

  12. Daniel Dolan says:


    To my above mentioned question about jin and White Pines……the current issue of Bonsai Focus contains an article about Mr. Kenichi Abe at work upon a striking White Pine. Striking, in the number of jin that it presents. Interested in your thoughts.

    Best regards,


  13. lepcon says:

    I love the compacting apex you have done and achieved it so perfectly. It goes so well and beautiful. You did a great job! Thanks for sharing it with us.

  14. Carolyn says:

    I really appreciate ANY & ALL tips and secrets…I’m not good at bonsai creation but I LOVE it…many of us finatics need all the tips we can get!!! Carolyn.

  1. […] Compacting the apex of a Japanese white pine. Borrowed without permission from our friend and teacher, Michael Hagedorn (can you really borrow […]

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