Juniper rule to be repeated every night

Step by step. Little by little. Juniper development is rewarding as time goes. Keeping Junipers healthy growing demands keeping fingers and avid tweezers away from pinching foliage.

Don’t pinch Junipers

Following rigidly the most important (probably) learning experience about developing Junipers.

Not ever pinching Junipers, is the sentence every bonsai grower should repeat daily before bedtime. Said before, and it deserves repetition.

It is a bit of a myth that pinching Junipers might make them push growth further back, or just keeping foliage pads neet and precise in shape.

This Mame-bonsai Shimpaku Juniper has not been pinched, but developed a fine and small canopy through a long time growing  in a small pot, with selective pruning of branches.

Pinching is punishing, when we talk Junipers.

New growth at needle Junipers can be cut back to about 80-90 percent of its length, after it has developed and hardened (getting dark green and changing from soft to hard growth); or removed completely, just at the start of the summer period (may vary according to where you live).

Juniperus rigida in Japan, just starting the new growth.

Soft or scale needle Junipers like the Juniperus chinensis or Shimpaku variety, are not cut back or pinched anyway. Elongated new Juvenile growth may be cut off at or near the base of its offspring. Branches with foliage growing out of shape and extending too much is removed, so shorter branches takes over. That’s it. Easy to do.


Why is it so? There is a misunderstanding how to handle Junipers by pinching new foliage. They really do not thrive when pinched, and no new growth is achieved by doing this. Junipers are just set back in growth and health when pinched. As a stress reaction  forced by pinching, scale leafed Junipers often develops juvenile growth with needles instead of the softer scale leafed growth.

Much of the energy is produced by the new growth. Therefore it is important to keep this growing until end of spring period / start of summer, building up as much energy as possible.

In opposition to deciduous trees, Junipers do not set new growth further back at older branches by cutting back branches or pinching. To set new growth at older parts of a Juniper two essential factors must be fulfilled.

One is waterflow, bring energy through the branches. Good feeding and watering will help that happen IF there is healthy foliage in a fair amount, that can help the waterflow transporting energy around. The transpiration from the foliage takes up water from the roots, who takes up fertilizers, converting these to sugars with the help of photosynthesis.

First initial styling of a Juniper. June 2018.

Secondly, it is about light. Keeping open spaces letting enough light (sun) into the branches will stimulate new growth. A dense canopy will therefore exclude light, which then exclude new growth. Therefore it is important to keep open spaces where new growth is wanted.

10 months

From i bought the Juniper shown, a Juniperus chinensis, and up to now, 10 months have passed. All the way I have kept more foliage than “necessary” for the design. Devoted to keep a high water and energy flow. This week I removed a larger branch and two smaller branches. Still keeping much foliage. Next season will prove the advantage of this. The canopy was opened at the first initial styling letting air and light inside. Good growth have been achieved. No matter how tempting it can be making small fine foliage pads by pinching, I know it will set the tree back immediately.

Healthy growing foliage. May 2018.

The best way to bring the Juniper forward is by letting the foliage develop slowly, building up new growth replacing outgrown foliage. Long branches are removed and newer branches further back takes their place when strong enough. This speeds up the process having a healthy growing bonsai.

Design changes

At the first styling the Juniper was styled as a more formal tree. After reviewing it over some time, I decided to change it to a more dynamic tree.  A larger branch too stiff had to be reworked or cut off.

The foliage is much richer and proves healthy growth. January 2019.

The deadwood needed some improvement. Never been a fan of the very smooth deadwood seen at Junipers around Japan, having a too artificial look. I prefer deadwood that shows natural (man-made or not) signs of age. Splintered or with small cracks and fissures showing aging, wear and tear. Therefore this was changed , and the tree now has a better and more dynamic expression. The canopy has been brought further down, making a better and more compact image. Still in development stage, and with time to pass to achieve a good result. Look forward to the growing season and another step in development.

Shimpaku Juniper in Angyo, Kawaguchi, Japan. Personally I like more details in the deadwood, but the foliage pads are wonderful and healthy.

Video thursday

The latest work with deadwood carving and rearranging branches will be launched Thursday.

Video launched Thursday January 10 (2019) at the Bonsai Video Studio.

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