Cool and rainy weather chased me inside.So I decided to take up this opportunity to remind you of a very important task before it is too late. About this time of a year, most pines would have already produced long new shoots, often referred to as candles, which are smooth and soft. This is a perfect time for candling pines – pruning them to retain their compact form.
There are certain rules to pruning pines. If your purpose is to make a pine thicker, make sure you do not cut into old wood or remove any mature branches produced last year or earlier. This would only produce holes in the crown. Pines do not have any dormant buds, therefore no new branches will be produced in this place and the plant will not get any thicker. Perhaps in due time neighboring branches will disguise the hole, however, the general outline of the plant will be ruined for good. Older branches can only be removed when sick, dry or disfigured. Candling is applied only to young pine shoots.
Miniature or half miniature pines normally require no pruning. They are compact and slow growing by nature, so it doesn‘t make much sense to prune them (and often there is nothing to prune). Other pines, especially mountain pines, of which there are so many cultivars, are fair play, especially if they are planted in a wrong spot or are too large to be replanted. My alpine bed is a perfect example of a perfect plant in a wrong spot, when a few years ago I planted a few species mountain pines hoping for a faster result.
So, back to candling. At the end of branches pines produce several (sometimes one) new shoots. Depending on the eventual desired size of pine, the shoots can be shortened by a third or a half. If you want the branch to grow sideways rather than lengthways, remove the dominant (central) shoot altogether, and shorten the secondary ones by a third or a half.If, however, you wish for the pine to produce a long straight branch, leave the dominant shoot and remove the secondary ones. I personally shorten all candles in the same manner – just snap them in half. This way the pines retain their rounded and pleasing form, growing thick and compact. You will not need any secators for the job, your fingers will suffice.
© Giedra Bartas, 2016