My local nursery (upstate NY) obtained two Pinus Banksiana “Uncle Fogy” last season, a variety of jack pine that grows particularly gnarly and contorted branches, in these cases trained in a roughly horizontal, meandering direction. (Neither sold before winter; $179 apiece.) They are impressive specimens, nearly 6 feet long (so maybe ten years old), movement everywhere, and about 2" caliper at the base in a 5- or 7-gallon pot, very healthy, lots of cones, relatively short needles. Their origin was a nursery in Oregon.
My question is: does anyone have any information on how to cultivate these as bonsai, or whether it’s desirable, impossible, difficult, or doable? Browser searches do not yield much that is useful or encouraging on any jack pine for bonsai, let alone Uncle Fogy. What more common pine might it be most similar to? I’m happy to try (if I can grab them this spring, hopefully at a discount) but wondered if there are red flags I don’t know about.
I have one of these and they’re definitely doable as a bonsai species. Super hearty and respond well to pruning, styling and re-potting. In an older stream, Ryan mentioned that Jack Pines should be treated as a single-flush short needle pine so that’s how I’ve been treating mine. This would be similar to how you would treat a Mugo Pine. If you go back into the library, there are a few streams where Ryan covers how to handle these types of pines in better detail than I can provide here.
As far as any red flags, I have noticed that they are susceptible to getting over-watered pretty easily, so keep an eye on any browning needle tips and watch that water-oxygen balance.
Thank you for your quick response - quite encouraging. I’m a newbie and in catch-up mode on the videos.
Did you go with a cascade design? Cut it way back eventually? It’s already compact to the trunk, but very long. The ones I referred to look as if they might be amenable to tilting to a slant or informal upright.
If I generalize from the recent field-grown black pine videos (not clear I can do that…), sounds like it might be wisest to do a repot first and styling at least a year later. Any comments on sensitivity to reducing the root mass? I’d probably reduce by 30-40% this spring (if I can get them out of the nursery hoop house soonish) and then let them recover until next spring. (I’ve also watched the repotting nursery stock video.)
Welcome@BrianH . Haute Bonsai!
Just an observation… the tree appears to have a ‘prostrate’ growth habit, meaning it is not standing upright, growing along the ground, Probably do OK as a cascade or semi-cascade. Might never grow happily as a upright bonsai form.
Watch the Marai pine videos. Pine strength is in the roots… This tree should be hardy and forgiving!
(Just MY opinion) I would cut and wire first. NY state is still pretty cold. I would feel comfortably cutting back 1/2 of the mass of the tree at the same time. Leave a good side branch for a new cascading end. Wiring as you go. Doesnt have to be perfect. Do the best you can. Its a learning experience.
Its not always about the destination, sometimes its about the journey… The tree will grow and change over 2-5 years. Might change your mind as YOU grow in bonsai knowledge.
Cut each remaining limbs to 2-3 good buds. Start the process of compacting. You do not need the whole tree length in a final design. Be consertive, you can cut more later.
You could wait to next year to cut and wire if you repot now. It is a big tree. Smaller will be easier to repot and manage. Find a pot this year (or two of different sizes, they do not need to be a final design bonsai pot…). Taller cascade?
Retain 1/3 to 1/2 of the original soil in the first repot. Oregon nurseries are notorious for the clay / mud they plant in… could be serious business. Remove more in 2-3 years repot. Let the trees root health tell you. I prefer to be conservitive, you have time… keep the tree alive and healthy first and foremost.
Never bare root a pine.
Post a photo of what you do!
Wow… a lot to digest. I remember my first trees… still have the pine… if was a 6" stick. Now it’s a 36 " informal upright!
Hi @BrianH, welcome!
I have a Jack pine, it is a fantastic species for bonsai. I also collected a number of jack pine last fall in northern canada where they grow wild. I think irrespective of the variety, it is a great species to work with. Like @nemo1107 mentioned, short needle single flush. Relatively easy to style as the branches are quite flexible. Many people here in Canada don’t like to work with Jack pine because they say it is hard to (re)pot, I had I guess a lot of luck thus far both with the one I got from nursery stock and it already stablished and styled in a bonsai pot as well as the collected ones that seem to have all survived. I would nonetheless tell you to be conservative with the roots and as Ryan suggests, repot now in the spring after the risk of frost is over and let all the foliar mass drive root regeneration and only style it in the fall if you can provide protection or better still next spring. Needless to say, make sure your watering is right.
Update on Uncle Fogy jack pines from nursery: I did buy both pines in late March and repotted both soon after. Initially I planned on removing less than 50% of the root mass, but the true bases were so deep it ended up being closer to two-thirds removal, then surrounded with a mix of a small amount of biochar and ~1/4" granule size lava, pumice, and Growstone, stored in the attached garage until about May 7 (after hard frosts stopped). Despite an extremely overcast and wet spring (or perhaps because of?), they both have thrived, putting out hugely long candles on all branches, but particularly at the ends farthest from the roots. Both have interesting branches with extreme curves close to the base but then get straighter with longer internodes farther out. I plan to cut back those boring parts (maybe half the foliage) next spring and begin the development process. Many small cones are visible on each tree. Seems like a rapid grower and so far quite tolerant of the wet conditions. Fingers crossed.