How to Make Shohin Juniper Bonsai from Cuttings

Creating a Shohin Size Juniper

We’re going to make shohin juniper bonsai from cuttings and be taking a look at this shoheen itoigawa shimpaku juniper bonsai! Now you guys might recognize this tree from an episode that we put up on youtube a little over two years ago, where we took a cutting grown piece of material twisted it all up and turned it into a really nice little shoheen size tree well.

This is that same tree that was featured in that video and, as you can see, it’s developed and sort of changed a little bit over the last couple of years. First and foremost, we potted this tree up into a ceramic container here back in the spring of 2021.

The tree’s also been pruned a few times over the last couple of years to sort of keep it in the general shape that it was in before. But as you can see, it looks very unkempt and very messy at the moment.

So what i’d like to do in this episode is walk you through the next steps with this plant, how to expand the shari to create a much more naturalistic. Look to the dead wood on the trunk, how to then paint up that shari and the gin features or the deadwood branches on the tree, with lime sulfur, how to style up the secondary and tertiary branches on this plant to bring everything into better shape and then How to really turn this into, or at least move it towards being a show, ready, shohen size, bonsai, so without further ado, let’s bring the camera in a little bit closer and we’ll start with the cleaning process on this tree all right.

So first thing here you can see that we’ve actually been fertilizing this tree with a product here called fertipad i’ll, put a link to these down in the description down below. So you guys can purchase these if you’re interested.

This is just an organic fertilizer that has been put into a coffee pad so that it actually filters through the coffee pad into the soil, gives us a lot of. You know nice micronutrients, macronutrients, all that good stuff and that’s why we have such a green and vigorously growing tree right now.

Now i’m gonna go ahead and take this off for now, so we can see the soil surface a little bit better and the trunk slightly better as well. So the first step here is gonna be to clean up the undersides of all of the original branches that we placed on this tree a couple of years ago.

So you can see, we’ve got a lot of dangling foliage on the bottom here. The goal with the shohein size tree is really to create very, very clean lines, because it’s a very small plant to begin with. So if we can delineate those lines, we can really show off the beauty of the tree and create a very clean, and you know nicely sort of designed bone side.

So, first step here, i’m going to go through with the scissors and actually remove all of the dangling foliage throughout the entire tree. Now, in terms of timing for doing this type of work, we are in essentially the first part of june right now, so this is actually perfect timing to remove underside foliage, remove crotch growth off the tree and also cut back elongating shoots which we’re going to cover A little bit later in this tutorial, so the reason that this time of year is a good time to do.

This type of work is because, in the early spring, as those new shoots are emerging across the tree, we’re allowing for a hormonal exchange to happen within the plant where a hormone called oxen gets transported down to the roots and a hormone called cytokinin gets transported up To the shoot – and we get really good top growth on the plant once that hormonal exchange has happened within the plant, which usually happens up to about the first portion of june, then we can go through and cut back the elongating shoots here and that will activate Internal growth to start growing and filling in so we can create a very full and beautiful looking tree in a short amount of time.

So in removing the underside growth here we can do it both by hand by pulling off or pinching it off, or we can use scissors to cut it back. So if the underside growth has thickened up so much that pulling it off by hand, isn’t really possible using scissors to cut back flush to the actual branch itself.

Here is an absolutely a-okay thing to do now in terms of actually pinching the foliage off. You guys probably know that you shouldn’t really pinch your junipers, but what i’m doing here is removing foliage all the way back to the chute itself, i’m not actually ripping through the foliage and leaving those ripped tips intact, i’m completely removing them all the way back to The chute or to the branch, so that is absolutely a-okay as well all right.

So this is what your juniper should look like after you clean up the undersides of the pads and remove the crotch growth on the tree. So you can see we haven’t taken a ton of foliage off the plant at this point, i’d say somewhere in the neighborhood of maybe 15 to 20 percent max when you’re dealing with different types of junipers.

That will dictate how much foliage you can take off of the plant and you’ll have different results, so, for example, with itoigawa like this one right here. If we were to take off more than say like 50 of the foliage, it would probably revert to juvenile meaning.

We would lose this very soft, beautiful, tight foliage here, and it would return to kind of a spiky type foliage. If you’re working with something like a rocky mountain juniper, i would remove even less foliage because going beyond say 30 40 removal you’re going to end up with juvenile growth.

If you’re dealing with something like a sabine juniper from spain, you can remove a decent amount of foliage, but you just want to make sure you’re leaving all of the tip growth intact. Because if you cut all that tip growth off, you can weaken the plant and potentially kill off branches or kill off the entire tree.

So this comes with experience, figuring out which tree you’re working with which species you’re working with and then that will dictate how much you can remove, but in terms of you know, prepping a juniper for styling.

This is basically what we want it to look like here. So you can see, we’ve got all the undersides cleaned up. Crotch grows cleaned out. We can see the structure of the branches much better now and that’s going to make it much easier to get the wire on there.

Now, before we wire this tree up, we’re going to work on the deadwood features on the tree one more time here, so let’s bring the camera in closer and i’ll. Show you how we expand the shari that we created a couple of years ago.

Alright, so up close here, you can see the original shari, which is the deadwood on the trunk here that we created back in 2020. You can see it’s callused over on both sides here so on the top and on the bottom.

This section right here is still alive, so that’s actually attached to this root further down here and then the upper section here is attached to roots on the opposite side. So when i initially built the sharia on this tree, i was relatively conservative in terms of the width of that shari.

For a couple of reasons, number one i didn’t want to potentially weaken the tree and kill off sections above or potentially kill off the entire plant and number two. I wanted to make sure that when the new callus actually formed along the side here, it was relatively close together, because now what we’re going to do is expand beyond this original callus and where this original callus is we’re going to have a striation there.

So each time we expand the shari and it calluses, and then we expand it again. There’Ll be a new striation, so we can create a really natural, beautiful, looking striated look to the dead wood. It’Ll look somewhat like a tree that was collected out in the mountains.

For example, so in order to do this, what i typically do is expand the outside of the curve a bit more than i do the inside of the curve. That way, it accentuates that curvature much more, we don’t want to do.

You know equidistant expansion on the inside versus the outside, so i’m going to do the external shari expansion here first and then we’ll see how much we want to take out of the internal shari here all right, so i’m using just a standard grafting knife at this Point and what we’re going to do is go just on the outside of the original callus.

Here, i’m going to expand this about an eighth of an inch, maybe as much as a quarter inch here, and this is really going to be dependent on the size of the tree that you’re working with as to how far out you’re going to expand the shari.

So this being a shohen size tree, i don’t want to go much more than a quarter of an inch on each iteration here. If we were dealing with like a medium sized tree, for example, i might go half inch, maybe even a full inch in some instances, but again the smaller the tree.

The smaller this distance should be all right. So we want to press all the way down into the live tissue until we hit what is the xylem, which is essentially the hardwood on the interior there right. So when you press the knife in you’re going to feel it pop through the bark, the phloem, the cambium and then it’s going to stop at the xylem, it’s kind of a natural stopping point.

When you push the knife in now, you can go deeper than that. First layer of xylem that’s completely fine. There are multiple layers of xylem within the trunk here that are still transporting water up from the roots to the top of the tree.

So if you go through that first layer of xylem you’re not going to kill the plant, that’s completely fine, all right now that i’ve got that carved out. What we’re going to do here is pop out that section of live tissue here all right, and that is absolutely perfect.

So you can see here where the initial callus was. We’Ve now got a beautiful striation there, and now the new edge here is going to call us back in probably about halfway into this and when we expand it again, we’ll have another striation right through this area.

So this is how we create that beautiful sort of layered naturalistic look to the shower on a man-made tree. Now i am again going to expand the inside of this just a little bit, but i’m not going to take off as much as we did on the top here.

So i do want to accentuate the curvature here. So we’re just going to take the same knife here, run it on the inside and just remove a tiny bit of tissue here now, if you don’t have a fancy, grafting knife like this, that doesn’t really matter, you can use a standard box cutter or an x-acto Knife, as a matter of fact, i would actually recommend that you use those tools, because if you break the tip off of a grafting knife like this, you basically ruined it so you’re better off using a cheaper razor blade.

All right if you’ve got some excess tissue. In there you can go through and remove some of that with a scraping tool. Here i don’t like using the scraping tool too much because it can leave tool marks that look very unnatural, but sometimes we just need to get a little bit extra tissue out of there to get it cleaned up right.

So to me that looks extra beautiful. Now. We’Ve got multiple striations and we’re just going to keep building on this over the next couple of years. All right, so you can see. I also opened up the original shari that was further up in the middle of the trunk and then also up towards the top.

Here – and this is creating the illusion that we have kind of a spiral effect around the tree, even though they’re not all necessarily connected from the back side here. So the next step is going to be to clean up this dead woods and we’re just going to do that again with a toothbrush and water.

So with a small tree like this, you can use just a spritz bottle if you want here to get this cleaned up, but we just spray it a little bit rub it down with the toothbrush here and then spray it again and repeat this process until we Get most of this sort of green off of here all right.

So let’s talk a little bit here about the timing for creating this type of shari on a tree like this really, in my opinion, one of the best times to do. It is right about now again after that first flush of growth has come out, elongated and essentially hardened off, so for us here in nashville, tennessee we’re looking at early june, and really you can do this anytime from early june through most of the rest of the Summer now, the reason being is that removing tissue at this time of year as long as you’re doing it in small steps, rather than you know, taking off huge sections of live tissue, is that it’s going to be very easy to remove that tissue from the trunk.

Because there’s a lot of moisture running up through the vascular structure of the tree, so cutting in with the knife and then popping that tissue out it just peels off so smoothly. The other thing, too, is that, this time of year after you create the shari you’re going to get almost instantaneous callus formation around the outer edge of that shari.

So it’s not going to die back beyond the line that you cut into it and lead to sort of weird shapes that maybe aren’t necessarily desirable for the design of the tree. All right now, next step here, is going to be to clean up the bark on this tree.

We’Re going to be popping off some of the flaky bark and then rubbing down the trunk or the live tissue anyway with sandpaper, so that we can start to get a bright red color. That’S going to contrast nicely with our dead wood when we paint it up here with lime, sulfur very shortly, all right.

So you can see here on the trunk. We’Ve got a lot of flaky bark. This is natural. It forms over the course of really one growing season, so what we can do is take a knife like this and again you can use a grafting knife or potentially an exacto knife, any kind of sharp object to peel off that outer layer of bark.

To begin with here now, what we don’t want to do is expose the phloem, which is one of those vascular tissues that are right below the bark. So if you start seeing whitish colored tissue kind of similar to this or maybe even a bit brighter white you’ve gone a little bit too deep.

So we’re looking to just take off that outer layer, bark and then once we do that across the whole tree. We can use sandpaper to get a much more consistent, coloration throughout the entire live vein of the plant.

All right. Once you have the bark off of there, then you can go back over it with just normal sandpaper. So i use basically 100 grit here, but you could use anywhere from 80 grit to 120 grit. I wouldn’t get any coarser than 80 grit because that can easily damage the bark and any finer than 120.

It’S not really going to give you the desired effect, so kind of splitting the difference right at 100. Grit is just about right. So again you don’t want to go too deep and expose the phloem or the live tissue underneath, but you can see it’s already starting to give us a bit more of a reddish color here, which is exactly what we want and that’s going to contrast nicely with The white of the dead one when we paint it up here right now, next up we’re going to paint the dead wood with a mix of lime, sulfur and water here.

So this is mixed at a rate of about 50 50 and the dead wood is actually still a little bit moist, which is a good thing. It’S going to actually cause this lime sulfur to turn bright white almost instantly here.

If the dead wood dries out too much it’ll turn kind of a yellowy color, and then we have to wash off the yellow residue. You know maybe an hour or two later, whereas if it’s a little bit wet it’s going to turn it white instantly, we don’t have to worry about doing that so using a very small brush here to get right up along the edge of the new charry line.

That we just created here, we don’t want it to bleed over onto the live tissue of course, but if it does, we can go back over that with some sandpaper just to make sure that it doesn’t damage the live tissue there.

So next step here as the lime sulfur is drying and turning white we’re going to go ahead and start the wire application process on this tree. Now, when i’m dealing with coniferous material, regardless of the size, i’m going to be using copper wire for this particular tree here, we’re only going to use a limited number of sizes.

We’Ve got size 14 here size, 16 and size 18.. So, with copper wire, the larger the number, the smaller the gauge, so our size 14 is the largest and our size 18. Here is the smallest. Now, when you’re building out shohein size trees, i don’t recommend that you go down to like a size.

20. That’S really unnecessary in most instances to use something that small it becomes very tedious, not only to apply it, but also to remove it. It also becomes embedded very easily in the tissue of the tree as the tissue swells, so i would just avoid size 20.

Juniper Bonsai First Styling

Unless you need it for like a small guy wire, for example, now when i’m styling out coniferous material, like i said, of all sizes, we’ll use, copper wire with deciduous and broadleaf material, if it’s a large tree i’ll, typically switch over to aluminum, it’s a little bit Softer on the branches, but if i’m designing a shohein size deciduous or broadleaf tree, i will in fact use copper on those plants, because i can use a very, very small gauge wire to give us a lot of holding power within the branch structure of the tree.

Aluminum has probably at least half the holding power of copper, so copper is going to be much stronger and hold those branches into position and, if we’re only using like size again, 14 16 18, applying that small wire to branches on a deciduous or broadleaf tree is Not going to damage the tissue all right so next step here we are going to start wiring this plant, we’re going to start with the bottom left-hand branch there.

That’S our directional branch and work our way towards the top. I am going to get some wire back on the primary structure first and that’s going to be our size 14 and then we’ll work out from there onto our secondary and tertiary branches, with the smaller gauge wire, all right.

So in taking a closer look at the primary or directional branch here on the left-hand side, it has a lot of movement already built into it from the initial styling. We did a couple of years ago and i actually don’t think we’re going to have to put the size 14 on here.

I thought we might need to manipulate it a little bit more, but it’s actually already in a really good location here. So i’m going to start with our secondary branches a little bit further out here, we’re going to use size, 16 and wire.

All of these now again, i’m going to try to use the least amount of wire to do the most work. So not every single one of these is going to need a wire on it, but those that i feel are going to need to be manipulated into new locations.

We’Re actually going to have to put a wire on those all right. So i always like to start with the branches that are closest to the trunk or furthest back on our primary branches. So this would be our first branch here we’re going to apply the wire from this one.

I’M actually going to take it all the way out to the very end of the branch here and then that will allow us to set up for adding, maybe smaller wire. Like size 18 to some of these remaining secondary branches, all right, so this is the underside of the primary branch here, i’ve flipped it up, so you guys can see it.

You can see that we’ve got the number 16 original wire all the way down to the very end of the branch here, but none of the other secondary branches here off of this primary branch are wired and that’s because they’re all kind of equidistant from one another Right now, because i’ve taken this one to the right hand, side and pushed it away from these guys.

So because we have equal distance here, because they’ve been thinned out in a similar manner. When we drop this branch back down to create our pad. It’S going to look like a nice full consistent pad. Now, if you look a little bit further back into the branch, you can see that there are some other branches here that i did wire further back in right.

So i definitely wanted to make sure that whatever branches were sort of flopping or in the wrong position had wire on them, so that when we drop it down, we can put those in the proper position as well.

So basically, the moral of the story is here: it takes a little bit of time and also practice, of course, to figure out which branches are going to need wire and which ones aren’t going to need wire, but really what we’re looking for are those branches that Are flopping too much or sticking too straight up within the pad wiring those? So when we drop it down, we can position them exactly where they need to be all right now, from the front view here, you can see, i haven’t set any of the branches, yet they’ve just been wired.

What i’d like to do is bring some foliage back into interplay with our piece of dead wood right here. So we’re going to take one of those secondary branches and pull it back towards the interior, and then i’m going to take another one here and kind of connect it on the opposite side of the dead wood there.

So we can create kind of an underside of a pad right through this area here now, as we get further out on the branch, i want to start dropping some of these down to connect with the very end of the branch out here, and we can also Take some from the interior and lay those down as well, so that we have some continuity between this first pad here, dropping down to our second pad all right.

Once we get this place, i’m going to go through and actually prune back some of these tips as well. So we have a much more sort of concise and consistent density across the pad, but this is really what we’re looking for.

Basically, fanning everything out like a hand laying it down flat with just a little bit of a lift underneath and then really cleaning up the undersides to give us that delineated. Look now in this instance as well: we’ve got a pretty good size gap on the interior, so we can actually take some of the foliage from the rear and bring that up and over and kind of lay it into place.

We don’t want to do too much of a comb over necessarily, but we can do a little bit of overlapping and we also want to, if possible, take some branches from the rear and drop those down to replace some of the branches that we brought towards the Interior here that way, it doesn’t feel like it’s sort of hugging you, as you view the tree from the front or from the sides.

It looks like a nice full pad all the way around and lastly, here, if there are any elongating shoots that are sticking out now beyond the desired profile, we can go back through with scissors and cut those tips out when you remove these tips with scissors.

What that does, is it activates the remaining shoots here to start growing, so we can actually fill this pad in very quickly over the course of one growing season, essentially we’re getting three flushes of growth, one in the spring that we just cut back now, we’re going To get one for the rest of the summer that we’re going to cut back again in early september and then we’ll get kind of a late summer, early fall flush.

So really you can put on essentially three times this amount of density in one growing season. If you prune it properly all right, so the final thing here is to prune back the apex. I actually haven’t put any wire on any of the branches up here, because they’re pretty much all in the right spot, they’ve just elongated too far beyond the desired profile.

So just like, with the lower branch down below we’re, going to go through and remove the extension growth here and push all of this growth back to create kind of a rounded look to the apex. So the depth to which you cut really doesn’t matter that much as long as you’re leaving some viable tips intact.

Those will continue to grow and fill in, but we want to make sure that we’re pruning back to create kind of an even density and again sort of that rounded look to the top of the tree. Now, for example, this guy’s sticking out quite far so i’m going to take this pretty far back to the interior.

There [ Music ] all right. So here is our shoheen itoyagawashimpaku juniper, after its secondary styling, with the expansion of the shari and the resetting of the branches. Now, if you guys go back and look at some of my work from my time in japan, i would style shoheen very differently than how this tree is styled.

I tended to prefer very, very flat undersides to the branches, and this was really a reflection of the preferences of my oyakata, mr fujikawa, at the time after coming back to the states, i’ve softened the way that i set the branch tips.

So you can see on this tree, there’s a lot more lift to the ends to me, even with a shohein size tree. That gives the illusion that the tree is actually much larger than it really is in person. So i actually want to see a little bit of that lignified underside or the woody underside of the branches, meaning actually exposing the secondary and tertiary branches from below and again.

I think that just makes the tree feel much larger in total now going forward. This tree is going to go right back out on the benches here, we’re going to put the fertipad fertilizer cakes right back on top of the soil surface.

Those will get switched out about every four weeks or so, and the tree is not going to get pruned again until probably about early september, because between now and then we just want the secondary extension growth to elongate and then we’ll prune it back and get a Third flush of growth in late summer going into early fall.

So i would predict that this tree is still a handful of years out from being ready for exhibition, maybe four or five years. But you can see it’s taking a tree from a cutting bringing it to life. You know putting those initial bends in it, adding the shower little by little over time, transitioning it to a ceramic container and then building out those pads.

If you do it right, you can have a beautiful little shoheen in a very short amount of time, so hope you guys enjoyed this episode of bonsai you here on youtube. If you’re interested in learning more about bonsai, art and design, please consider joining our bonsai.

You platform, via the link in the description down below we post new videos every week, including demonstrations like this that are actually much more in depth than what you’ve seen in this episode, as well as doing live q and a’s with me four times a month.

So you can ask questions directly to me and i can give you feedback right then, and there in real time, so definitely check that out. If you’re interested, i hope to see you guys on the platform but of course, until then take care, [, Music ], you

In this episode, learn how to create additional shari or deadwood on the trunk, adding striations and a sense of naturalness to the design.


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