Several years ago I was asked to purchase a bonsai by a friend which was to be a Christmas gift for her husband who had some limited experience of bonsai.

I visited a well known bonsai nursery and looked for something which looked reasonable and came back with two pine trees, a Scots pine and a Mugo.

The Scots pine was chosen as the gift and I advised it’s new owner that coming to the local bonsai club would help him with it’s care and development.

Looking back I realise that this tree was probably not the best choice for him as the care and development of pines as bonsai use techniques unique to pines.
He did however come along to the club and was given some advice and the tree received its first styling.

A few years passed until 2013 when I next saw the tree, it had deteriorated significantly and I really thought it was not going to survive. I offered to try and help the tree to recover, the rootball was really compacted and had outgrown its pot. There was very little foliage and it was overall weak looking.

I repotted the tree in the spring of 2014 and removed over fifty percent of the root and put the tree into a very open mix of acadama and pumice.

I left the tree to recover and started to feed it after a couple of months, feeding throughout the remainder of that years growing season using a combination of Naruka and liquid seaweed.

It recovered in as far as it didn’t die which is evidenced in the image above taken in August 2015.

Over the next couple of years as the tree progressed I started the process of candle pinching in spring and needle plucking in the autumn.

Okay, now fast forward to spring 2016 the tree had recovered and new growth was evident, although at this stage the needles were much longer than would ultimately be desired. I wired the tree with the intention of lowering what would eventually become the crown. This was attempted using guy wires, as well as initial wiring of the primary branches.
 

I continued feeding the tree with a combination of Naruka and Seaweed fertilisers, and it grew quite vigorously. At this stage I was only interested in improving the general health of the tree, styling would be undertaken in the future.

Here it is in October of that year, at which time needle plucking was undertaken to promote new bud growth.

During the spring of 2019 it was apparent that repotting was going to be required during which about half of the root were again removed.
In nature pine trees will drop needles which are two or three years old, in bonsai the practice is to speed this up by plucking needles which are two years or older and on vigorous growth some of the current years may also be removed.
 
Autumn is recognised as the best time to carryout needle plucking, either by using fingers to pull out older needles or by using scissors to remove them leaving short stubs as shown in this image.
 
Personally I prefer to use scissors, which reduces the risk of damage to new buds.
Fast forward through to September/October 2021, the tree had now recovered fully and I decided it was time to start styling.
 
Some minor needle plucking was undertaken together with some minimal bud removal by shortening.
 

Wiring was undertaken after selecting a more suitable front and primary and secondary branches were positioned. In the coming spring I will again use candle reduction and bud removal to continue the development.

The tree has come a long way over the last five years or more but still has someway to go in its development.