Juniperus chinensis before/after: Is it cheating what I've done?

Hey, so this is an ugly nursery stock juniper I took as a design challenge and maybe one day it could become interesting. Here is the before picture, only missing some of the foliage to the back that I had already removed by the time I thought of taking the picture…

Is it cheating that I bent down the top branch following the line of the trunk so that from the front it seems as if the branches are coming from lower down the trunk? On the one hand, I would say yes, on the other I would argue that had I found this tree with this bend occurring naturally I would not only be excited about it but probably want to show it off. Anyway, what do you think? I need to trim some more of the foliage but I am afraid to remove too much…


If it lives, it’s not cheating, it’s good technique.


Definitely not cheating. Looks like a good silhouette. I do see some shaded foliage. In my experience with junipers, I think Ryan talks about this too, It is important to try and get the tips up to encourage energy flow.

Just asking here…why did you choose to use so much of the foliage or is this just an in-between stage. I tend to get my jins in place first and then style the foliage to compliment and balance the flow and space.

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Not cheating. Will you be cleaning up some more foliage in October? Or will be taking care of the long drooping foliage soon either with wire or by pruning? Just wondering.

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@renaissance_man, @ThienXiang I will prune most of the tips most likely just before new growth in the spring. I guess I still lack enough experience to have a strong feeling of how far I can go with Junipers. I removed some 30% of the foliage I think. I am sure I could go more. What do you think, should I prune it further now or wait just prior to spring growth?

1/3 is normally my limit too. I have had good luck with that. But…if the tree has the root system to handle it??? I think you are going to loose some foliage to shade. I would get the tips up; it seems to make huge difference when I style. Because junipers are a problem for me too…I almost always give a year recovery after a major procedure like this one. I just do not trust them/my knowledge. I would have to see an abundance of growth in the spring if I were to do anything further.

That is one of the primary reasons for me being on this site, to learn about junipers from someone who has learned from the best. Ryan is the horses mouth as far as I am concerned. I have listened to bonsai club members in the past and had only 50/50 success.

Ryan makes sense, he says to look at your plant and history first. I think I said this on another post but…It is best to go to the horses mouth because sometimes you do not know you are talking to the other end until it farts. My wife calls me a horses ass sometimes and I can fart with the best of them. So…I might be that guy :grinning:. That is why I ask questions and only share what I have seen work a good portion of the time. Ryan works by observation and I trust that.

Don’t think you did anything wrong on my account. I just wanted to know why you made that design choice. Art is always subjective to each persons eye and experience, that is what makes bonsai so great…you get to do science and art that is not static. What a great challenge.

To me, the trunk, jins, and shari set a general stage. In yamadori, in a lot of cases, that has been set for you by mother nature. Then the bonsai artist comes in and tries capture and add to the essence of that. With grown stock we get to choose and mold that stage. To me, that can be a much more difficult task.


You could wire the drooping foliage up for better photosynthesis. The juniper might do a “natural selection” for those drooping foliage and cut them loose. I had a full cascade juniper (my first tree from psba) that got rid of its foliage whose tips were long and looked droopy after bending the branch.
Phototropism vs pull of gravity.
If you get more growth by October, you can do maintenance work.

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I say it’s not cheating. Bonsai is an art form of illusion. Young looks old, small looks large, and we all pretend we’ve killed less trees than we have sometimes! :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

As long as the design is maintainable…

Definitely not cheating, but I’d worry about how it looks from other angles. If it looks good, you’re set!