Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

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Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

Post  ChrisGalpin on Wed Jan 14, 2015 8:56 am

I have a himalayan juniper (squamata). I've read all I can about how to prune it to maintain the foliage, but the advice seems contradictory. I've found the following:

1. Pinch the tips to keep the growth compact.
2. Never pinch as this weakens the tree.
3. Cut out the longest shoots to let inner shoots grow out and replace them.
4. Remove inner shoots as they will weaken the tree.
5. Cut back all the foliage to one or two leaves yearly and let it grow back again.

If anyone can make sense of this for me I would be extremely grateful. So far I have pinched a little, then heard about the weakening scenario. Then I thinned out the longest shoots, which did make the foliage more compact, but a bit patchy.

Thanks if you can help,
Chris

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Re: Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

Post  leatherback on Wed Jan 14, 2015 10:38 am

Hm.. A view as I understand it; Mind you, I am not an expert.

- Pinching: Removing the tips of your growth. Mainly usefull when you are getting a tree exhibition-ready and want all-even grown on your pads. It does however stop the tree from building up sapwood along the branches, and might -when performed over long periods of time- weaken the plant
- Trimming shoots: You let the main growth extend to a few cm, or even inches (Depending development stage, size & species) then clip back: This builds strength, and in general is the principle way of maintaining a tree
- Trimming of innershoots: Only if you do not need them. Most inner shoots can be used to rebuild foliage pads when they outgrow the design. I do not believe in inner shoots weakening the tree. (This will probably be countered by some)
- Last item (Cutting back to two leaves) is the same as trimming main shoots: Basically, the the plant extend growth, and trim back after allowing to gain strength.

Those are my thoughts on the matter. But trimming is like soil.. You can debate for ages..

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Re: Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

Post  Precarious on Wed Jan 14, 2015 4:58 pm

What is the source of your reading? If you like books, there are many recommended on this site. If you are reading online, there are sellers and there are growers. Many sellers copy and paste info from another source, not knowing the validity of the info. Here are a few examples of advice from respected growers/artists. There are many others.
http://www.bonsai4me.com/SpeciesGuide/Juniperus.html
http://crataegus.com/2012/08/26/how-to-pinch-junipers/
https://peterteabonsai.wordpress.com/tag/needle-juniper/

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Re: Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

Post  Vance Wood on Wed Jan 14, 2015 11:36 pm

I too have had problems with THE NEW WAY maintaining the growth on Junipers is taught today.   I think this is a discussion that really needs to take place.  I have seen A BIG TIME decline in the appearance of Junipers since THE DON'T PINCH SCHOOL has taken over the discussion.  This is just my opinion and it has gotten to a point with this discussion I pretty much leave it alone because I disagree with what is being taught.  Notice the Shimpaku Juniper that is my Avatar photo.  It has been grown wrongly.



I have been doing this tree wrong for more then twenty.

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Re: Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

Post  appalachianOwl on Thu Jan 15, 2015 4:11 am

you think one would have figured it out by now Vance Wink. as far as snipping vs. pinching, i don't see how from a physiological stand point it would really make a difference.

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Re: Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

Post  Vance Wood on Thu Jan 15, 2015 12:55 pm

appalachianOwl wrote:you think one would have figured it out by now Vance Wink. as far as snipping vs. pinching, i don't see how from a physiological stand point it would really make a difference.

Are you aware that some of the major names in bonsai are now telling us we are doing our Junipers incorrectly?  You can see the difference in the trees that are produced by the people that follow this way of thinking.  This is my opinion gathered by looking, reading and examining the results.  I do not like much what I see but I am not going to point out people or post pictures of trees that I feel are less than they could be because people are following this new retro-technique. Of course if you do not have any Junipers you really do not have a personal reference.point.

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Re: Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

Post  KennedyMarx on Fri Jan 16, 2015 12:14 am

Vance, I know you pinch your junipers and that it's worked for you, but to say those that let growth extend and cut back have poor looking junipers? What are you talking about? All the junipers I have seen from artists using the technique have been magnificent and healthy. Look at any junipers from Michael Hagedorn, Brian Van Fleet, Ryan Neil, Boon Manikitivipart, John Kirby, Peter Tea, Jonas Dupuich, etc. I'd love to see ONE example.

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Re: Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

Post  Vance Wood on Fri Jan 16, 2015 3:29 pm

KennedyMarx wrote:Vance, I know you pinch your junipers and that it's worked for you, but to say those that let growth extend and cut back have poor looking junipers.What are you talking about?

What about those words do you not understand?  In my opinion the Shimpakus that have been developed with this new technique do not looks as neat, compact and finished.  They look to me, more lose and gangly, like they need a bit of---- pinch back.

All the junipers I have seen from artists using the technique have been magnificent and healthy.

Really; how closely are you actually  looking?  Sometimes I think we let name value influence our grasp of reality.  

Look at any junipers from Michael Hagedorn, Brian Van Fleet, Ryan Neil, Boon Manikitivipart, John Kirby, Peter Tea, Jonas Dupuich, etc. I'd love to see ONE example.   I realize that this is in many of your eyes like suggesting that God screwed up----  I am not saying that they are bad just not as good and different ----not as good.  It's like when they (government) took the special Palm Oil out of Theater Pop Corn.  The Pop Corn is still a must but it sure is not what it used to be.

I have seen the Junipers grown that follow this new advise. They do not look as good as they could or as good as they should.  I told all of  you earlier that I was not going to name names or even ask them but the question was askked and I merely answered it from my point of view. I noticed none of you have responded till now. I will not post examples of other peoples trees.  I noticed the change when this started to be the cause-celeb and every body was doing it and some of the big names were selling it.  In the end this is my observation and opinion.

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Re: Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

Post  coh on Fri Jan 16, 2015 3:43 pm

This is an interesting topic and I would like to see more discussion.

I haven't followed this as closely as Vance, who has been doing bonsai much longer than I have. I'm still having trouble just keeping junipers healthy even without pinching or pruning. Still, I do hope that at some point I'll have a decent juniper or two that will be at the stage where maintenance of the foliage pads through pinching or pruning (or some combination) will be needed.

Here's my question: if the old pinching method was so bad for the trees, then how did all those old junipers survive (and thrive despite) all that pinching over the decades?

Chris

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Re: Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

Post  Vance Wood on Fri Jan 16, 2015 3:57 pm

coh wrote:This is an interesting topic and I would like to see more discussion.

I haven't followed this as closely as Vance, who has been doing bonsai much longer than I have. I'm still having trouble just keeping junipers healthy even without pinching or pruning. Still, I do hope that at some point I'll have a decent juniper or two that will be at the stage where maintenance of the foliage pads through pinching or pruning (or some combination) will be needed.

Here's my question: if the old pinching method was so bad for the trees, then how did all those old junipers survive (and thrive despite) all that pinching over the decades?

Chris

That has been one of my questions which includes many of my own trees.  I think many who pinch have  pinched incorrectly.  There is in bonsai a problem with teminology where an action like "Pinching" is taken to mean that you pinch the growing tips between the finger nails of the opposing  pinching fingers involved.  If you do this this way you will have all kinds of brown ends and you might weaken the tree.  What needs to be done is that the growing tips need to be pinched by twisting them off so that they break at the tiny joints along the scales.  When this happens you will not have brown ends and the tree will not be put at risk.  Where the problem arises is where the new growth is allowed to extend to a point where you could not pinch it off if you tried, it's too long.  If you try to pinch or even tear it off you will make a mess and weaken the tree.   I will add more if the subject does not deteriorate.  I would really like to add a video but that is going to have to wait.  Everything if frozen to the ground.



This is another of my improperly pinched Junipers developed from a three gallon nursery tree.




Why not another.  The last two trees are still in need of a lot of development, and I do not suggest that these are perfect examples of how it should be done but to simply demonstrate that -------- well you figure it out.

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Re: Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

Post  Precarious on Fri Jan 16, 2015 6:10 pm

Harry Harrington seems to have a pretty sensible approach:

"The foliage mass can be repeatedly pinched out or scissor-trimmed to shape throughout the growing season. However, after repeated pruning the foliage mass becomes very dense and can block air and light from getting to the lower and interior branches causing them to weaken and potentially dieback. It is therefore important to thin out the foliage mass periodically (once or twice a year) to ensure even distribution of air and light to the foliage as a whole...Junipers should be pruned using a mixture of two techniques, scissor pruning and pinching out. Foliage or shoot growth that has hardened, or is too strong to be pinched out using the technique described below must simply be cut with scissors. Pinching such growth will require a lot of effort and very often the green bark will come away leaving a very thin piece of lignified wood behind."

The criticism I've seen re: pinching was more a response to a common tendency to want to keep a tree at a desired shape, size and fullness by pinching back ALL new growth, thus exhausting the tree as it continues to send out new growth in response.

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Re: Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

Post  Leo Schordje on Fri Jan 16, 2015 7:47 pm

I think, if I am remembering correctly (that is sometimes questionable these days), the old "Pinching" dictum was advice given to early bonsai novices when they had purchased "near finished" junipers in Japan, the time period being the 1950's during the USA Occupation, and the early 1960's. Often repeated ever since. If I recall conversations Japanese trained now journeyman bonsai artisits, "Pinching" is a refinement technique, reserved for trees that are approaching show quality. Pruning is the main technique for rough stock in the earlier phases of development. For refined trees it is a combination of both techniques thoughtfully applied that are used.

I believe the big issue is when one goes through and just "willy nilly" pinches off all the new growing tips without thought or consideration to the health of the tree or effect on development.

That is my impression of the argument. Currently my junipers are only in the early, rough phases of development. So right now I am only pruning, and the majority of foliage on my junipers today will be removed in favor of new branches that right now are mere buds or little sprigs.

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Re: Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

Post  ChrisGalpin on Sat Jan 17, 2015 2:18 am

Wow, that got lively pretty quickly. Thanks for all your advice guys, a lot of your links and quotes were what I had been reading. Vance, I think you're saying you always pinch? Your trees look very good to me. Can you contrast your work with trees produced with the other technique? Also, it would be great to see photos of what all of you are talking about so we students can see the evidence for both sides. Leo's post seemed to make sense to me.

Here is the tree that started this topic. It's my first (live) juniper and I just want to keep it basically looking like this and keep it healthy. Would you all maintain the advice you gave for all situations, including my tree? Yes it's just a little bush, but I like it.


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Re: Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

Post  KennedyMarx on Sat Jan 17, 2015 2:50 am

This is the quickest thing I could think of instead of rounding up individual trees.

http://www.bonsaiboon.com/pages/photos.html

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Re: Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

Post  Vance Wood on Sat Jan 17, 2015 11:46 am

KennedyMarx wrote:This is the quickest thing I could think of instead of rounding up individual trees.

http://www.bonsaiboon.com/pages/photos.html

With all due respects the photos you pulled up are really not in a state where you can see details. Besides; being Boon's trees they are masterpieces. However those trees are not in question to me. What is a problem is the condition of the trees I see posted by the people that follow the kind of teaching that says do not pinch, instead clip with scissors. Let's see some of the trees you have cultivated using the said technique. To quote an old phrase: I showed you mine now you show me yours. Just Joking----sort of. My argument is if you have a technique that cannot be taught something is wrong, and if the students that have applied this technique cannot get results from it ??????

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Re: Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

Post  Vance Wood on Sat Jan 17, 2015 1:52 pm

ChrisGalpin wrote:Wow, that got lively pretty quickly.  Thanks for all your advice guys, a lot of your links and quotes were what I had been reading.  Vance, I think you're saying you always pinch? Your trees look very good to me. Can you contrast your work with trees produced with the other technique? Also, it would be great to see photos of what all of you are talking about so we students can see the evidence for both sides. Leo's post seemed to make sense to me.

Here is the tree that started this topic. It's my first (live) juniper and I just want to keep it basically looking like this and keep it healthy. Would you all maintain the advice you gave for all situations, including my tree? Yes it's just a little bush, but I like it.


As to your Juniper.  It is a Green Mound/ Japanese Garden /Procumbens Juniper.  The Japanese call it the Sonare Juniper---sometimes.  It is used a good deal in bonsai in America and mostly by beginners who have picked up the tree as a gift or from a bonsai stand etc.   Some schools of thought consider it a  needle Juniper while other schools of thought think we should encourage adult foliage.  The foliage that your Juniper has now is considered juvenile foliage.   With time the tree will have adult foliage but at the first evidence of stress or a hard pruning it will revert to juvenile foliage.  

The debate now is, which is preferble, and which is most easily maintained.  All I can give you here is opinion and it is my hope some who really like this tree and grows a lot of them will chime in.  As for me I prefer the juvinile foliage.  Pinching this species of tree is a real problem until it gets older and what ever growth pattern you have decided to keep; is established.  This one should be done with real sharp scissors being careful to cut between the needles.  If you cut needles you will get brown patches.

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Re: Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

Post  juniper07 on Sat Jan 17, 2015 4:13 pm

This argument reminds me of the many different techniques of maintaining and growing Japanese Black Pines. In Japan, some pinch the weaker candles first, then after 10 days pinch the medium strength, followed by the strongest candles after 10 more days. Then there are those who whack off all the candles in one sitting in Japan. There are few more variations of these techniques.

The objective of this technique is the same for all artists... maintaining balance and strength between the weaker and the stronger areas of the tree. I personally believe that bonsai, like any other art has many solutions to a given problem. For some artists, a particular technique may work better than the other.

Coming back to junipers, improper pinching (sorry pruning) may cause juvenile growth (e.g Kishu, Itoigawa); one has to be cognizant of the fact that timing and development stage also plays a role. In the end, the objective is the same as the Black Pine, which is to balance energy throughout the tree. So pinching off the terminal fronds at a time which is not advisable (or area of the tree), may cause undesirable juvenile growth.

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Re: Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

Post  Leo Schordje on Sat Jan 17, 2015 7:22 pm

Chris, you are in Australia, it is the middle of your long hot summer. I state this because more than half our members are in the northern hemisphere where its the dead of winter.

Most of us give our junipers a light pruning in the later half of the summer, after the worst of the hot days have past. I would do my pruning then.

What do you envision for this tree? How big or thick do you want the trunk to become? This is a young tree, it has a lot of growing to do.

If you want to keep it pretty much the size it is, and like the thin slender trunk it has, you can prune off maybe 25% to 35% of the foliage during the late summer pruning. If it were my tree, I would comb through and remove entire branches. Right now you have a dense ball of foliage. You can not see any branch structure. I would go through identify clusters of branches coming from the same spot and reduce them to just the trunk an one branch, trunk and 2 at most at any given point. I'm not saying reduce the entire tree to 2 branches, I'm saying reduce clusters of growth to just a branch or two. This will dramatically thin out the tree. Leave the remaining branches unpruned. Approach this with the thought in mind that you should not take off more than a third of the foliage at any given time. The following spring or early summer you can prune the growth that was not pruned in the late summer pruning. Opening up the density of the tree will let you see what you have to work with.

If you want to have a significantly thicker trunk, the only way to get that is to let this tree grow out for a couple to 5 years or so. For growing out pot into a significantly larger pot. And let it grow. Sun, water and fertilizer is all it will need for a couple years.

Another technique to thicken trunks is to do this is with sacrifice branches. Pick a low branch on your trunk that you do not want to use in your final design, hang a twist tie or something on it to remind you which one it is, and let this one branch grow without pruning it. Let it extend several seasons, until it is maybe a meter to 1.5 meters long. Then remove it leaving only a short deadwood stub (maybe 10 to 20 cm) that you can carve later to make it a "jin". The trunk below the sacrifice branch will thicken as the branch grows. You can continue to prune and shape the rest of the branches on your tree.

There are lots of references on the web, but these are couple things I would consider if it were my tree. It is a nice young start toward bonsai.

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Re: Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

Post  ChrisGalpin on Sun Jan 18, 2015 1:47 am

Thanks again guys, particularly to Vance and Leo for your tree-specific info and advice.  The label said it was a squamata prostrata. I like it's juvenile foliage too.  I want to maintain it pretty much as it is for now while I learn what I'm doing. I did have the idea of using the low branch to thicken the trunk. Although I don't have a metre of space outside my apartment door!


If I've understood correctly, the pruning and regrowth would go something like this, where you reduce clumps to one or two branches. Then new shoots are going to grow from the branches and give you more even, less clumpy and gradually more compact foliage?:


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Re: Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

Post  Sorcertree on Sun Jan 18, 2015 12:27 pm

Thinking about the differences of pinching vs pruning, the physical act itself and the time it takes to do it......

Pinching a whole tree takes time, patience, and a little more dedication than merely going at it with scissors. So pinching would be an act less undertaken then snippy snippy anywhere.

This is likely why those trees Vance is talking about look worse. Pinching removes less foilage, is done less, therefore leaving the tree to.......GROW HEALTHY! Who would have thought that makes a tree look better!?

Keep in mind too, It is newbies following this advice, newbies are very heavy handed with scissors.
Veteran Folks like Vance already have their method. Or if they do convert, already know not to remove too much!

Sorce

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Re: Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

Post  Sorcertree on Sun Jan 18, 2015 12:43 pm

Chris,

Of your picture, the brown being your trunk, and the green your first branches, I believe Leo was referring to entire green branches, separation and removal, to give you a branch structure.

What you have described , green off green, is going to give you less defined structure, just a dense ball.

If you have 3 greens coming off brown in the same place, reduce them to one first branch. You want to keep the heavier ones at the bottom, proportionally thinner on up.

To see clearer in, I start by taking the heaviest branches off the top, and the thinnest out of the bottom. Once you know your extremes, what your thickest low is, and thinnest top, you can remove the appropriate ones in between.
Its a balance of girth , position, and vigour, deciding what to keep/remove.

Sorce

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Re: Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

Post  JimLewis on Sun Jan 18, 2015 1:53 pm

Pinching a whole tree takes time, patience, and a little more dedication than merely going at it with scissors. So pinching would be an act less undertaken then snippy snippy anywhere.

But it is MORE than "going at it" with the scissors. You're not using the "hedging" method here, you are carefully snipping around the needles, not through them haphazardly. That -- at least in MY hands -- takes much longer than pinching. Which you use depends on your aims and the stage the tree is in at that point. One size does NOT fit all.

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Re: Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

Post  ChrisGalpin on Mon Jan 19, 2015 12:39 am

Sorcertree, you're right about the heavy-handedness. I killed my first juniper, mostly by cutting about 90% of the branches off.
People are still disagreeing about pinching vs pruning, so I might assume that they're two valid methods both with fairly zealous adherents. Can anybody show what they're talking about on a diagram to show what you do and how the tree responds? The one I did is basically the foliage structure of my tree.

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Re: Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

Post  Leo Schordje on Mon Jan 19, 2015 3:41 pm

If you want to keep the foliage mass roughly as it is - a dense oblong globe of green, then just pinching is all you need to do. To my eye, at least in the photo (real life might look different) the dense globe is not very tree like. I was suggesting that you open up the canopy a bit. To use your illustration, I was thinking more like this.


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Re: Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

Post  marie1uk on Mon Jan 19, 2015 9:42 pm

Squamata grows differently than Shimpaku. All tips extend with squamata but with shimpaku a few leaders take on the running.

You might find this article useful:

http://mikobonsai-articles.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/branch-development-on-squamata-juniper.html

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Re: Juniper pruning: conflicting advice.

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