Demonstration by Mike Pistello – Shimpaku Juniper var. Kishu

On November 17, 2022, at the Rohnert Park Community Center, Rohnert Park, California, members of the Redwood Empire Bonsai Society (REBS) were treated to a bonsai demonstration performed by Mike Pistello, a longtime bonsai artist and instructor.

Mike worked on a mature Shimpaku juniper (Juniperus Chinensis ‘Kishu’), is a dwarf variety of the Chinese juniper. He described the demo tree as once styled as a shohin, less than eight inches in height. However, the tree has grown in size and no longer considered shohin.

Mike examined the tree by first looking at the nebari or base of the tree. The nebari are the surface roots as they spread out from the base of the trunk. He said the nebari was not that important on a juniper as they are with other species, such as pine or Japanese maple. Next, he evaluated the movement of the trunk and taper. The demo tree showed great movement in the trunk, but little of no taper. Shari was present along the trunk line. Mike said the tree has grown out of its shohin size into kiu sho size bonsai (roughly up to 16 inches). The foliage was full, bushy and a healthy green. Mike pointed out some of the branches were beginning to become leggy.

Upon examination, Mike identified and began to remove some of the leggy and larger branches. He would jin some of the larger branches. The process proceeded by identifying branches course to fine, so that no large branch appeared in the upper region of the tree that appeared out of proportion with the trunk. The work included removing dead foliage and branches and thinning some of the foliage. Mike used a bonsai scissors in thinning the foliage. He cautioned never shear the foliage and not to pinch it. Instead, he demonstrated cutting the runner back to healthy lateral foliage.

Once the tree were cleaned and thinned out, Mike began to wire some of the branches. He used copper wire for positioning the branches in downward movements and into pads.

Shaping the tree and creating an apex was the finishing work of the demo tree. Mike noted the front view of the bonsai tree by marking it with two bent pieces of copper wires. The front view should expose the trunk movement to the viewer, showing shari and the life line. The apex is pointing towards the viewer. The overall shape is asymmetrical having two sides or halves that are not the same.

Some juniper bonsai tips include:

  • Provide regular watering;
  • Feed sparingly while they’re small then increase as they mature;
  • Prune when needed;
  • Keep juniper bonsais in morning sunlight with afternoon shade.

Upon completion of the demo, the tree was raffled off with the winning ticket purchased by Diane Matzen. How lucky was she?

Mike Pistello displays a mature Shimpaku juniper var. Kishu for his demonstration
Mike examining the demo tree
Removing large unwanted branches
Creating jins on selected large branches

REBS members in attendance
Thinning unwanted foliage and cutting runners
Wiring branches
Creating pads with the wired branches
Working with the apex
Wiring the last of the upper regional branches
Demo complete
Diane Matzen takes home the demo Shimpaku juniper

Demonstration by Bob Shimon – Procumbens Juniper Nana

On October 27, 2022, at the Rohnert Park Community Center, Rohnert Park, California, Redwood Empire Bonsai Society (REBS) members were treated to a bonsai demonstration performed by former club president Bob Shimon, owner and operator of Mendocino Coast Bonsai, Point Arena, California

Juniperus procumbens ‘Nana’, commonly called Japanese garden juniper, is a dwarf plant, native to Japan. It grows by branches spreading parallel and above the ground. It is a great starter bonsai for anyone’s collection.

It tolerates hot and dry environments and poor soils. Intolerant of wet soil conditions. Used in gardens as a groundcover and can be pruned severely.

Procumbens Juniper Nana demo tree

The demo tree is approximately 25 to 30 years old in a nursery container. The tree shows great movement in the trunk. The trunk has little or no taper, which makes it suitable for Bujin (literati) styling. The foliage is heavy in the apex or upper region of the trunk.

Bob started out working on the demo tree by removing all dead branches and unhealthy and weak foliage. Next, he removed long and leggy branches. Branches too large for their respective locations on the trunk were removed or saved for jin (deadwood application).

He removed cross and bar branches and thinned out the foliage. This included straight down and up growth and unwanted crotches. He would prune coarse branches back to finer and actively growing branches

Bob later moved onto wiring primary and secondary branches. Senior member Ivan Lukrich joined in to assist with the wiring.

Evaluating the demo tree
Begin styling demo tree
Removing large unwanted branches
Wiring can be fun with Ivan Lukrich’s help
Removing foliage and branches at upper most region

Bujin or literati styled bonsai are abstract and considered an approach versus normal bonsai styling. Bob reduced the amount of foliage and branches at the upper region of the tree leaving a “less is more” sort of look. Junipers look great with jins and shari or deadwood features for the appearance of age, character and survival in harsh environmental conditions.

Bob recommended a round or nanban pot for the demo bonsai tree.