Needle Juniper (Juniperus rigida) is a polarizing species in the bonsai world. Love ’em or hate ’em, they make incredible specimens if properly worked year after year. As with any Juniper species, Needle Junipers can be found with a range of foliage types from fine to coarse. In most cases, the longer the needle type, the prickly they are to work with. In fact, because of this (and for developmental purposes), it’s not uncommon to see rigida, particularly shohin and chuuhin-sized trees, grafted with finer rigida foliage (of course, in most cases pros opt to graft with Shimpaku foliage instead for obvious reasons).
In episode 45 of The Bonsai Art of Japan, we take an in-depth look at an elegant Needle Juniper brought to Kouka-en by a client for seasonal summer maintenance and detail wiring. The tree certainly has some flaws, but the goal of this styling was to accentuate the better points and detract from those flaws as much as was possible.
Needle Junipers are trimmed twice per year in Japan – once in early to mid-June and once more in mid to late-September. The trees are allowed to fully flush and become bushy before each pruning, which helps maintain their vigor. Cutting back rigida involves using sharp scissors to prune back to the desired shape of each pad. It is possible to cut anywhere along the new green shoot, leaving as little as one millimeter of the current year’s growth. Latent buds will then activate and new growth will appear within two to four weeks.
For a detailed look at these techniques and the styling of this excellent Juniperus rigida, check out our newest episode of The Bonsai Art of Japan here!