Mame Shimpaku Juniper

Shohin-bonsai nursery Akimoto, Japan

During my travel to Japan this year in July, I had the opportunity to visit several shohin bonsai growers. In Angyo I visited the nursery of Akimoto, a very friendly man, who sold me a small Shimpaku Juniper for a friendly prize. This coming Mame sized bonsai had a lot of good branches, a small compact trunk with good movement and tapering. So I decided to go with it, and in autumn I removed some foliage and turned living branches in to deadwood (jin) to add dramatic and reducing the size.

Today I took some time to adjust the foliage and place the branches. A few thin branches are not positioned because they are too thin and need just to be pinched when the overall foliage mass improves as it grows. Most of the future work will be careful pinching of the new growth to develop the wanted foliage pads.

The size now is 9 cm /  3,5 inches from base to the top jin.

First branches removed.
Jin (deadwood branches) are styled (September 2011).
Back side view.
Top view.

Wiring the first branches.
Positioning branches.
Deadwood area extended slightly at the trunk.
Initial styling ended. The small foliage pads looking untidy will be pinched in summer to adjust with the rest of the foliage, that now will need growth and carefull steady pinching to develop to dense foliage pads. Height is now 9 cm / 3,5 inches.

Shohin Juniper step 3

Continuing the work from the last post, the Juniper is now ready for the next (third step) in its progression. The arrangement of the branches and canopy is often some of the appealing work for many, because it is here you may change a tree totally in a new direction, and show off some dramatic styling. But this is a slow progress work on this specimen, prepared as a longer termed task, with small changes each time.

in opposition to the work ahead, the branches were shortened dramatically in the first step five months ago (see previous post), and now the remaining branches are arranged for the future development. Branches are shortened especially at the lower part, were some long branches were left to speed up the positioning after wiring earlier. Leaving some branches for growth speeds the healing and hardening up time of the thicker branch wired, and later these sacrifice branches are removed. The time was now. Because it is winter (although unbelievable mild this year with nearly no freezing even in night-time) I leave a little of the branch back, because cutting it back to its offspring might harm the bigger branch if freezing is heavy even when the tree is protected. Better safe than sorry, and the then dried piece left can be removed in spring.

The tree is cleaned for small dead pieces i.e.
The top branches are wired and positioned.

Achieving a good shohin means working ahead of a compact tree. This demands shortening the branches and pinching the needles carefully but steady during the growing season. A good feeding is necessary too as is plenty of light, placing the tree in full sun.

A few lower long branches are removed.
The trunk is now visible which is an important feature. The tree is turned slightly left to add more movement and a clearer livewood part of the tree.
Adjusting the canopy.

The styling for now is done, and thoughts can be made of the future pot. In spring the tree may be repotted, and the future development is much about pinching and filling in the canopy, with small adjustment now and then.

Also the deadwood will be worked on again, but I always let it dry out completely and let the weather influence it before touching it again after the basic work is done. new fissures and crack may occur when the sun has dried it out later on.

Final height of the tree is 17 cm including the deadwood top jin. Height from base to the top of the canopy is 11 cm.

Height: 17 cm. As time goes by and the foliage growth, the spaces between the top part of the canopy and lower the foliage pads will decrease with time, but spaces must still be present.
The original tree compared with the current image.

Juniper progress

After the main transformation of the deadwood has been performed.

This Juniperus chinensis, has been on its way for five months now since I acquired it at local bonsai shop in July. It’s a classic pre-bonsai with both flaws and positive features. My work with this tree is one step at the time, leaving plenty of time for the tree to recover after each operation is performed. What you see here will not be the final in one go demonstration, but the first steps towards the final styling, and later repotting.

The material before any work was done.

First steps were to eliminate the redundant branches, lowering the height and use what’s removed in advantage of deadwood branches, in Japan called jin´s . The branches left back are without thinking much about their future positions at this stage, because they can be twisted and directed in several ways. In opposition to specially deciduous and other conifers than Junipers, like Pines i.e., it is “allowed” to cross and twirl branches of the Juniper to put these in the right position, because this happens in their natural environment too influenced   by the elements and their growing habits.

The upper branches are all cut to lower the canopy.
First styling five months ago.

After this first raw styling and preparation, wiring a few major branches and some deadwood jinned branches, the tree is left to recovery for some time. Until its time to make the dramatic influence of the design six months later. The time is December, where sap flow is very low due to dormancy in early winter. This is the best time to add deadwood at the trunk, called Shari. The added deadwood will add much a much more dramatic history to the image showing the robustness of the tree. Prepared early in its lifetime for this work to be done now, the nurserymen had at an early stage twisted the young trunk, bending it with a thick wire, and curved it appropriately. The result some years after, is a good movement that just needs to be enhanced by the use of a visual trick. The method is to remove some live wood showing the whiter deadwood underneath. This done in the right direction will add great movement and the illusion of a tree twisted by natural courses like storms and heavy winters e.g.

Deadwood added at the trunk.

December is a good time too make deadwood at the trunk (shari),  because sap flow is very low, and the wood is hard. Rotting of the wood has a much lower risk when performed at this time, and the callus will be smaller swelling looking much more natural to the size of the tree when growth is slow.

The area beneth the thick part of the curved trunk is carved. This deeper layer is thinner and harder, and has less sap flow. Therefore it can safely be removed.

Finding the live vein may be something we all worry about, because cutting the sap flow to a branch, and with shohin in small scale, a whole part of the crown maybe, may be crucial. A good thing to know about junipers though, is that the live vein runs vertical so stripping off bark in that direction will do little harm unless it is connected directly to a branch above. Still junipers are forgiving with a little care.

The thickest part of the live vein is were the greatest sap flow is present. Therefore this part is essential to maintain.

The sap flows were the wood is softer. Or putting in another way; were the wood is hard sap flow is low, and may be removed. This is often the case were an area is sunken a bit, having the most sap flow going at the outer-side of the trunk at swelled points. It is clear when you examine the tree, that the thickest areas are present, and at the inside deepening the wood is harder and can be made to deadwood area without risk. At the same time this is the natural pleasing and aesthetic solution.

The inner wood is splitted and stripes are pealed to add a natural look.
Powertools are used at some parts to add deeper textures in combination with hand manual tools.
Small parts of rough wood is smoothened.

So far so good. Next task is the arrangement of the foliage at a later time.

Shohin display with western scroll painting

For UK Bob Bailey I set up two pieces of shohin display this morning. To show how the western scroll paintings works in a shohin display. In lack of a blue winter scroll (Kakejiku) to hold the painting, I used what was in stock. A dark green or another winter reminding colour will work well too. Forgive me the lack of this at this time. Later I will do another winter display with an appropriate scroll painting holder, Kakejiku.

First piece is a shohin display using a Lonicera nitida (14 cm heigh), with a Potentilla fruticosa (15 cm) were the leaves have now dropped.

Next a 23 cm heigh Rhododendron lysolepsis with a accent planting showing a withered grass i.e.

Both displays accompanied by the scroll paintings of my artist wife. I find the result is pleasing, and it will be enhanced adding using a scroll with cooler colours to add the right feeling of winter time.