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

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