Shimpaku styling 7

It’s been a little over a year since an update on this tree. If you’re new to the blog, here is last year’s installment, showing a significant repot:

Since then, I’ve mostly let it grow, with a little thinning, over the last 12 months.

June 2019:

Late-winter 2020, note the bronze color:

Now, let’s get to the work; this during our coronavirus stay at home…

Thin out the foliage by removing the thin, weak interior growth, and “crotch” growth, so that tufts of foliage emerge in alternating points along each branch

Then begin wiring:

If you want a stroll down memory lane…

From Brent Walston, owner of Evergreen Gardenworks: “Did I give you the provenance on this one? This is one of two Shimpaku in one gallon containers that I purchased from a local bonsai dealer (Roscoe Morris, now deceased) from Treehouse Nursery. One has been in a bonsai pot the whole time and is still quite small. This monster has been let to grow and would have been even bigger if I had repotted it more often. It has been in my care since the early 80’s , probably ’81 or ’82.”

Still at Evergreen Gardenworks’ nursery in fall 2011, this photo shows the tree from the back:

Boxed up and arrived in a Bama in December 2011:

Potted, this shows the present front:

2013 during the growing season, still no work done, this also shows the present front:

A virt I did showing the eventual plan. This was in 2013, 7 years ago…not too far off.

2016, failed graft attempt:

December 2017 after 2nd round of work with Bjorn:

Growing all year in 2018:

Late 2019:

And for fun, a true “before-after”

Did it earn a name yet? Maybe the Covid Cobra…?

Shohin Japanese Maple winter pruning and wiring

I have had this little clump for about 3 years. The mature bark is starting to form, and it has a good base starting to show that “turtle back” look. During the growing season, it has been pinched, and during the winter it has been pruned, but I have not wired it yet. As it started the winter:

Close- up of the base and bark forming:

Some heavy areas to address, largest trunk:

Pruning at the red line:

Back left trunk:

Pruning at the red line:

Pruned back:


Placed and evaluated:

Adjustments needed:

Finished for now:

Transitions are softer now, and the tree has some balance from side to side. It will be repotted again in spring, and the work for 2020 will include building some ramification, and addressing the apex of the tallest trunk. Pot, Koyo.

Fall pruning and wiring of Japanese Maple, ‘Chishio Improved’

I have been working on this tree for almost 20 years now. It is repotted annually with aggressive root work, to develop a good radial Nebari. I do a partial defoliation nearly each summer, removing one of each pair of leaves, and prune it in the fall, and wire it every few years. Here is a look back of the development every couple years.

2004 still in the ground.

2006, in a bonsai pot, first full wiring.

2008, wired again.


2012, photographed as prepared for the 3rd US National Bonsai Exhibition:

2014, allowed to grow very dense, strengthening the root grafts:

2016, thinned and lightly wired a couple branches:

And 2018, after some light pruning and wiring.

Now that we’re caught up, I’ve been working to replace heavy branches with finer ones, grafting to place a branch above the first left branch, and still trying to improve the Nebari. It’s a slow process because I want to maintain a pleasing aesthetic appearance along the way.

Below is a fall color shot of 2019:

After leaf-drop, at first glance, the twigginess is attractive, but over the last few years the ramification has become disorganized, and a few branches have become heavier than necessary for a graceful, aging appearance:

The work to do below; red areas are heavy branches and congested areas, blue represents wire needed, and branch placement.

The plan is to prune the branches which emerge in clusters down to pairs, to replace heavy branches with finer ones, and wire fine branches to emerge at acute angles, gracefully outward from the trunk.

Addressing the first left branch, which has gotten very heavy:

after reducing it with a small saw:

And the back branch:

And the results for now:

Developing deciduous bonsai requires years of attention, and tough decisions made at the right time, or giving up years of work later to correct the flaws. Here is a side-by-side before and after the fall work. Over the next couple growing seasons, I will let the ramification increase through pinching during the growing season, and pruning after.

And for fun, here is a side-by-side with 13 years separating the two shots. I lined up the soil line and branches to the approximate height and scale. It has grown to a good size of around 29″ tall.