Kishu or Shimpaku?

Over the years, this post discussing differences among Itoigawa, Kishu, and Shimpaku junipers has consistently one of the highest-viewed of the nearly 350 posts over the 5-year history of the blog.  Kishu and Shimpaku are tricky to tell apart by their foliage, so here is a refresher…

Kishu left, Shimpaku right.  

Kishu is plumper in texture, tighter in growth pattern, and brighter green in color.

Shimpaku is slightly thinner in texture, “ropier” growth pattern, and paler green in color.


Here is another look at the runners.  Kishu first:


Shimpaku next:

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The cycle continues: shimpaku with Bjorn Bjorholm

Yesterday, Bjorn spent the day in Birmingham and we wired out a shimpaku I bought in 2013. During Bjorn’s last visit in March, 2014, we discussed a plan of attack for this tree; repot into good soil first, grow it hard , and when runners are appearing, prune it back to remove thin, weak growth, long runners, and remove growth appearing straight up and straight down.
As Don received in in 2009:

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The tree in early 2010 in a private collection in OK:

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The tree after being wired out by Maro Invernizzi in 2010:

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Back in Don Blackmond’s nursery in 2013:

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In Birmingham; as purchased December 2013:

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March 2014. After removing wires applied in 2010, cleaning the wood preservative off the dead wood, cleaning the live vein, removing the awkward lower left branch, and potting into a mix of akadama and lava rock, into a current generation Yamaaki pot:

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It was fed regularly, and trimmed back mid-season, to balance the strength:

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This spring, the deadwood was cleaned and painted with lime-sulfur, and the live veins were cleaned up as well

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Next, it was trimmed back a little to even out the growth:

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Then the fun began! Bjorn arrived and we discussed movement, style objectives, and began to thin out the tree; once again removing foliage growth that falls in one of these 4 categories: growing up, growing down, growing from the crotches of branches, weak/spindly growth.

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A few shots of the work in progress. While I participated actively in the pruning and wiring, this is very much Bjorn’s work. He is masterful at placing branches , developing clean, tidy, even pads. His style is instantly recognizable, and it was exciting to be part of the process and see it come to fruition over the course of the day:

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A few close-ups:
First right branch pad placement:

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Some Shari was carved away from the first right branch to allow us to bring it forward to compact it. It was wired, then guy-wired to move it:

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First left branch, from below:

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Notice how the foliage is evenly distributed? Everything has a place in the sunshine, and the canopy appears very full:

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Thanks for reading along!
Bjorn and Bonsai Empire have launched a 3-part online course on bonsai techniques, expertly filmed with world-class material and remarkably produced. Please check it out to learn with Bjorn! http://course.bonsaiempire.com/launch