Blood, Sweat, and Tosho

Here’s another recent Juniperus rigida I styled for Mr. Endo about three weeks ago.  A trip to his garden is also featured Here.  This bonsai was purchased from us about two years ago and it has pretty much grown freely since then.  It is a collected tree and has been a bonsai a long time judging by the live veins and seasoned deadwood.  Endo-san’s tosho ranked as a 9 out of 10 on the pain scale and drew more blood than the Red Cross.  Maeoka-san also learned a few new vulgarities not in the standard English dictionary. If you’re wondering, a 10 was a Juniperus rigida I made the mistake of touching in Nara with almost two inch needles.  Fresh lime sulphur was applied and the bark was not sandpapered.  Conifers with awl-type foliation are often allowed to keep rugged bark.  Over the past two years, the tree has become really vigorous and many shoots were not cut back soon enough.  The problem is, a tree with this form cannot have a heavy top as it will look like a lollypop.  My mission, which I had no option to decline, was to reign this tosho back in and set the framework for pads.

The lowest branch cascades straight down and after thinning the obvious unnecessary branches, started looking slightly sabishee (a word meaning “lonely”).  This was before shortening shoots too.  Low branches like this are often weak but after styling was complete, this area has a new lease on life as you will see below.


 Good news is, deconstruction of this tree to the bones allows for issues to be corrected and future problems avoided.  We don’t just put movement into branches to make them look pretty;  shortening the physical and visual length are achieved.

Taking out thick branches helps with balancing over-all branch vigor.   

The top looks full and and easy to style; perhaps even just scissor prune.  But no joy.  Two-thirds of the branches were not keepers due to angle of emergence, thickness, or location.




This is about the point you remember a rounded top is necessary for the design and the sweating portion of this project commences….

Photo above taken three weeks after styling.  The upper third of the trunk is now much more interesting with pads breaking up the straight part and a new planting angle improves the curves of the trunk line a bit as well as that of the lowest right branch.  Branches have been spread out more and spaced well to allow for some really full pads in the future in the weaker areas and pads already on the way to “finished” will be maintained as ususal.

Thanks for reading.  White pine and Juniper styling season is here and Bjorn Bjorholm has styled a few cool ones recently.  Check out his blog HERE.  I’m sure there will be a few Pinus parviflora in front of me soon.  My sempai, Naoki Maeoka, has also styled some great ones in the past few weeks.  Another blog from the Kouka-en Clan looks like it is in the works.  His background in Japanese art and knowledge of ceramics (both history and creation) promise to add yet another solid resource to the web.