My experience of Bonsai as a hobby is reflected largely in the following record of this Itoigawa juniper. I acquired the tree with little experience or knowledge of the species or bonsai in general and have largely muddled through its development.

Unknown to me at the time I obtained this tree there are literally hundreds of varieties of juniper, the Itoigawa juniper is named after the city Itoigawa which is situated north west of Tokyo and nestles between mountain ranges and the Sea of Japan. The area benefits from temperate weather and lush vegetation including mountain covered slopes ideal environments for juniper. (That’s enough of the geography lesson.)

On a visit to John Hanby’s nursery some years ago, I saw that he had a number of Itoigawa, the name of the variety meant nothing to me and I was only attracted to it because of the compact type of foliage. I could not leave without buying one.

Some many months later I took the tree to a club meeting and after a lot of discussion and trepidation I removed one the three lowest branches which had an unsightly bend.( I still question the decision but not too much as the branch was always going to be a problem.) The image opposite is of the tree after removing the branch and creating a jin which I subsequently removed.    I had read about finger pinching foliafe on juniper and some other evergreens and had seen this done at club demos, so during several years that is what I did. Due to my lack of understanding about balancing energy and controlling growth on apically dominant trees the crown grew much denser than the lower branches.

I subsequently took it along to a club workshop with Corin Tomlinson about four years ago where some wiring was done, some weaker branches were removed and the crown was thinned out as it was much more vigorous than the lower branches. The wire was removed the following year.

Fast forward to last year, (2019). The tree had grown well as the image here of the crown shows, with clearly visible new extension growth.

By now trends had changed, and as I had learned current popular practice is to allow new growth to extend, as seen in this picture, and then prune with scissors back to a suitable growth point. So this was really the only work that I carried out on this tree during 2019, concentrating mainly on the crown.

The tree had previously been repotted in 2017 and was ready to be repotted in the spring of this year (2020).

After repotting the tree was left to recover and feeding was started during the later half of May using Naruka and Seaweed concentrate.

The tree responded quite well and I decided that it would benefit from some further work later in the year.

The crown had an area devoid of foliage and there was an imbalance in the strength of foliage in some branches.

The picture opposite shows the tree before I carried out any further work on it.

It was evident that some refinement was necessary. So during early August I carried out the following work. First of all I removed a few inner branches that were very weak.

Next the crown needed to be thinned again as well as  repositioning some branches in that part of the tree.

The image here reflects some of the work done around the upper area of the crown, aimed in particular at reducing the negative space o

n the right. This involved wiring both primary and secondary branches and repositioning them to increase foliage in the problem area.

Nothing had yet been done to the lower branches.

The image below reflects the work on those lower branches of the crown, which involved wiring the primary and secondary branches, some thinning out and repositioning to allow more light in.

The branches in the middle of the tree were then given some attention. Here there are two branches that clearly have weaker growth, on these the secondary and tertiary branches were wired and repositioned to increase the width of the branches.

The two lowest branches were both thinned out and wired to reposition the secondary and tertiary branches while raising them to create pads thatare level.

There are two branches, (the lowest on the right and the one above on the left) which have secondary branches growing from the upper side of the primary branch as well as secondary which extend directly from the primary. I am undecided whether those from the upper side should be removed and will leave them for now.

The trunkline (which isn’t great) is now visible for a greater height. I know that the growth in the crown will need to be controlled during the coming year/s to attempt to balance the energy in the branches.