This is one topic that really intrigues me. Shimpaku has become a favorite bonsai subject, and as I work more with the different varieties, I’ll continue to share the subtle differences.
From macro to micro, here is a little more about each of these three varieties.
My Itoigawa, from Evergreen Gardenworks, and the source of all the Itoigawa material shown.
This is a shimpaku, also from Evergreen Gardenworks, similar in size to the Itoigawa at about 16″.
Finally, the Kishu, which is young, in the ground (left) and growing on. These came from Miniature Plant Kingdom.
Here are some photos of shoots of each variety. For consistency and clarity throughout this post, each shoot will appear in alphabetical order, from left to right…Itoigawa, Kishu, Shimpaku.
These all display mature foliage. Itoigawa is much lighter, brighter green in color. The texture is very fine, and the structure is open, and fanlike. Here is another shoot from the same plant:
The Kishu is brighter than the shimpaku, but the foliage is much tighter, and more succulent than Itoigawa. Many say that the foliage of kishu “balls up”, and in Japan, it’s presently less in favor than Itoigawa. The branches are stout, and the wood seems stiffer than Itoigawa. Here is a photo of a shoot:
And here is a shot from a shimpaku. Interestingly, it seems to be “balling up” like a kishu. Brent sold it to me as shimpaku, so I’m sticking with it. The foliage is a bit ropier in shape, bluer in color, and the texture is somewhere between Itoigawa and kishu.
Now, a look at some individual shoots. Itoigawa foliage reverts from mature to juvenile in response to hard pruning. Looking closely at the foliage structure, it appears that it all starts the same way, but that juvenile foliage extends points from each scale, mature foliage does not exhibit the extension growth, so it appears smoother, and also brighter. The left shoot shows juvenile foliage growing from a mature shoot. The right shoot shows mature foliage extending out from a juvenile shoot. See the difference?
I have yet to get juvenile foliage to grow from one of my kishus, but this juniper from Brussel’s is labeled as kishu, and is full of juvenile foliage. I’m not convinced its kishu.
And here is a photo showing a juvenile shimpaku shoot growing out mature foliage, the blue color of the juvenile foliage is much more apparent in this shimpaku.
Now, some close ups of the “runners” each produces, again, left to right, Itoigawa, Kishu, and Shimpaku:
So, here is a test for you. What kind of juniper is this one?