Advice for styling Kishu Shimpaku

Hey everyone,

I recently got into a Bonsai and purchased a Kishu Shimpaku from a local Bonsai Nursery. It came in a training pot, and it looks great. However, I think it has a lot of potential for styling.

Please see more pictures and a walk-around video at

The main questions I have right now are:

  • Is it a good time to style the tree, or should I continue to let it grow? The trunk is only about 1 inch thick now, and the tree is in a growing pot. I’m not sure if I should continue to let this tree develop before refining it.

  • What style should I go for with this tree? I’ve looked up pictures of classic bonsai designs, and it looks like Slanted, Informal Upright, or Canopy are possibilities.

If you folks have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them. Thanks!

Hi Samuel,

First things first, as you could probably note from the question I posted few days ago on Junipers, I am a rookie with Junipers and you should certainly wait for more experienced users to address your questions.

Anyway, being a rookie, I am currently studying hard the features of this awesome species and I would like to share with you a couple of thoughts on this beautiful tree in order to start a discussion, which I think is the base of learning.

The first thing I can notice from the picture is that the structure of the tree is influenced by apical dominance, which is typical of Junipers (the foliage mass in the upper part of the tree is dense and thriving vs. thinner lower branches). Hence, If I worked on this tree, I would thin a little the upper part letting the first branches run freely in order to establish proportion in the overall structure. This process would also maximize photosynthetic efficiency: each upper branch would get its own ray of sunlight producing a bigger amount of sugars, starches and carbohydrates.

As a general rule, I would follow Ryan Neils’ tip on thickening branches:

  • If you want to stop something from thickening, reduce the number of leaves that it has
  • If you want something to thicken, increase the number of leaves that it has

From a structural standpoint, I’d also set a different angle in the first branch (and in doing so the branches above will follow the same angle of the first branch): from :arrow_upper_right: to :arrow_lower_right:, this in order to avoid symmetry and trying to create organic asymmetry naturally.

I would love to hear the opinions of more experienced users though.


As for your first question - now through February is a good time to style the tree, though I’d like to see it get more vigorous before doing a lot of work.

As for the styling, I’d look at great juniper bonsai and use them as examples. I try to pay particular attention to the trunkline and branch structure when looking at bonsai.

Armed with good perspective on the main characteristics of good juniper bonsai, it’s then easier to come up with an approach for styling your tree.

Thanks for the advice everyone! I’ll probably just let this tree grow for the rest of this year’s growing season, then clean it up and wire some time this winter.

I’ll have to spend more time thinking about the design of this tree. I believe that the nursery owner I bought this from had a kind of informal upright design in mind, with 3 layers of foliage pads building up a asymmetrical triangle. I’m probably not going to deviate too far from this design, but I’ll have to spend some time working out the details in the branches.