A bunjin Ponderosa pine gets a new look-

Here’s a photo essay of a Ponderosa pine styling that we did last month with a few Seasonal students-


The pine after some cleanup on the deadwood, but before doing anything else. The next three photos are each turned another 90 degrees.




This was our favorite front. Avoiding the long slow curves, the trunk comes toward the front near the top and the line was the most un-S-curve-like one we could find.


Tom and Steve cleaning the deadwood, which had some dead bark attached.


Chris cleaning the trunk. It took us a good six hours to prep this tree, but only one hour to actually wire it.


Bobby got in on the action too-


Totally wired tree, at our chosen front, before setting the branches. We kept spraying the lime sulfured areas lightly to release the yellow sulfur.


After branch setting, 33″/84 cm high. Most of the sulfur was gone by the end of the day. We’ll repot this tree in the spring. We enjoyed the live vein from this front, and the twisting old shari, which was caused by borers many years ago in the mountains. We could still see the galleries where they had munched through the phloem, killing off spiraling areas of living tissue. Sometimes they get a bit rambunctious up there in the mountains and kill off the entire tree. Deadwood may be caused by a number of factors, but a borer is one of the most common. We’ll put a photo up next year sometime to show the development of this fella-

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  1. Ed Trout says:

    In bonsai, we “kill” for those twisting live veins ! Great work Michael…..I’m sure those students walked away with the “feeling” that one can only get from touching a tree like this !!
    Ed Trout

  2. backcountrydan says:

    Great work Michael! Love it! Nice tree 😉

  3. backcountrydan says:

    Reblogged this on Backcountry Bonsai and commented:
    Michael and his students did a great job on this pondy! (Originally collected by Steve! An official Backcountry Bonsai tree!!!) I can’t wait to see it with more ramification, and in a pot!

  4. Lucia Soppe says:

    uhm………….. novice question………… what are borers?

    • crataegus says:

      Ah, borers are the larval form of a beetle that eats the sugary sap right under the bark…and right were we can’t see it. You don’t want them. They’ll ruin your day pretty good!

  5. Steve Ristau says:

    Nice tree! This could refuel the whole debate on whether Ponderosa pine make good bonsai. Living here in the Black Hills of SD, I am just a little partial to these pines — old, twisty and gnarly, I think there should be a new bonsai style named just for them.

    • crataegus says:

      Well, it is an interesting debate. My feeling is, if the tree is big enough, and especially a nice sized bunjin, yes, it can work. Small ones are sort of iffy. A 8″ ponderosa with great trunk will never look right to me. That’s why I prefer to graft something else onto them. But if it’s big, they will eventually ramify. Hard to grow a branch, though, they don’t get much candle growth. So you pretty much need to work with what you have. At least for a long time. Strong roots, if thready— And the needles look dead in the winter, unfortunately, but heck, great bark, often great deadwood—it’s a tree worth having.

  6. João Santos says:

    Very nice tree guys.
    One question: you say that you “kept spraying the lime sulfured areas lightly to release the yellow sulfur”. Do you mean that you’ve aplyed various layers of LS or sprayed them with what?


    • crataegus says:

      H2O! Sorry, that was very hard to understand, yes. We sprayed with water to release the sulfur. But lightly—or the lime will run and you’ll make a mess.

      • João Santos says:

        Never heard of before but I think I’ve understood:
        After one aply de lime sulfur, one gently aply a mist of water to solve the lime and release the sulfur in it bleaching and protecting the wood even more. Is that it?

        Thanks for the input Michael

      • crataegus says:

        Yes, after the brushing on of the lime sulfur, if it is a high concentration of lime sulfur (100% or close to it), the yellow of the sulfur may remain for a while. Water allows it to escape into the air. So lightly spraying it with a fine mist helps it go away. Too much water and it will run off onto your bark, and that will create a mess…

        A lesser concentrated mix (20% lime sulfur mixed in 80% water) will likely not need misting, as the water in the mix releases the sulfur. This is a good mix, incidentally, for old deadwood that is already silvery.

  7. Louise Leister says:

    Beautiful work Michael! I wish we could grow these in Florida! So elegant and natural. Looks like the debate is over for whether they make good bonsai I think so!

  8. Steve Varland says:

    Mr Michael, The classic ugly duckling to swan! Very impressive, I’m in awe and humbled once again.

  9. John Wall says:

    Great pine Michael, love it. I am a big fan of this species, but like you, think they look better in a larger size. How do you feel about needle pruning? I do it to mine with good results and have heard that the technique is even used on JBP in Japan…..However some people here view it as bad…whats your thoughts if I might ask?

    • crataegus says:

      My use of needle cutting is only for un-decandled areas of a pine that is mostly decandled, so, the few long needles on a tree, for show. Otherwise I don’t do much of it. If I’ve not decandled an area, it’s usually because I want that area stronger…so I don’t want to cut shorter the needles just for looks. Sometimes those needles will make a shoot TOO strong at the end of a year, so your instinct will guide you with some experience, there. Again, just talking about those shoots that were passed over for the spring decandling.

      The Ponderosa in this post is in a soil that held too much water (oil-dri) and the long, spirally needles are partly a response to excessive water. With a repotting into different soil and a year or two, the needle length will come down quite a bit.

  10. Steve Varland says:

    My apologies Mr Micheal, I have since learned the error of my soil ways! Thanks

  11. Hi Michael, lovely pine. I have a question regarding cleaning the old natural deadwood. I have an old mugo pine with natural deadwood which I haven’t cleaned nor lime sulfured mainly because I like the old natural look of it. I know if I clean and lime sulfure it with the passing of time it will look more natural but perhaps not as it is now. Do you still recommend to clean and lime sulfure it? Thanks

    • crataegus says:

      Personal preference for sure…from what I see, pine wood is grayer than juniper, so a very light, diluted lime sulfur is fine. Some people even add a tiny amount of black ink to the mix for a pine, and not for a juniper. Too much and you really do get grey, which isn’t so nice I think. Let the wood be wood. Some dilution of lime sulfur will protect it from fungus that can break down the wood. Maybe 1-7 mix of lime sulfur to water. That dilution should soak in very well too.

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