Mame Kishu Juniper Bonsai

Mame Kishu Juniper Bonsai

juniper kishu mame Phutu

Time flies when you’re having fun- I posted about Kishu cuttings back in December of 2014, and here we are in late 2019 and I’ve been doing a lot of work on these guys. So I can share a few tips and tricks that I’ve picked up to keep all you fabulous tree growers going in the right twisty direction.

Where we left off last time was a year after the cuttings were taken when I separated them, wired them, and put them in 2-inch pots. The initial twist that you apply to a cutting is actually incredibly important if you want to have twisting shari on your junipers. In the case of many of these trees I was not disappointed in my 2015 efforts; when I went to create shari I picked a piece of bark toward one of the larger tips and started peeling backward. I often do this in spring because the cambium separates so readily. As I pull, the bark strips follow the twist that was previously applied to the cutting leaving a spiral design in many cases.

The twisting shari created in early 2016 on this tree is beginning to roll over and create interest.

After some shari were added in 2015 and 2016 I was largely allowing these to just grow out and blow out. At the time I had a lot of things to deal with, like remodeling a house, homeschooling a 6th grader, and spending 10 weeks in the Philippines (for my full-time gig) in one year.

The first of the batch that I styled in January of 2018

I was just tickled with these guys all the time, so I spent a lot of time looking at them and analyzing how to make them better and more interesting. In each case, just some cutback, fine wiring, and additional shari work has created some really cool little trees. I’ve sold a few already, and I’m prepping a few more for sale in the near future. The feature image at the top of the article shows one potted (albeit in a bit oversized pot) and in the inaugural Shohin show this summer in Oakland.

Here are 5 key points to consider when making mame Kishu junipers:

  1. At least in San Francisco, you have to keep them in full-full sun even if that means watering 2 or 3 times per day. The only time I move these into shade is during heat waves where temps get to 90F or above. If they are consistently in shade, the foliage will be leggy, and difficult to make into the super-compact shape you need.
  2. The crown shape, and the styling you arrive at are ephemeral. Unlike larger trees where you can establish and then maintain a style, mame I believe are best adapted, restyled, retwisted, and restyled often – for fun and out of necessity.
  3. Pay attention to the shape and length of the roots when you’re potting them. I’ve re-potted all of these multiple times to establish a small, 1-inch disc of roots right at the base. Nevertheless, I’ve found that I ended up in some cases with unwanted height as a result of the roots that I exposed.
  4. Step down gradually – I only ever went as large as a 2″ (nominal) pot (actually 2.25″ square by 3.25″ deep) but when stepping down I still have to remove 80% of the roots to get into a slightly over-sized pot like those shown above. To go smaller, will take another repotting.
  5. Once you reduce the rootball and put it into a ceramic container, it will slow down the growth, so do most of your growing in deeper or larger containers. However, be conscious that containers larger than 4″ may prevent you from ever getting back into a real mame container!

One of the shorter and fatter ones. This one completely closed the shari I had made.

Good luck with your cuttings!

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