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Shimpaku Clean Up and Styling

Updated: Oct 8, 2020

Now that I’m all settled back in Japan, I can get back to work and get some more posts on the blog.  If you didn’t already know, I spend most of September back in the US taking a bit of time off and working with the wonderful Bonsai people of Milwaukee.  Once I got back to Japan, I was put right back to work wiring trees and wiring trees and wiring trees…  sigh..  you get the point.  😉  I’d have to admit that after a long break, it took me some time to get back into the mode of things here but it’s been two weeks now and my body is has already gotten use to being in a constant state of aches and pains.  Haha!  Today is my first day off since coming back so I thought it was be a good time to get some writing done.  I got tons of stuff backlogged that are just waiting to be organized and posted, so some good stuff to come!

As I looked through my photos on what to write about today, I decided to start strong and show what I did on this particular customer’s Shimpaku in the last week.  It’s pretty tall as you can see from the picture above and quite bushy.  The work on this tree actually started in August and the styling happened in October.  There’s a reason for that and I’m going to break it down here and show you what we did.  Perhaps you can apply these same techniques to your Shimpakus at home.  The Summer and Fall are a great time to work on Junipers so still a couple of months before Winter is in full swing.

Cleaning and Some Cutting

The first thing I normally do when working on a Juniper is cleaning.  So what is cleaning?  Basically, removing old foliage, yellow/brown foliage and dead branches.  It can also involve eliminating small unwanted branches that we know we won’t use.  If I’m not sure, I’ll always hold off the cutting until I start styling the tree.

Once the cleaning is done, it give us a clearer picture of what the tree has to offer.  This way, we don’t accidentally cut off branches we may need.  I didn’t get too many shots of the tree while I was cleaning, but I did cut some branches off another Shimpaku that I’m going to use to illustrate what I did on the big one.

First off, I removed any brown needles.  No pictures here because it’s so straight forward.  I normally use a combination of my hands and tweezers to remove the loose brown and yellow needles.  They should just come right off when touched.  Old juniper foliage will brown out and fall off ever year on the interior of the branches so it’s perfectly normally to see that happening.  Think of old needles falling a pine tree.  If the tips of the foliage are browning out, then there’s a problem.

But! If I wanted to make the branch shorter, I would leave the green at the base and cut the terminal end off.

Cutting Back

Now To The Tree


About Wire Marks on Junipers

So the next time the wire is biting in a little on your juniper, don’t worry too much about it.  Many professionals here in Japan actually want it to happen.

Of course, by now, I don’t have to mention that there is a point where it’s overkill so don’t let the tree eat the wire either. 😉

The main adjustment Mr. Tanaka had for me was that I needed to pull the main branch back a bit more because it was coming too forward.  Other than that, he seemed okay with my work.  When I wired the tree, I tried not to show any guy wires or large glaring wires on thick branches.

Some Thoughts on the Tree

Overall, I’m happy with how the tree came out.  I hope that Mr. Ota is happy with the tree as well.  Since the tree is going into two shows in the coming months, there wasn’t too much I could change.  To be quite honest about it, the first thing I wanted to do with this tree was to graft roots right at the base of the big curve on the trunk and make it into a medium size tree.  The curve is the most interesting feature on the tree and a lot of the movement is in the top half.  The bottom portion of the trunk, though large and old, is fairly uninteresting to look at.  Left like this, this tree will always be in the shadows of the big great junipers out there, whereas if this tree was smaller with all that tight movement, it has the potential of being great (think trunk first!).  Also, the tree would be much lighter which is nice too 😉

Mr. Ota has been hesitant of the big change in the past but has decided that after the two upcoming shows, he’s going to allow us to do the grafts and significantly change the whole tree.  I can’t wait to get that going and I’ll be sure to have my camera ready!

Many Thanks!

Thanks for reading everybody and I hope I you were able to take something away from this post.  If there is anything I might have missed or you have questions about, please feel free to comment and I’ll be on top of the answer.  Take care!


I think by know you’ve all come to realize that I’m a big fan of pottery and ceramics in Bonsai.  Check out this post written by my good friends Sam and KJ Edge about their research and translation of an old poem painted on a porcelain pot by Tsukinowa Yusen.  Yusen is the most famous porcelain pot painter in Bonsai and his art is highly prized and collected.  Just knowing the story behind those words, makes this pot so much more meaningful and cherished.  WOW!  Here is a preview of the pot they’re talking about and a link as well. Enjoy!

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