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About a year ago a friend of mine and fellow student of Boons, Ken Buechele brought me some shimpaku whips that he had done maybe a year earlier. What I mean by done is, he had added double wire and then really added some curves, bends and movement. These sat of my bonsai bench for about 6 months and one day I had planned to begin to make them into bonsai material instead of just bushes. At least that was the goal.

I began one by one studying each branch and deciding which way I would bend it. This is helpful to ensure you don't remove all the downward growth and then wire it and it turns out you accidentally removed all the growth that was meant for the top and sides of the branch. You could save this mistake by turning the branch if it’s small enough when wiring, but why not do it right the first time. I began thinning and removing old needles and removing all the growth on the bottom of each branch. I then wired it and gave each branch even more movement and wired it into a basic bonsai shape. I then took a few picture and put it back on the bench. I honestly cannot remember what happened but somehow I got distracted and never completed the second tree. 

Here we are 4 months later and I happened to look at the tree that I had thinned and wired. The growth was so much more than the juniper that was not thinned that it surprised me. When I compared the trees I had done nothing more than thin one and wire it. I did not change watering habits for either tree. I did not change sunlight, fertilizer or any other influence that might have made one tree grow faster than the other. So through process of elimination the only thing I did different was to thin and wire. This seems like pretty basic information right, but I wonder how many of us are guilty of letting our tree sit on benches for years without thinning. I also wonder how much growth we sacrifice because we don't thin and pull old growth from our trees to allow sunlight in. These trees were almost identical and even the trunk was a little thicker of the tree i thinned.

I believe we all understand that removing too much interior growth on a deciduous tree of course could burn the trunk and potentially cause damage to your deciduous tree. So it's finding that happy medium, but for junipers a great time for thinning and wiring is, June, July, and August. I would save any extreme bending until the tree does dormant, more around November or December time frame. You may need to adjust this timing a little depending on where you live. Here are a few before pictures and then the pictures that show the difference thinning can do. Right after taking these pictures I added a whole bunch of new bends and curves. So the last picture is what the strong young juniper looks like today. Time to get to work on the other one!!  For fun stop by my Facebook page



This is the tree that did not get thinned or wired


Top of apex at 14 inches compared to 9 inches of tree not thinned


Side growth on tree not thinned


Side growth on thinned tree and this is after wiring 4 months ago and adding curves and movement


A nice beginning step let it grow for a few years adding bends and curves at every opportunity. Deadwood will be added later

Written by Ron Anderson — August 31, 2013