Shimpaku Juniper

One of my next tasks here was working on this Shimpaku Juniper (Juniperus chinensis). In a nursery filled with pines (black, white, and five needle) this Large shimpaku is a unique piece of art. The movement, elegance and dead wood are very different than the powerful, stocky pines that fill the benches here at Daijuen.


(Shimpaku)                                                                             (White Pine, a monster)

This tree has been here at Daijuen for two years and from what I can gather was collected some time ago. Shimpaku are native to Japan and make great bonsai. Unlike pines who’s rough, thick bark are a primary characteristic of a quality tree, juniper bark is typically kept clean an smooth. They also typically have a great deal more dead wood than pines. The contrast of the whitish/grey dead wood and the rich color of the bark make for a very striking contrast. Combine that with its bright green scaly foliage and you have the makings of a great bonsai.

First, the tree is in need of being cleaning up, and there are some dead branches that will be jined as well.



The dead branches are shortened considerably; any remaining bark is removed down to the hard wood and they are cleaned off. Considering the amount of dead wood that already exists and more importantly the area in which these branches are located the jins are kept short and quite simple. After this, all the remaining dead wood is brushed, cleaned and later lime sulfur will be applied to preserve the wood.


After the jins are completed I can start work on the live bark. I remove the exfoliating bark by using a knife to gently get under the flaking pieces, secure with my finger and then pull the bark off in strips. The surface bark comes off quite easily and goes fast at first. There are also smaller thinner pieces that lie underneath. The same technique is used here being careful not the damage the underlying bark. The cambium is right beneath this dark reddish/brown bark, so be careful not the damage it. Once this is done I took a toothbrush and water and brushed all the bark off to clean it. Once it’s been cleaned you can really see the “live vein” pop against the dead wood.


(before)                                                                                 (after)

Looking at the tree it is obvious to see that two foliage masses are a bit disjointed and the main foliage mass is too far from the center of the tree. The tree needed to be more compact. I was able to achieve this using a large clamp and a guide wire. I used the clamp to slowly and carefully pull down on the branch while I tighten the guide wire which is attached to a nearby jin. Doing this brought that portion of the tree back into the composition, making the tree more compact and producing some much needed unity between the two foliage masses.



The remaining part of the work was wiring all the branches and setting them into place. The objective here was to set the framework of the tree, not to create a finished product. I wanted to put the primary branches into place and fan out the secondary branches to let as much light into the tree as possible. A number of the branches were weak and in some areas branching was sparse. Most of the inner new shoots were left so that in the future a number of the weak branches can be cut back to those smaller shoots. This will produce healthier, more compact branching and tighten the foliage mass. This is most evident at the apex, where the branches are weak and far too long. Next year this tree will get cut back to the new growth which will be the first step in the refinement process.


See how with the picture on the left it almost feels like the tree is going to fall over onto it’s “elbow”. With the new design and that main branch pulled down it’s much more centered and the tree seems much more stable and balanced. It’s a much more compact desing and the two foliage masses flow together. With so many refined trees here at Daijuen it is a real treat to get to work on a tree like this. It’s nice to have more of an influence on where the future of the tree goes, and get to make some changes that have an real impact. I really enjoyed this one.

I hope you enjoyed the post, if you’d like to see more click the “follow” button on the lower right side of the scree and follow my journey over the next few months and beyond.

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5 Responses to Shimpaku Juniper

  1. Jim says:

    I am enjoying your ‘work’ and learning right along with you.
    Jim S.

  2. Paula Yanick says:

    Truly remarkable! Thanks for the education.

  3. Paul Ford says:

    Wonderful sequence of training,your skill is much appreciated. Thanks! Paul

  4. Looks good Baker-got any hornbeams?

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