Day of Yikes: Grafted Rocky Mountain Juniper Styling

I suppose that title needs a bit of explaining. About 4 1/2 years ago I grafted this Rocky Mountain Juniper (collected by Randy Knight) with some curious shimpaku foliage that I took a shine to. The shimpaku foliage was a bit coarser than we see normally, and I thought it would look good on a tree with a rugged, expressive character.

So that’s the backdrop for the Day of Yikes…

When a tree is grafted with an entirely different foliage type, some day, eventually, the original foliage needs to be cut off. Although with a bit of practice there’s little worry, really, it is still a bit exciting to finally (after years of waiting) yell out ‘Yikes!’ as you make that final pruning cut.

The tree did fine.

And this summer Bobby rewired it for the second time. The following is a series of photos from the last two years, from the Day of Yikes to about four minutes ago, when the last shot was taken.


Mistake number 1, which I’ve repeated I don’t know how many times: Photograph your tree before cutting off that which you’d really like to have in the first photo… Seasonal students ‘replace’ Rocky Mountain Juniper branches cut off in 2012.


…what’s left is the post-Yikes euphoria, and a tree wearing new foliage. The juniper was grafted in 2009 with two small shimpaku veneer grafts on original Rocky Mountain branches that were about 1/3″ (0.8 cm) thick.


And two years of growth later, just before Bobby started to rework the tree a few weeks ago. It was roughly wired in 2013. The jins from the original Rocky Mountain Juniper branches were cleaned of their bark. I think some more jin work might need to be done on this tree, to marry the old and new jins better. I’m still looking at it. They are a bit jarring, but then it’s a jarring tree.


Starting to look like a bonsai. The pads on the bottom still need a bit of time for development, especially the lower left where we’ve let some shoots grow long for a longer eventual pad over there. Will post some updates in the future-

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  1. bonsai eejit says:

    Reblogged this on Bonsai Eejit.

  2. chis says:

    Just a comment from the peanut gallery. I think the ruggedness of the tree looks great but should have been grafted with tighter rocky mountain. The Shimpaku foliage seems too fine and delicate for the character of this tree. Maybe it’s the styling. I prefer a bit more “natural styling” than the classic formal lines it has in the last picture. A great tree!

    • crataegus says:

      You have a good point. A few years back I did not have any tighter Rocky that I’d consider grafting with, but it’s a great idea and I’m still hoping to do that with some other trees someday. I didn’t have any then, when I grafted this tree, but might have considered it.
      For this tree, well, I had several reasons for using shimpaku. For one, it’s about the only one in my yard, actually, most are native junipers, and I wanted students who come here to learn the different maintenance techniques with shimpaku vs. Rocky. Also I want to explore more grafting with shimpaku and other junipers that are more resistant to some of the fungal diseases of the Pacific Northwest than Rocky, which is very susceptible.
      Also, although the foliage certainly does look fine, it’s coarser than most shimpaku and much coarser than itoigawa, which I’m not a big fan of for grafting.
      And natural vs. classical, I guess I do enough natural styling, although most of that is with deciduous trees. Sometimes I really like the contrast between careful clean work and dynamic deadwood, and yet I sometimes don’t like it either. So I can understand your reservation.
      Thanks for the comment-

  3. Ryan NIchols says:

    Well done Michael! It’s nice to see a rocky successfully grafted and styled. I think this tree will be more impressive as you carefully manage the foliage pads to harmonize with the wild deadwood as the tree continues to grow.

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