Two Grafting Projects: Juniper and Pine

The first tree in this photo essay is a whimsical juniper that used to be a needle juniper. Although my client enjoyed the needle juniper, it wasn’t doing very well where he lived and was getting weaker. I gave him a few options, and he decided we’d ‘change the clothes’ of the tree, so to speak, and make it happier. Essentially, we made it into something we could do bonsai work with, and not just eek along and ‘keep it going’, which isn’t really in the bonsai textbook of desired results.

Three years ago I grafted itoigawa scions on it. It was roughly styled about a year and a half ago, the whole tree created from the original four small veneer/cleft grafts. I have mixed feelings about itoigawa, to be honest, but for very small trees or those with some delicacy about them it does seem appropriate.

Itoigawa, if you’re going to go that route, is a very strongly growing plant (one of my issues with it.) Some varieties of itoigawa are so strong that the branches can very rapidly get overly thick, and will soon look rather muscular and out of character with the foliage. So controlling the energy and growth on this type of juniper is particularly important.

Also, at the end of this photo essay, I include a different grafted tree, with a very different feeling…it’s a ponderosa pine that we grafted black pine onto. Not that ponderosa pine isn’t an easy tree to grow, it’s just that my client doesn’t like ponderosa very much…so that too was grafted. Different preferences for different people. Enjoy the photos!


Itoigawa scions veneer grafted onto needle juniper. March, 2012.


Itoigawa grafts growing strongly off the top, needle juniper below. March 2014.


Tree is completely itoigawa juniper now, all the needle juniper foliage has been cut off. Four grafts were used.


After a bit of cleanup, before wiring. October 2015.


Styled tree, October 2015. Three years from grafting.  38″ / 96 cm high.


Details of the branching and foliage pads in the next few photos-

IMG_1998 IMG_1999 IMG_2007 IMG_2018


Our second grafting project was a black pine grafted onto ponderosa. To get a sense of the mass and scale of this tree, the red rectangle on the box is the tab of a handtruck. That’s a big two person box.


After all the ponderosa foliage had been cut off, only black pine remains.


We’d not paid much attention to this tree for a while, and it had grown wildly for several years. Embarrassingly, I needed a jack to bend one of the massive grafted limbs, which, had I been awake, would have needed only a modest wire only a couple years earlier. Sigh. What I get for being an idiot, more work. In any event I’ll likely do a post about this one when there’s something worth photographing. One or two years I think.


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  1. Peter Keane says:

    thanks for the photo essays. i haven’t had that amount of itoigawa growth after three years for wiring. maybe it’s my USDA zone. I’m in Massachusetts. With some juniper graft projects (not itoigawa), I’ve been able to do an initial styling after two years after grafting. Here’s a ponderosa pine with grafted pinus densiflora foliage. I started this four years ago after seeing one of your pp’s with japanese foliage to it. I transplanted it this spring into the clay pot you see. I’m heavily leaning to using the lower part for a design, as in the third image. These seem to take well to japanese pine foliage. I’ve been having trouble grafting mugo to another pp. I think that maybe, I’ll change my grafting date to later in spring. thanks for the images. Peter

    Date: Thu, 22 Oct 2015 15:37:15 +0000 To:

  2. backcountrydan says:

    Killer ponderosa!! The juniper is quite nice as well! 🙂

  3. Ray Norris says:

    I can’t believe the growth in a short period of time. they are beautiful Michael

  4. David says:

    Very interesting Michael! Is there a difference in grafting pine or juniper? I tried grafting a new branch on a prunus but without luck so far :-(. Any tips?
    best David

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