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One of the hardest things to find in the Australian bonsai world are small Japanese Black Pines with good roots, and branches low on the trunk.

An excellent way to get what is often so desired, is to make cuttings of newly sprouted Japanese Black Pine seedlings. The following is a description of this technique. One of the best detailed descriptions of the process can be found here.

Due to import restrictions, most pine nursery material cannot be imported into Australia including seeds. Over the last few years, finding seed locally has proven to be quite a challenge. During winter 2011, I found a local source of JBP seeds. I managed to get 20 seeds, not the amount that I was after but better than none. I planted the seeds in a purely inorganic mix – 1 part Akadama, 1 part Pumice passed through a 2mm sieve to keep out the larger particles.

7 sprouted!

The process is pretty simple: start with seedlings around 3 months old (look for the centre bud beginning to grow), and make cuttings out of them. I began the process by wiring mesh into small terracotta pots.

Pot wired up

Dry Boon mix was passed through a 2mm sieve to remove the fines, then added to the pots 

Pots watered well to settle the mix

The cuttings will be planted into a pocket of propagating sand. I used the handle of a small garden fork to create indentations into which I poured the sand.

The indentations have a diameter of roughly 30mm

Sand filled indentation

Sand filled indentations compressed to be level with the mix

Once I had filled the indentations, I used a small nail to create holes for the cuttings to slip into.

The next step was to cafefully remove the seedling one at a time, ensuring that no damage was done to the soft stem. I ended up using a chop stick to help dig out the seedling. I only selected the strongest seedlings, 6 out of the 7 that sprouted.

One seedling that I did not use, was too weak. I have let it grow, and might do it later. We’ll see how it turns out.

Removing a seedling

Seedling and roots. Notice that there is roughly 50mm between the roots and the needles. We create cuttings to reduce this gap.

The grafting knife I used to cut the roots off cleanly. It is extremely important to have a clean cut from which the roots can emerge. It increases the success rate of the cuttings rooting.

With no real guide, I ended up cutting the roots off about where the violet part of the stem stopped, the part that was above the soil line.

 Roots removed

The cuttings floating in water waiting to be planted

I then dipped the cuttings into rooting hormone to increase the chances of roots forming.

I took great care not to disturb the cutting after it was dipped into the hormone.

 The cutting was then carefully inserted into the hole that I made with the nail.

I carefully pressed down the surrounding sand to close the hole around the cutting.

The cuttings potted up. I trialled some with upside down drink bottles to increase humidity. I’ll let you know how they go!