Pinus Nigra development question

Hi guys,

I’ve got a question about my Pinus Nigra. I was able to get this tree very cheap because the previous owner didn’t see any potential in it. I bought it to have the opportunity to learn about this species.

Here is a picture of the tree last spring:

And this is the tree now:

Here is my question:
I want to make a cut at the height of 1 of the red lines and build the tree further from that point. What would be the best time to do this?

In Q+A 19 Ryan explained the Pinus Nigra is neither singe or multiflush. So I have no idea what the best strategy would be. Here’s a few options I have considered:

  1. Let the tree grow for another season and hope for more backbudding. Depending on the growth next season maybe decandle or pinch in order to achieve more backbudding.
  2. Make the cut this fall in order and let the remaining foliage elongate next spring and summer.

Any thoughts?

I have found Pinus niger to be very unrawarding and unforgiving. The have extremely long internode, multiple branch whorls and long needles that refuse to comply…
I spent 15 years working on one, only to have a gangly odd bonsai… it IS still alive. They will respond to terminal bud removal, only if crazy healthy. It has multiple backbuds this year.

That being said, several local people have nice bonsai specimins.
Treat them as a single flush, long needle. Lots of ORGANIC fertilizer and micronutrients. They WILL backbud. Not on old wood (3 year max…).
I suggest you cut to the second line, close to the upper shoot. Use cutpaste! Tilt the tree to the right. Maybe put on a wire and see if the trunk will bend. This is what I did.
Alternately , for a large tree, cut the trunk just above the whole. Choose and cut the 1 limb with the longest internode, leaving two… Cut at trunk. Use cutpaste. This keeps sap flowing along the trunk untill the bottom limbs get started.
My opinion is a larger bonsai will carry the needles and internodes better. I also feel other pine species are much more fulfilling. Mugus are way easy and forgiving. Scots pine are great. Pinus thunbergii are intermediate.

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Wow this helps alot, thanks @KurtP! I will definitely take a look at the other Pine species. I have some thunbergii seedlings already, but I will try to find mugo and scots pine.

Would fall be a good time to make the cut at the top red line? And do I have to cut as close as possible to the buds below, or leave some room for die back?

Use the top as a sacrifice while building at least some secondary buds on the low piece - otherwise you’ll do the chop and that branch will rocket off leaving you with similar situation - long internode needing back buds.

Ryan keeps hinting about doing a stream on nigra, looking forward to it.

I’ve had profuse backbuds pruning late fall/autumn, but more by luck than judgement. Will be experimenting further next growing season (I only have one young nigra in the garden that belongs to my eldest daughter)


Listen to the Forum QA for May 23 @ 47min.
Ryan explains fairly well.
This summer, I had a healthy tree. Trimmed every terminal bud. Budded back well to older wood. October is the time to do major trims. Will cut back EACH limb to a good bud; losing several inches on each. Will NOT fertilize until June next summer. Repeate… The apex is VERY small bud right now.
I’m having way more satisfaction with Scots pine from seed…

Way easier to control and direct growth. Shorter internodes. Remember to trim root tip early; often.

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