Reworking An Old Juniper

Old bonsai get shaggy. The crowns round and loose clarity, the silhouette gets bloated and too big. They resemble a haircut 6 months overdue.

Older bonsai require a periodic rework to a profile that balances better with the trunk.


Old Juniper bonsai that has outgrown its design, hiding the deadwood. Pushing the reset button on this juniper will reset canopy size and shape. To do this, longer, lower branches are cut off and replaced with shorter, higher ones.


Carmen took this one on. Here’s the initial rework. There’s good shrinkage of the canopy size and exposure of deadwood.


After our review, Carmen brought the key branch in by 1 1/2” using a couple guy wires, and the shoots in the crown were brought down on the sides, narrowing the crown’s profile. These small changes compact and synthesize the design. If you flip back to the first image, now more deadwood is exposed and the foliage only plays a supporting role.

The juniper featured here is a Rocky Mountain Juniper trunk grafted with shimpaku foliage. Here’s the original post about its styling.

In Bonsai Heresy there’s a chapter about why we shouldn’t pinch junipers. One of the assumptions about pinching is that it will keep the tree at the same size, to avoid doing what all old bonsai eventually need, a reworking. Pinching only weakens the tree, though, leading to other problems. (Bonsai Heresy is on sale at Stone Lantern, $5.00 off! Not to early to consider stocking stuffers…and it’s a small book…)

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