2,520 Degree Ponderosa Pine

Two years ago I collected this Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) with Backcountry Bonsai. It was tucked under a full sized tree, somehow eking out a very long life.

Seven full rotations is 2,520 degrees of twist around the trunk…a bit of an eye boggler. It lay prostrate and un-inspiringly in its box until this fall when we started to look for a front and inclination.

We styled this bunjin pine in a fall Seasonal Class of graduating second year students. It was fun to see this tree off the ground, finally, and on a bench.

Enjoy the photo essay-

Collecting with Backcountry Bonsai—Steve Varland on the left with a massive ponderosa and Dan Wiederrecht behind the camera. The ponderosa pine featured in this post is on my back.

Ponderosa pine after two years of growth and before any work, but at the preferred front and inclination.

The Seasonal team of Carmen, Tom, and Zach cutting off old needles on the stronger shoots.

One trick: Wrapping the trunk of a delicately-barked tree like an old pine in plastic grocery bags…greatly minimizing wire, clothing, moved branches, or heavy frustrated exhalations from flaking off bark.

Carmen and Zach in a giddy moment.

And where we ended the styling session. This inclination offers challenges/opportunities for container choice; I’m considering something alternative. We’ll feature that operation in a post although it may take two repotting sessions to get there, with the first one just shortening the top half of the box.

Below are more photos of the collection of this pine-

The final image on the lower right is Steve’s signature face print, often found on the rear window of cars. I’ve never caught him in the act, so how he does it remains a secret…

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  1. Ray says:

    Very nice Michael, impressive pine

  2. kiwijaz says:

    Hi Michael,
    I see the pine was originally growing down in a ‘cascade’ style so I’m wondering what your reasoning was for changing its orientation?

    • crataegus says:

      Good question—the cascade style assumes an interesting base with some arresting movement in the lower trunk. The reasoning behind making something a cascade is that you will be raising the lowest portion of the tree in the design, and when doing so we want that to be one of the most important features of the tree. It has to be really good. Raising something will increase its relevance and dominance in the design. But this tree’s best features were half-way up the tree and near the top, so it was designed as an upright, as a bunjin.

      • Joyce says:

        I can see what you mean, Michael, the direction and wide bend closer to the apex would make an awkward lower cascade but looks more natural as a beaten-down upright.

        Cheers, Joyce

  3. Zachary Denka says:

    Was truly an exclamation point on a fantastic seasonal course. I really enjoyed working on such a fantastic tree!

  4. karatsupots says:

    That is a dramatic twist. The scale is impressive too.

  5. Mike Horine says:

    Michael great tree. It is nice to see you and the boys out collecting. Did you find some time to play with the local kitties?

  6. David Michener says:

    Thanks for the explanation on the reason why a cascade is not the way to go. Great post, Carmen!

  7. William Lee Kohler says:

    Gonna be great to see this in a “final” potted position. However my personal instinct also saw it as a Cascade. However #2 Doubtless the Masters instinct is surely better than mine.

  8. TEW says:

    great article !!!
    do you need a tree permit to gather them???
    if so where do you apply for them ??

    • crataegus says:

      Most areas require permits, yes, if public land and if collecting is allowed. If you haven’t done it before definitely go with an experienced collector, there is a lot to learn about how to handle them, and what areas to avoid collecting in for bad success rates.

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