It is a mature White pine, grafted to Black pine base and judging from the white pine bark flaking along the branches it will likely be a 50+ year old tree. (More about the best way to guestimate a pine bonsai age at the end.
Here is the tree we started with at 8am
And here is the tree after a first styling session - lots of care was taken as the tree is waking up so branches were raffia'd and all wiring stopped short of the needles and new shoots. Today was about placing the branches and starting the tree on its first stage - refinement and fine wiring to the tips is a thing to do in a couple of winters time
It was such a good day to see the tree forming from the mushroom mop we started with - styling time 6 hours and now the tree has moved on to a new owner but I do get visitation rights !
How to try and put an age to a white pine bonsai................
The trees are originally grafted - by researching and looking back through japanese bonsai history the earliest know records of a nursery mixing black and white pine seems to be 1928 - there are no mentions or records of this technique being done before this date. This gives us an oldest possible age for these types of trees of 85 years, but the chances of the first trees being exported are slim to none existent but we know for certain the 100 yr + age tags sometimes seen on these trees are using more than a bit of artistic licence ! Now we can add a few more facts into the mixing pot - the actual variety of white pine often used commercially for the top is selected to be very user friendly - it produces 'many buds' so the dense pads form quite easily and the tree makes some inner buds too, so the shoots can periodically be cut back to new inner growth. We can look at how the trees were initially shaped too - curves going up through the trunk and added movement indicate a tree designed to be a definite commercial bonsai and as there was a huge increase in interest following the second world war after westerners started encountering the captivating miniature Japanese trees many such trees were started in greater numbers and grown on in fields.
This gives us a realistic age bracket for all the large exported white pine bonsai of between 30 and 65 years - the physical size of the tree means very little too - a 2ft one can easily be twice the age of a 3ft 6" one - so our final clue to best guess age is bark formation - the black pine flakes from a young age but the white pine seems to stay a smoother silver grey for much longer.The older the tree the more the white pine bark flakes and shows maturity that matches the lower trunk until the oldest trees have bark that virtually matches all over.
young trees have smoother silvery looking bark above the graft - (10- 20yr)
slightly older trees show the flaked bark starting to creep up the trunk but the upper tree and branches still appear smooth (20 - 35 yr)
As the upper trunk and primary branches get texture the tree is moving on through its 40's and a fully barked tree will be in its 50's - give or take a few years either way but you won't be far off using your eyes and observation to best guess a white pine age.