Advice for Shimpaku

Wondering your thoughts on this Shimpaku. It is my first and was analyzing the 4 trunks and what to do. I am new to Bonsai and just picked this up at a close out sale at Dallas Bonsai. Any design advice is appreciated.

It looks like a great starting point - do you have any ideas so far?

None so far… Just got today.

Thoughts… Not sure what to do with 4 trunks/limbs…

In my mind this is good starter material to gain experience and additional shimpaku material from. As there are four trunks to work with, my approach would be to determine the best trunk for future development. Then i would plan on airlayering off the remaining trunks to produce extra tree material for later.
Also, due to its current size i would then place the remaining trunk and original nebari in the ground or grow box to thicken the trunk for future development. The air layers would be grown out for several years as well to produce more mature material.
I would also begin to wire the trunks for further movement as they develop.
The above approach is based on my desire to work with more mature stock ( larger trunk size) and simpler style for development. ( single trunk). Based on the first picture showing the soda can, the trunks appear to be quite a bit less than one inch at this time. My goal wold be to develop 2-3 inch trunks before styling!
Others may advise differently and that is fine. My preference is to develop the trunk and primary branching to desired size before styling. In the meantime study the basic styles normally used for juniper and plan how to grow and wire the material out to the desired outcomes.
What you have at this point is a clump style formation with an even number of trunks. Perhaps others will have simpler suggestions than i have offered.
Until you have a plan you are comfortable with than i would grow it out to produce larger material. Looks like a healthy plant and appears to have a good start on balanced nebari with a bit of flare at the base.

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Like Frank, I look at this as a great starting point for learning and a blank slate as for styling. The most common styles for shimpaku are pretty twisty so it’ll be good practice for wiring and bending.

As for the different trunks, air-layering is a good approach if you want another tree, or you can bend the branch now and turn it into a deadwood feature once the bends set.

Frank’s suggestion will be the way to go if you want a larger trunk, but if you want to work with the tree as is, you can start styling the tree anytime.

Sometimes a picture helps! Here is an example of the suggestion I offered. A shimpaku with several ( 5 ) trunks from a common base. The picture shows the airlayers (4) potted up alongside the original plant. ( in the grow box ).

Thanks Frank. Wow now I am getting excited. When is the best time to start airlayers. I would guess in mid March or so as I am in Texas. My tree seems Healthy so is this year all right or should I wait another year. Right now it is layered in mulch and leaves against my outside garage wall with my other bonsai. Also am wondering if I should slip pot it into a grow box or colander in the spring. If so can I airlayer after slip potting or wait. So many questions sorry but being new I don’t want to overdo things. I also am going to get a couple of more since Dallas Bonsai is going out of business. This was $20.

If it were my choice i would grow out first then airlayer. This would give me time to wire movement into the small trunks and extensions as they grow. The overall growth will be faster with less disturbance.
I always like to begin long term projects by repotting the tree in a grow box. This establishes a good foundation for health and begins to develop proper rootball, nebari and flare for the key trunk. It also establishes a calendar for subsequent repotting and allows one to stage the growth, airlayers and subsequent application of required steps.
I would think that March or April would be ok for air layer in Texas depending on elevation and climate zone. Best to check with a local club mentor in your area. I begin air layers in the end of may, beginning of June for zone 8b. This can vary with the year, the goal is to catch the tree just before it begins the growing season and beds or foliage begin extending! Juniper can produce roots on an airlayer pretty quickly!
I should note that i am not a fan of the term or practice of slip potting plants. I always prefer to arrange or comb out roots to improve the root ball whenever i repot. Even if it is a smaller amount of change, it will aid the roots in becoming established in the new soil mix and container.
In short, i would repot this spring, wire for movement and grow out for the full season. Lots of fertiliser and water throughout the season. Check the wire frequently to prevent cutting in too much before removing and replacing as desired. Assess the size after the season and go from there!
In the meantime you can plan for wiring appropriate Jin and decide good locations for air layer.
Extra Tip: it helps to wire branches apart to keep sunlight in the interior, thus retaining more healthy foliage close to the trunk.

Again Frank… THANKS FOR THE INSITE AND DIRECTION. This is one on the most helpful sites around. One more item… What type of fertilizer do you suggest for not only Shimpaku but my elms, Parsons Juniper and pines (Mugo and JBP). I use pumice, haydite (instead of Akadama) , lava rock and about 10% pine bark.
Again I really appreciate your help and time.

Fertiliser is a huge topic. My preference for general use is organic and low numbers as a first choice! All three numbers NPK below 10. There are lots of formulae available on line to make up your own if desired.

Yes there are so many posts on fertilizer that it becomes confusing. Since I have not completed one growing season on my bonsai journey am not sure what exactly works. I am using this so far.

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Frank (and Jonas), I don’t mean to hijack this thread but the discussion and advice has raised some questions for me. In growing our Junipers specifically, will the tree grow more rapidly with the extra limbs removed?
I always thought Junipers received their vigor from the foliage more than from the roots. With many others trees and shrubs that have multiple trunks/stems, if I were to remove some of the trunks the root mass will support the remaining trunks and foliage with more energy and increased growth.Then there is also the experience of removing too much of the root mass of a juniper and experiencing some loss of foliage as a result. (I’m thinking of the principle of “balance”.)
What’s the reality with Junipers?

Hi Bruce
The question you raise is a common one. Often the advice given is based on the specific goal for the tree at that point in time.
What is best for this stage might be a better way to phrase it.
Now back to your question.
Energy for growth comes from photosynthesis in the leaves ( needles). The more juniper needles the more opportunity for photosynthesis.
If the goal is to increase the interior foliage faster than it is necessary to remove some outer foliage and or some branches to allow light and air to the interior for healthy growth.
Keeping all the foliage would help the overall plant grow faster but would delay, prevent and or cause the interior to die off.
So in this particular case, if one wishes to promote foliage closer to the trunk in the interior retaining all the foliage is not the best course of action.
A simple case of addition by subtraction.
I hope this makes sense and i understand it is just one example. Others may have lots of extra information to add.

Others please add. It gets a little confusing for a novice to decide to either repot first or airlayer or remove branches or to just trim. Thanks to all that at least give us direction / choices. This is the best site that gives direction without critisism or non answers. Thanks!

I was also thinking that I need to get them out of the shallow pots and either into the ground or pool basket for another year or so to get the trunk larger. Also wire the branches to get more light into the interior and movement. Thoughts?

One of the big trade-offs when growing any species is whether to keep or remove branches during the trunk thickening phase. Removing foliage slows things down, but it can improve the shape too. I try to keep as much foliage as possible as long as it doesn’t create any problems (swelling at busy branch intersections, shading out lower branches, etc.).

For thickening a young juniper like yours, I’d likely start by adding movement to the trunks and let the tree grow.

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