twisted shimpaku junipers

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twisted shimpaku junipers

Postby shibui » April 22nd, 2018, 7:52 pm

After field growing a batch of shimpaku and ending up with lots of straight, uninteresting trunks I decided these needed some early wiring and bending to get basic shape into the trunks because they are very hard to bend after the wood hardens and thickens.
At about the same time Joe Morgan-Payler posted this thread outlining some of his experiences of doing just that while working at a Japanese bonsai nursery. http://www.ausbonsai.com.au/forum/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=1307&hilit=stock+grow
I started striking long, thin cuttings instead of the usual 10cm pieces to speed up the process.
My initial trials had reasonably gentle bends and certainly produced far better results than unwired stock but Joe was adamant that these junipers should have lots of really tight bends to give real character as the trunks developed so I rewired and twisted some of them even further. These trees are frustratingly slow to thicken but the original ones are now 9 years old and have reached the stage where I'm starting to do some styling on a few while others are left to grow even thicker.

On Saturday our club had Joe up to lead a workshop so I thought it appropriate to take in one of the really contorted junipers he had encouraged me to grow.
The before shot is not very clear but you may be able to make out a couple of the trunk bends, some long sacrifice branches that have encouraged the trunk to thicken and some of the jins where other sacrifice branches have previously been removed. Please excuse the colour - the flash washed out much of the natural colour and my amateur attempts to rectify it have not really improved it :palm:
J M-P workshop 201803.JPG


After deciding on a front that showed the trunk to best advantage and a tilt to the right to stop the initial left and right bends from appearing at the same level we shortened the existing jins and removed the remaining sacrifice branches and any smaller unwanted growth.
Remaining live branches were wired and bent to give foliage in appropriate places and to create a crown.
Finally Joe ordered some small shari on the prominent bends saying that these would serve to attract attention and highlight those bends.

twisted shimpaku 2018 4 03.JPG


The tree is still very raw. I anticipate it ill take 2-3 more years for the foliage to gain density before it looks really good. The shari will be widened and extended every year or 2 until the individual areas join up to give one or more stripes of dead wood winding up the contorted trunk.
Developing shari over time like this gives a final result with more character and texture as subsequent new layers of sapwood are laid down by the tree and progressively uncovered by removing more bark year after year.

Thanks Joe for a great day of bonsai.
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Re: twisted shimpaku junipers

Postby boom64 » April 22nd, 2018, 10:12 pm

Great work Shibui ,cant get much more movement than that. Cheers John.
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Re: twisted shimpaku junipers

Postby Reklaw » April 23rd, 2018, 5:58 am

I'm only a novice so i'm hiding behind a very big rock as I say this; it looks like a pretzel? My eyes are drawn to the middle and doesn't move any further. It appears to be just a large clump of trunk. Obviously you have a vision of where this will lead which is what i'm finding the hardest part of bonsai. I look forward in seeing how you develop this Shibui.
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Re: twisted shimpaku junipers

Postby Watto » April 23rd, 2018, 6:45 am

A really good start. The following few years will be the make or break (the jins and shari's are the key to these in my opinion), but great stock and may you create more great stock.
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Re: twisted shimpaku junipers

Postby shibui » April 23rd, 2018, 7:28 am

I'm only a novice so i'm hiding behind a very big rock as I say this; it looks like a pretzel? My eyes are drawn to the middle and doesn't move any further. It appears to be just a large clump of trunk.

Do not be afraid of your instincts. There will be plenty of others who also see this as an artificial pretzel. I am actually in 2 minds about this one but as I do not have any other really thick, chunky short juniper trunks this one will have to do at this stage. I am hoping that if I can do a good job with the shari on the trunk that may help give it a more believable look.
Until then I'm happy to have it developing as it is.
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Re: twisted shimpaku junipers

Postby LLK » April 23rd, 2018, 7:56 am

Great post, shibui, thanks! The link to Jow's work in Japan is very useful too. I wonder: have you tried, or would you try this early bending technique with other junipers, or even with broadleaves like cotoneaster or tridents?

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Re: twisted shimpaku junipers

Postby Ryceman3 » April 23rd, 2018, 9:25 am

Reklaw wrote:it looks like a pretzel? My eyes are drawn to the middle and doesn't move any further. It appears to be just a large clump of trunk.


I think this is where the developing shari will come into play. As it is widened, joins up and becomes more obvious I think it will help to give your eye a path to follow around all those twists and bends and make sense of it. Keep watching Reklaw - I think this is gonna be an interesting development! Nice start on this shibui, I’ll be watching too!
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Re: twisted shimpaku junipers

Postby shibui » April 23rd, 2018, 7:15 pm

have you tried, or would you try this early bending technique with other junipers, or even with broadleaves like cotoneaster or tridents?

Definitely Lisa. I've watched Steven's shohin trees develop, especially a few of his with twisted trunks like this juniper, especially Steven's crabapple and pyracantha, and thought it worthwhile to try a few myself. I've tried bending pyracantha the way Steven did but most of mine just snapped, even when really thin. Need to try bending when they are a bit drier and maybe bending over a few weeks instead of trying to get tight bends in one go.
I've also started a few Cotoneaster horizontalis and C. microphylla in the last couple of years. I've bent up a couple of tridents but I also put aside any seedlings with natural bends to develop shohin bonsai. Next will be crab apples. I'm preparing some roots which should bend better than above ground stems.
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Re: twisted shimpaku junipers

Postby shibui » April 23rd, 2018, 7:29 pm

Here are a few more shimpaku from this series of bent and twisted trunks.
These first 2 were not bendy enough for Joe all those years ago which prompted the pretzel bending above. Both of these still have sacrifice branches thickening the trunks and developing further jins and the foliage pads on the branches have not yet been compressed and refined but I think the trunks are quite elegant. I've been extending the shari on the trunks a little wider each year to try to get dead wood with layers and texture.
twisted shim 2 2018 4 3.JPG


twisted shimpaku 1 2018 4 1.JPG


And here are a couple more under development:
I worked on this one yesterday. Removed a couple of sacrifice branches and compressed the trunk a bit more.
shimpaku no 1 2018 4 8.JPG

This one needs plenty of thickening but the trunk bends look promising for a shohin tree.
shimpaku no 2 2018 4 3.JPG
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Re: twisted shimpaku junipers

Postby LLK » April 23rd, 2018, 7:35 pm

Geez! And doesn't THAT make them fingerlickin' inviting for bonsai work!
----------------------------------
Thanks, also, shibui, for your reply re: trying the bending technique with other species, incl. broadleaves. Again, very useful! It changes one's entire approach to tube stock. -- Good luck with the pyracantha.

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Re: twisted shimpaku junipers

Postby Daluke » April 24th, 2018, 12:27 pm

It’s great to see someone push the envelope and develop some good local material that you only see in overseas magazines.

Do you lose many junipers along the way putting in such tight and brazen bends?

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Re: twisted shimpaku junipers

Postby shibui » April 25th, 2018, 10:22 am

Thanks Luke. I have had a few break while bending but I always start off with a few more than needed. Even if one does break it will usually shoot unless broken close to the base. I have also occasionally had one die back to a bend a few weeks after bending - assume fatal damage to the cambium even though it did not crack. I am not sure whether this is related to time of year yet.
I have also found that I need to start with plenty of trees because not all bent trunks end up as attractive trees. Bends in the wrong place, unnatural bends and bends with poor relationship to each other and to the spaces between can make an unattractive trunk and, at the very least will need correction. Some are so unattractive that I cannot see any future for them. Lots of learning about what works and what looks good over the past 10 years of this project. I'd estimate that only about 1/4 of the trees I have started have been scrapped, 1/2 are mediocre so only 1/4 of them are high quality. The proportion of acceptable ones has increased with experience though.

Tight bends can be formed in several ways:
1. Wire and bend very young, flexible growth. The still green spring shoots can be twisted fearlessly into very tight twists and bends. This wood sets very quickly and wire can be removed after just a few weeks if required. I have noted that bending seems to weaken the wood so thin bent shoots sometimes cannot support their own weight and sometimes require support until they thicken more.
2. Bend in stages. Wire the shoot and bend as much as you dare (drier plants bend better than well watered ones). Let the plant rest for at least a week then bend further. I find I can get far more bend the second time. I assume that cells have relaxed and realigned or fibres stretched to allow more movement? Even after a few years it is surprising that previously bent wood will bend quite easily at the site of a previous bend. As an example one of the trees pictured earlier was compressed last weekend.
shimpaku no 1 2018 4 4.JPG


shimpaku no 1 2018 4 8.JPG


The trunk is about 1cm thick and would normally take quite a lot of effort to bend but this moved with just gentle pressure and is now held with a simple twitch of wire. Note that all the movement is at a previous bend while the straighter areas between are still quite stiff and hard to bend. I think this can be used to good effect. Continual smooth bends look artificial but random bends interspersed with straighter areas seem more natural to me.

The bends in the first pretzel tree in this thread was also compressed more and more over several years, gradually making the bends tighter and tighter.
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Re: twisted shimpaku junipers

Postby kcpoole » April 25th, 2018, 10:52 am

Nice work Neil and inspirational,
As a lover of twisted Junipers myslef i can totally agree with your comments. Once worked they can all be further improved over time and even big mistakes will grow out and be able to reworked later.
I have some in the ground that were bent a few years ago and have posted quite a few from Demos i have done here are well.

Ken
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Re: twisted shimpaku junipers

Postby Stormfyre » May 15th, 2018, 3:58 pm

To me the last pics are too obviously a struggle to get it to cascade. It looks too unnatural and twisty for what it is
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Re: twisted shimpaku junipers

Postby Mbunro » May 15th, 2018, 4:08 pm

Have you had any deep wire scars? And how have you dealt with this? I started some squamattas based on jow's method maybe 18 months ago and have ended up with large bulging sections where the scars have healed over.

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