The problem with Mugo pines is that they almost always bud back at the base of last year’s needles or even older ones! That is good and bad news for us! Good news: because as long as there are still strong older needles on a not-too-thick branch then in early spring we can cut it right back in between those needles as long as there are sufficient needles left to promote new buds from! Bad news: because it means that for a Mugo branch to back bud, we have to live with a rough and unrealistic-looking Bonsai with branches filled with needles from the base to the tip! Now we can decide to pluck them off and leave a bunch of them in places where we would like buds to appear! But that simply looks ridiculous and would make wiring difficult! So what to do? Well every now and then we have to style or restyle our Bonsai and need to wire the branches of our Bonsai…imagine doing that with all those needles still on there! So we pluck them off leaving just enough to with the help of wire create our famous pine Bonsai branch tips that we all know so well! So that is what I did all those years ago before I restyled Z my Mugo Pine Yamadori for the second time when she had branches with short internodes and beautiful short needles. But first a bit of history:
Below: In March 2002 I was invited by Mark Noelanders to do a demonstration at his then Bonsai club B.A.B in Belgium! So I had to find something special to entertain all his knowledgeable students! After visiting all the Bonsai dealers in the Netherlands I ended up at a Bonsai centre deep in Belgium where I found the, to say the least, weird France Yamadori of this story! This tree was a real challenge and risky… so perfect for this evening’s demo! But the guy who sold it to me was clearly surprised that I even looked at this tree! And was clearly happy that I bought it from him!
Below: After 2 hours of hard work the birth of Z is finished.
Below: 10 years later in 2012, I restyled her again completely! She then looked at her best with those short needles and clear foliage peds! Pot: Brian Albright (UK). It truly is a big transformation and one of those trees that I am really proud of! Back then I should have entered her in an exhibition!
Below: And fast forward another 10 years to the present day 10-2-2022. Oh, what a tangled web we weave! Z desperately needs a serious haircut where usable foliage-baring branches are cut back as far as possible to where there is healthy and strong secondary new growth. And unusable branches (too weak, too long and/or too thick etc.) will also be removed. She is healthy and her needles are still short though and that’s a really good thing!
Below: 30-3-2022. This is how she looks after most too-long and bare branches are removed or shortened to where there is healthy new growth. That bottom left-side hanging too long branch most probably will be cut back or turned into a Jin?!
Now she will be wired completely so that she can be restyled. During that styling, some more useless branches will be shortened or removed to give her back her looks! So watch this space for the outcome!
Hans van Meer.