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Early July in Virginia, USA, means three things: uncomfortable temperatures, fireworks, and decandling Japanese Black Pine. It’s already humid and in the 90s F at midday, and I am looking forward to a cookout and fireworks tomorrow to celebrate US Independence Day. Pine work was my task of this morning. 

Now, the trees I had to work on today are not going to set the bonsai world on fire. (We’ll leave that to the weather.) I currently have only two black pines, and in fact, I grew them from seed. Here is one before today’s work. 


Not particularly impressive. And with only two, I am no JBP expert. I haven’t known what to do with them for years. Remember, I have been doing bonsai all wrong for decades (see my ABOUT page here to read about it).

My past mistakes aside, I am figuring this stuff out. Last year was the first time I had the guts to decandle, and this year the proof of its effectiveness as a technique is crystal clear. 

You see, last year I decided to count how many candles I removed from each plant. One tree only had nine shoots, and the other (the one pictured in this post) had 30. This year, I removed 26 and 57 respectively.  If that’s not proof of concept, I don’t know what is. Already I have improving ramification, shorter needles, and better growth balance. 

Here is the same tree from above after removing candles, and plucking needles to bring each growing tip down to 6-8 pairs. 


If you’ve been hesitating to try decandling, as I was, you should give it a shot (assuming your trees are strong and healthy). You will see improvement in one year, and if this first year is any indication, I expect marked improvement in the next. 

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