‘Shari’ is the Japanese term for dead wood along the trunk of a bonsai. Dead tips of branches are referred to as ‘jin’.

A quote attributed to various bonsai teachers says: “A juniper without deadwood is like a dog without fleas – unnatural.” For those of us who live in temperate climates like Australia, adding deadwood to bonsai seems just a little too much but in the areas where junipers grow naturally the climate is so extreme that few, if any, trees in their natural habitat mange to reach maturity without having some parts killed by extreme heat, cold, wind or landslides. When walking in juniper country, almost all trees have some dead parts so it is natural that bonsai artists seek to include this factor in their bonsai as homage to the trees in their natural habitat.

This is one of the ‘contorted’ junipers I’ve been developing after discussing these topics with Joe Morgan-Payler. While studying bonsai in Japan Joe spent a part of his time wiring and bending small junipers so, as they grew, the nursery would have trees that simulated wild collected stock to sell. If it is good enough for Japanese bonsai nurseries it’s also good enough for Shibui Bonsai here in Australia so I’ve also been growing and bending this species with the aim of having really high quality junipers available in future.

Shimpaku March 2017 before

One of the problems with these junipers is the slow growth rate. This tree is now 8 years old. It has been wired and bent at least 3 times over those years and you can see that sacrifice branches have been left in an attempt to speed up trunk development.

I’m hoping that this one will end up in the shohin size range – under 25 cm so the time has come to add some more features, in the form of dead wood to the design.

Today I used my grafting knife to remove the bark from areas I wanted to highlight with dead wood but you can use any sharp implement to outline the area and remove the bark. Make sure you scrape right down to the hard wood or the area may just heal over if enough cambium remains. I’ve tried to make the dead area flow naturally with the contours of the trunk.

Shimpaku juniper after.

As the tree grows and thickens this jin will probably be widened and extended to maintain an attractive bleached area of dead wood along the trunk.

The advanced junipers in the recent Shibui Bonsai Juniper catalogue would be ideal candidates for shari and jin techniques to produce really stunning juniper bonsai. Click on the link below to see the trees currently available.

Junipers Feb 2017 has moved

We recently moved to a new server. It appears that not all the images I have used in the posts have survived the move. It will take me some time to replace the missing files. In the meanwhile you will just have to use your imaginations to fill out the visual details of some of the posts. Please let me know if you have found a post that is vital to you and desperately needs the images to make sense and I’ll see if I can fast track replacing those files.

Apologies for the inconvenience and thanks for your patience.


Banksia and fertiliser

For many years there has been a myth that ‘normal’ fertiliser will kill Australian plants.

The truth is that most Aussie natives don’t care. Many actually grow way better when they have access to reasonable levels of P so they grow better when fertilised with standard fertilisers. I have actually come to the conclusion that many of my early failures with Australian native plants can be attributed to starvation because I was too frightened to fertilise. Continue reading

Repotting natives

I usually repot any native plants in November or December. There were plenty that needed doing this season because I had not repotted for a couple of years. I find that many native plants grow lots of fine roots in the pots and quickly get to the stage where there is no room in the potting mix for water or air to penetrate. This mans that it becomes increasingly difficult to keep the mix hydrated and I have lost quite a few trees because I have not repotted often enough. Continue reading

2016-17 Catalogue

Spring has been very busy for Shibui Bonsai. We had a trade table at Canberra Bonsai Society show and supplied more stock for Bonsai North West spring show in Melbourne at the start of November. Our local Albury Wodonga Bonsai Society staged exhibitions at both Albury Show and Myrtleford show.

Now that spring is over I have finally managed to find time to take photos of the trees on the sales tables and get them up on the Catalogue page. No descriptions yet this time but I think you can probably get a pretty good idea of the trees from the pictures. Just email if you need more info on any of the trees featured.