Critiques on small limber pine styling

Hi everyone! I was hoping for some critiques on my initial styling of this small limber pine I received at a club auction last year. Obviously this tree isn’t the greatest material, as it’s a relatively young limber, but it was good practice regardless. I’d love to see what I did well and what I could improve in my work. Thanks!


And a more recent picture after some slight branch placement and apical adjustments plus a repotting this spring:


What is the goal of this design?

I suppose to create a somewhat asymmetrical younger looking limber that looks like it came from a less harsh, lower elevation environment. The original design plan was to have an extending right branch and a complimentary back branch, a shorter pad on the right and an apex somewhere a little more to the right. Here’s an updated picture after I repotted it this spring.

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Trunk has some nice movement, my biggest critique is that the apex looks very confused, like the tree spent all this time growing on the slant and then changed its mind and grew down and back the way it came at the last second. In addition you have create a closed “oval” shape in the apex with the trunk line circling down and crossing in front of the trunk line. Structurally this very distracting to the eye.

Try to do some more research on apex creation, it really is the trickiest part of bonsai designs in my opinion. Think about how trees in the wild grow… look at some pictures. If there is ONE part of a tree that is definitely always growing upward it is the apex. It’s reaching for the sun. Sure you can have branches in the apex leaning downward, but the trunk line needs to be reaching upward.

I would probably bend it out of that loop and bend the apex trunk so that it continues to grow up and to he left and make it a proper ‘Slant’ style bonsai.

It’s a nice start though! Another obvious issue is that crazy root with a mind of its own, but that’s for another day.

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Actually it just occurred to me that in the future you could repot it and a new angle, tilting it far to the right, so that rogue root is sitting flush with the soil. I think that is how you will “find the best base” on this material. Something to keep in mind!

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@Jaron.Colorado, I like your tree and I like the way it is planted as well as the positioning of branches. It is a bit hard to see but I am tempted to suggest a new front as what is currently in this picture the back right corner of the pot such that the first branch would be coming to the left and the one now on the left would be in the back. I would then to use the two further up to build with time the new apex and let the looped leader grow a lot more while giving it movement. This would would be a sacrifice branch that would give you more thickness to your trunk but also at some point not simply be cut off as a normal sacrifice branch would but instead be made into an interesting jin with the loop and further crazy movements on it. I would heavily fertilize this to make it grow as much as it can backbud like crazy wherever it can and I am sure that in 3 years you’ll have very full and ramified branches to design with in the lower part.

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I really like this idea! Would you bring all of the apical branches out to the right with the one that’s currently looped or would you create a third pad with the branches that are currently there and leave the leader by itself until it backbuds and more ramification develops there?

Also, I agree on the crazy taproot, that change in angle could improve the base as well possibly.

This could be an interesting idea, I’ll check that out when I get home! Regardless of whether I choose to adjust the front or not I definitely am planning on really fertilizing this tree to encourage ramification.

Hmm, what I’m saying is the way that the leader is looped like that is the issue, it needs to be unlooped so to speak. It’s all my eye wants to look at when I look at the tree, and hence it’s very distracting. One thing you could do is keep the same horizontal moment that you have out into the leader, moving back to the right, but have the lead bend upwards, and to the right, and the have the needle group angle back to the left very slightly to retain some harmony with the rest of the trunk. Bringing the leader upward and not down and around and back up, will make it look much better. Keep in mind you’re in a structural wiring phase. You will build the pads over time, it doesn’t need to look perfect right now. So that will make the apex basically one needle group, and the apex might be taller than you would like after wiring it upwards. If it’s too tall you can always cut back to that next bud down the trunk and build your apex there. Or let the leader extend as a sacrifice branch for trunk thickening and then cut it back some years from now.

If you’re entire trunk line up to the apex was really radically twists and curves and looping around, something like that might be more apropriate at the apex, but it’s as if the apex is betraying the the rest of if the movement in the tree.

Sorry, I feel like I jumble my words when trying to explain this stuff. So I made some very high-tech drawings to explain what I mean. The first photo has the current flaw highlighted in red, just say no to closed circles and crossing trunk lines!
The second Photo I have highlighted in blue where the new trunk line should/could go to help resolve this issue. My placement of the line is a basic idea, not super exact. Drawing on cellphones with your finger tip can be challenging. But I hope this makes sense to you.
Also, you could do with bringing this branch down too probably


Nothing wrong with it.!
Round shallow pot.
Loose the top loopy.
Wire. Fertilizer organic!

10 year old mughu pine.

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Here’s what I did to fix the apex, now to just fertilize and build some ramification. Thanks for the help everyone!! I also plan to hide the taproot when I next repot this tree.


Nice! Apex looks better already! It will fill out with time. Good lookin!