Pruning Pine

kobold(Vancouver BC)November 10, 2004

A few days ago I red a very detailed discussion about pruning Pine. It was very late, I don't remember who posted it, but 2-3 different people, some of you guys. I would like to try it. Can you post it again or let me know where can I find it? Maybe it was under a different posting and the subject just came up. Thanks for any help.


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Since this isn't an extremely quick-moving forum, the thread you read is most probably only a little further down from this one.

My best guess to the one that you read was the Tamamono: Rounded shrubs *(FAQ) thread.


    Bookmark   November 11, 2004 at 6:07PM
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kobold(Vancouver BC)

Hi Audric!
thanks for your quick response, I had to go back much further but I found it and bumped it. Now I can start to plan how to do it in 3-5 years.


    Bookmark   November 11, 2004 at 6:42PM
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yama(7b Ga)

Hi Andrea
Since you gave me stew recipe and helped me to be good cook, I will help you for pine tree pruneing.
you also said you have a Japanese friend.if you want to me send to you copy of pine tree pruing articles, I am happy to send you copys from books. It is written in Japanese.

when pine tree is small, pruning of pine tree is similer to bonsai pine tree. but once pine tree is 8 feet and taller. you have to know how to use bamboo stake. know how to make knots. know how to use tripod ladder, and how to set alluminum extention ladder with ropes and logs/bamboo to suport extention ladder. extention ladder is not going to lean to pine tree and have to stand its self.

removeing old needles in fall, pinching pine tree candles in spring is not big deal. pruning pine tree required lots of patience.before start pruning you have to know basic of the trade............... yama.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2004 at 12:17AM
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kobold(Vancouver BC)

Hi Mike !

You are very generous with your time and help everybody.I found the postings I was looking for, red it again, lots of good advise from you , edzard and others. I realized, that it is very complicated and needs good skill to prune pines in the Japanese style. Thanks for your offer for the reading material, but my friends live in Japan. I had a Japanese gardener who came twice to my garden to do some pruning, I asked him again, but he is very busy now, will come later. I have one 12-15 feet fir tree I would like to prune, the bottom branches are getting dry. Just now bought 2 Pinus strobus, 3 and 2 years old, I plan to keep them in big planters and will wait for Hiro to prune it.
Cooking is easier then pruning!! Andrea

    Bookmark   November 15, 2004 at 2:07AM
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But you get more fun out of prunning.

Here is a link that might be useful: George's Japanese Garden

    Bookmark   November 15, 2004 at 5:33PM
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It really is a case of what you need vs. what you can get. The NW USA offers many opportunities for hands-on pruning and other training. For the rest of us, there are few in the typical neighborhood that have benefit of internship from a Japanese master. For what its worth, here is a simple article on the basics of pine maintenance:

Here is a link that might be useful: Pine Care

    Bookmark   November 15, 2004 at 9:25PM
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For anyone close to St. Louis the Missouri Botanical Garden has an excellent class in pine pruning from the expert who is responsible for pruning in their Japanese Garden.

Would say that the commitment to pruning pine every year is every bit as important as the commitment to marriage.;-) Once you start you can't stop.


    Bookmark   November 16, 2004 at 6:57AM
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edzard(3b Canada)

a few questions Don,
What is 'Temple ""style"" pruning', what species is this pruning technique best practised on and in what growing conditions / Zone are these techniques restricted to?


    Bookmark   November 16, 2004 at 4:32PM
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kobold(Vancouver BC)

thanks for all the good advise and warning, I've read again the postings and my conclusion: I don't have 8-10 years just to learn the pruning.

Mike, I belive you, I need a trained gardener to do the job. I respect the beautiful trees more than butcher them with my unexperienced hand.

George, when I think about all that "fun" with pruning, standing on an extension ladder 20 feet up, in rain, wind, the pine needles in my face, neck, trying to find the pruner on my belt...........what are you, a masochist? Meanwhile I could create some masterpiece from morell or chanterelle mushroom, goose liver, file mignon, sockeye salmon and asparagus with some good red wine( what of course I sip frequently)

I like to try out different hobbies, enjoy learning, will do 'till death,but I know my limitations. ( will never, ever try mountain-climbing) Just very little pruning!


    Bookmark   November 17, 2004 at 3:32AM
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Temple style is the name used by two of my teachers in the Kyoto area. I understood it to refer to a more natural version of the cloud pruning. Would you get what I meant if I said Tokyo's typical cloud pine would be very formal and Kyoto's style would be more natural? If not, I can find photos. Japanese black and Japanese red pines were the pines of choice for the gardens I worked in.

It would probably work best for mild cooler climates and on larger trees since, when needling, the foliage is reduced to 12 or 13 pairs per bud. I tried this here (San Antonio) and found it best to leave more foliage. Although the trees were gorgeous, I believe it was too stressful and am now leaving more foliage.

Let me know if my description helped!

    Bookmark   November 17, 2004 at 2:21PM
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edzard(3b Canada)

clarification is always appreciated, especially in articles intended for reference (hint, hint). As would a photo or three.
Along with a notation of when, what areas this technique is found or used in. A line or two would do.
A few weeks before or after deciding to leave 12/13 pairs per bud would also change the overall strength of the tree for spring development. Timing is near everything. What growth Zone is San Antonio, what drought ratio?

chuckle, yes, 'I get' more formal as also comprehending more natural. On the other hand the Tokyo expression is more the abstract, calling for a different technique in shape than does Kyoto. (where the reference is not known by all people, the more formal 'shin' expression carries better than the more 'gyo'.
Climate also varies the result.

and this is why it intrigues me. Which Kyoto gardeners from what company referred to cloud pruning as "temple' style and if you know, why did they refer to it in that way? (if you know their education lineage this would also be helpful, South Kyoto/North Kyoto, east-west? Specializing in ___? temples?, residences, commercial? institutional?)

further clarification is always appreciated...

    Bookmark   November 17, 2004 at 6:00PM
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edzard, I began answering your questions and the reply was - well - kinda huge. Here is a light version. Can we email? I welcome help with the (hint) reference!

Although in public garden horticulture for (nooo!) 28 years, my training and knowledge of Japanese gardening is in infancy and I do not pose as ANY kind of expert!

Q1. Which gardeners? I was invited by Kiyoshi Yasui of Yasui Moku of Kyoto. Mr. Yasui was nominated as a national living treasure of Japan.

My Sensei, Katsuoki Kawahara refered to "temple style". His company builds and maintains Japanese gardens in Japan and internationally. He comes from something like 17 generations of gardeners. Oh, at 72, he quit smoking!

Q2. Timing? MILLIONS of needles plucked during September and October of 2001. Most private, commercial and temple gardens were in northern Kyoto. I can't think of any difference in method or severity during this time. The only (maintenance) difference between black and red pine was brushing the red's flaking bark (dp translation: winter home for bud worms?). The gardens I worked in received major maintenance once in spring and once in fall, so I guess precision timing is not as important as it would be for us who live in less forgiving climates?? I cannot say what the timing was in Kumamoto because I had no hands-on there.

Q3. Formal vs natural cloud style? I was not being patronizing (chuckle), I was trying to relate to varying stages of almost poodle-like (sorry!) pines with extremely defined and thick stanzas of foliage compared to the less defined, more delicate, and by my eye, more finely branched cloud style I was trained to. I will look through slides and find examples I can share for comment. I guess you figured out what style I favor?

Q4. Zone? Its "zone de jour" for San Antonio. It hasn't stopped raining for 2.5 years! I felt the fool for planting moss, azaleas, camelias, pines and Japanese maples in a time and place where xeriscape was the push.

Guess what? These gardens are glowing emerald and xeriscape stuff is rotting. We are supposed to be zone 9/10 and semi-arid. But this is Texas so wait 5 minutes...

Hope this helps clarify my well intended submittal. Meanwhile, I will offer my opinion and hope it helps someone along the way.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2004 at 10:48PM
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edzard(3b Canada)

Don... thanks for the enlightening response.. makes for much more interesting reading than the brief, do it this way..!... musingly, I suppose I don't rate things or experts much anymore. I've seen some incredible work done by people that have never had pruners in their hands (Jando etal) and some absolutely atrocious and hideous caricatures come from seasoned hands. Perhaps it depends on where one has been...

The notes on the backgrounds of the gardeners is perhaps a live lead on a 3 year research project. Thanks.
noting that these gardens are in northern Kyoto, the need of the gardens relates closer to 'mountain', therefore the gardens might reflect this in the training of the pine. Photo's would also help to see the differences. I would wonder if 'all' the pine in a garden were pruned this way.
If they were in the south the shapes would change as they would from one persons garden to the next, whether there or here.

Q2: Timing makes an incredible difference in N. America. Not so much in Japan due to the climate, humidity, soil etc.
Here it is best to understand when the roots begin to grow and when dormancy actually sets in, if it does, whether by weather or drought. Both induce senescence and dormancy, in which needling directly effects the amounts of sequestered energy delivered for storage to the root system. Most often the needling regimen in Japan results in the restriction of the root system (natural root pruning).

In turn the timing is noted by a variance in the green/black color of the needles/bark (black pine - red 'dulls' about 1/2 CMK down), rather than noting the change of color - browning of senescence, of 3 year needles in the normal tree. Same difference, just an earlier removal by 10 to 14 days that results in a decrease of about 20% of energy.

Q3: I actually chuckled. For a moment an eyebrow crooked upwards and speculated whether you'd done your homework, only to be dismissed. I write pretty much as speak. The difficulty of attempting to describe a nuance in international terms is nigh impossible. ergo, I chuckled.
nope, don't know which one you favour..., preferring to mutually understand that pine are pruned according to the required result for the benefit of the garden, from natural pruning to kado matsu and stiffly expressed, meant to get attention cloudlike disks... every job is unique.

Q4: then if the plant materials are rotting, I would have to surmise that they are not properly xeriscaped.. since Japanese gardening IS xeriscaping. Many of the planting admonishments in the Sakuteiki refer to xeriscaping, taboos being the fast track presumably for not needing to explain the whys to youngin's that don't listen anyway.

a last note to all interested in pine pruning in the south, a reminder that the San Diego garden has their pruning sessions happening soon.
Don, thanks for the responses, I'm certain they assist many people that share this forum as they do myself in comprehending the variables of N. America.

(--will email, though later, between hungry grizzlies, the eaten neighbors horse, just getting back & am leaving, have just a bit more travel-work to do - not enough time and mental ram space at the moment to hold an intelligent conversation.)

    Bookmark   November 18, 2004 at 3:11AM
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yama(7b Ga)

Hi DonPylant.
Thank you for kind respond to Edzard. Often, way Edzard ask or question in very detail, makes other poster up set or steer to wrong direction. I enjoy to read your posting as well as edzard's coment.
timing of pruing: gardeners have to eat and earn too. often even it is not very best time, too early or too late, we stil have to work. It is matter of economy. most customers want to taken care of garden before new years day, but not too early, like eraly september. best day for pruing time are set for the best customers. customer who pay soon after recieved invoice, customer who has good relation and serving many years. small gareden are visited between large garden and also customer pays quickly, Becourse bill is not big amount. Things are alway don't work as the way should be. ;););). yama

    Bookmark   November 20, 2004 at 2:03AM
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edzard(3b Canada)

indeed, indeed,... annoying even drunk tanuki is a gift,... don't you think Mike??..!
chuckle, true about the 'real' timing that happens and often why. However if people wish to do it themselves then we ought to try to provide the 'best' way that we know at the moment, (and correct ourselves when we learn to do better).

At the same time, those that are only caring for their own gardens, presumably can control the calendar of when they will prune.
I tend to think that if one starts out expecting 100% then understanding which way will give which result, then they can decide for themselves which risks they wish to take...

I feel it is not so much the 'which pruning technique' as what condition is the tree in and, what does the tree indicate its result should be x what job it does in the garden.

first is still, what condition is the tree in, too strong? too weak? how to tell..?

:), true, true,.. personally I'd say things rarely work out the way intended..

    Bookmark   November 20, 2004 at 8:18PM
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kobold(Vancouver BC)

Hi Mike

I enjoyed your postings, ideas, discussion, learned a lot from it.I am not so lucky to have such a talented and expert professional gardener here, who is willing to come and prune 1-2 tree for me. Second, I am not so lucky to have a big, professionaly built and maintained garden. But, how George said, it is fun and to use all the help from you, I will try.My idea was to have a not very symmetrical and tall pine tree.I will try Mike's branch-tying advice too.
Mike, what about you , come here to prune my garden , I will cook a feast for you....say for a week !!!ha-ha-ha!


    Bookmark   November 21, 2004 at 4:37PM
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edzard(3b Canada)

what is Hiro's last name? or the company he is with??
I know a few Hiro's I learned a lot from in the Vancouver area. Considering I just returned form there and the Japanese Gardeners Conference was on, yes, they are all busy right now.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2004 at 12:03AM
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Well, I'm not sure about temple or cloud pruning (or much else), but here's four examples of pruned pines spanning the three commonly dwarfed species here in Kyushu. These are pretty representative of what I see here daily. PF

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   December 3, 2004 at 10:34PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

Twenty some years ago I bought 100 Japanese Black Pines in liners. I think they were about $.29 a piece. I rowed them out for a year planting them as straight upright as I could. As you know, they don't grow with a straight trunk. They 'sway' a bit like they have had a few drinks. So the next year I planted them leaning way over. Sort of like giving them a few extra drinks. Two years later I reversed the lean. The trunks were real nice and curved and with a little annual pruning I was able to get some real nice trees to put in customer's yards. The only problem was the customers didn't maintain the pruning, even when I told them how, and consequently they grew out of scale and were a detriment to the landscape instead of an asset. I was an installation landscaper, not a maintenance gardener. Lesson learned.
I got the idea after seeing a picture of Bonsais at a wholesale Bonsai nursery in Japan that were placed on 1"X 6" boards that were way lower in front than back. The trays were rotated as necessary to facilitate a basic Bonsai look. A worker would go down the line and rotate and prune as necessary.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2004 at 1:12PM
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yama(7b Ga)

Hi Andrea
pruning is like cooking. I get recipe first . get all need material , start coking and make mistake . some time forget someting , cock too long, while cocking, drink too much of wine and burned whole foods. once I made mistake,or wrong way to cock , it is easer to ask you how to do right. once made misstake then I know what I don't know and what to ask. just reading recipe I never able to learn cocking. mistake is is good teacher.

Botan :
Thank you for sending me photo. I am going to make copies of pruning tree from my book and I will send it to you. since you send me photo of your jindai sugi, I will send you my pruning photo of criptmeria japonica. I planted two criptmeria japonicas 13 years go in a small Japanese garden which I designed and installed . size of the trees are almost same as 13 years ago. normaly I visit the garden Feburay, every year past 13 years. .......yama

    Bookmark   December 13, 2004 at 3:35AM
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I have a Japanese Pine, my gardener doesn't know how to prune it, anyone knows a good gardener in Vancouver who is good at pruning Japanese Pine? Please let me know his contact details, better can show me his work, thanks for help!

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 6:13PM
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kobold(Vancouver BC)

tennko, I emailed a name and ph # to you

    Bookmark   June 1, 2009 at 6:12PM
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