Tosho part 2

Welcome to Tosho part 2!

In this post, I’m going to talk about how to cut, create pads and show some before and after of more refined Toshos.

How to cut 

Developing and cutting Tosho is similar to any other tree used in Bonsai with a few exceptions.  Obviously if there is a branch that needs to be thicker or longer, you don’t cut it.  If the branch itself is weak or didn’t grow much, you also don’t want to cut it.  I’m going to talk about working on nice healthy strong trees.  A basic rule to conifers is that when you prune it, you have to prune it back to a point where there is still foliage.  If you prune the branch and leave no green, the branch will die back to where there is green foliage. Here is an example:

Here is a typical small Tosho branch.  Note that there is a brown woody section and a longer green section.  If you need to cut back to the woody section, the following picture shows where you can cut to.

Note the point that was cut.  If you click on the picture and expand it, you can see that one of the needles has a small little bud at the base.  If you need to cut back to the woody areas, you need to cut back to a point where there is either a bud like this or another branch.  If you cut to the woody area and there is no bud or branch, the needles will start to die back to the next bud or branch.  Just because you leave needles doesn’t mean the branch is going to live.  If the branch is exceptionally strong and you cut back to only needles, there is a chance that a bud will push out, but there is no guarantees.  If you cut a shimpaku branch back to a small bud like this, the bud will die off and the branch will die back.  Tosho is the only juniper that I know of that you can cut to a tiny bud like this.

This next example is if you only need to cut to the green section of the branch.

Again you can see that there is a green and brown section.  The green section is the new growth this year.  If you cut anywhere on the green section, regardless if there is a bud or not, new growth will push at the cut point.  When the tree is refined, the cut point will be very close to the brown area and just a small portion of the green is left.  This way, the tree stays in shape and continues to grow.

How to create a pad

Creating pads on a Tosho is similar to Shimpaku.  You want to create mulitple fan shape pads that have some density and volume to them.  The exception is that Tosho branches tend to be placed a little closer together and the pads are flatter then Shimpaku.  Here are some examples of the fan shape.

Here is pruned pad.  There is a nice fan shape to it and you can see that there are many branches beneath it that creates this pad. Many times, bonsai enthusiast will create a pad similar to this but only use a few branches to do it.  The exterior of the tree will look okay but the interior structure will be faulty.  Trees do not grow pads from a few branches.  They grow pads from many, many, many branches.

Here is an example of a naturally growing Sierra Juniper.  Underneath, the canopy is supported by a massive branch structure.  Also note the outline of the foliage.  They too are fan shaped.

But Peter, doesn’t working on Tosho hurt?

Actually, working on Tosho isn’t as bad as everybody says it is.  It’s a combination of the tools you use and how you handle the tree. I’ve been told that if you work on about 10 Toshos it won’t hurt as much anymore.  They say that you’re hands will start to get use to the needles and the pricking sensation won’t bother you as much.  I didn’t believe it at first, but after this month’s work, I am definitely more comfortable with sticking my hand into the canopy.  Some people will wear thin gloves to protect their hands also, so that is another option.  As you work with Tosho, you’re hands will start to adjust to how you handle the foliage.  The tree itself forces you to adjust because it will prick you every time you’re not touching it correctly.  If you’re just doing maintenance on the tree and only cutting, then you don’t even have to touch the tree at all.  Here is why:

Here is a picture of the tools I use when I cut Tosho.  If you’re right handled, you use the tweezers to handle the foliage with your right hand and use the scissors with your left hand to cut.  It’s tricky and awkward at first, but after awhile you will get use to it.  You just have to force yourself to stick to it.  I’ve gotten to the point now where if I use the scissors with my right hand, it’s starting to feel strange. I use this same method working on Japanese Black/Red Pines.  Using the two hand technique also keeps your hands very clean.

Refined before and after

Here’s are a few before and afters to show why Toshos are nice trees to have and worth the time spend working on them.


After (On this tree, some of the foliage wasn’t cut.  They were left alone because we want to grow the pad bigger)


After (This tree was shown at Kokufu-ten in Feb of 2011)


After (I’m sure this one will be shown in a future Kokufu-ten show.  This is one of my favorite Toshos in the yard.)

I hope you all enjoyed this post and the new setting for my blog.

Thanks for reading.

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11 thoughts on “Tosho part 2

  1. Lonnie says:

    I like the grafing idea, thanks for the suggestions. It is nice to hear about a quarantine, that will be great in the future.

  2. Lonnie says:

    Hi Peter, great post, I really like the look of Tosho junipers. Those trees are amazing, I really like that last one also. So can Tosho be grown from cuttings like other junipers? I noticed that I rarely see them in the US and am thinking about growing some. Any tips would be appreciated.

    • Peter Tea says:

      Hi Lonnie,

      I’ve seen people grow tosho from cutting before but like most junipers, they are mostly collected. The collected ones will have the old deadwood features that are sought after. Needle junipers are not very common but sometimes you can find some. I think the best way at this point is to find a juniper that has good deadwood and age and graft needle juniper on to it. That or import some to the US. We’re currently working on setting up a quarantine so perhaps in the future that is possible. You can also try working with Foemina which many call needle juniper also. I’m not 100 percent sure they can be pruned like a Rigida(Tosho). Experiment and if foemina doesn’t like the cutting tech for Tosho then treat them more like shimpaku.

  3. Aaron says:

    Thank you Peter, your blog is outstanding and very informative. I always look forward to the posts.

  4. bonsai eejit says:

    Two great posts on Tosho juniper. I have just acquired my first one this year and this has been a great help. As a wordpress user, I’m also glad to see you changing over. I use ‘google reader’ to follow bonsai blogs and your old one didn’t transfer the photos over to that format. This one works a treat. Keep them coming 🙂

    • Peter Tea says:

      Hi Bonsai eejit, The photo transferring was one of my main concerns. Also, now when you click on the photos, they enlarge. I’m much happier here now. Thanks for visiting the site. Take care

  5. Peter Tea says:

    Thanks everyone! I’m going to have fun posting on wordpress. The post are coming out very nice.

  6. Clear, concise information! Thanks!

  7. Wonderful information, clearly stated.

  8. Sam Edge says:

    Peter it is good to see that you switched to WordPress as it will make your life much easier to post. I will also add this link to our blog. Happy Posting!
    Sam and KJ

  9. Frank says:

    Thanks———–great advice. The Toshos look fantastic !

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