Wind Swept Type of Juniper Tree


A windswept juniper (Juniperus) is a type of bonsai tree that is trained and trimmed so that the branches appear to have been bent by a high wind. The windswept style is traditional in Japanese bonsai and can be executed effectively on a number of different species. Conifers, like juniper, are most common as they do not have deciduous leaves that might detract from the directional orientation of the branches.

History of Bonsai

The tradition of raising trees in pots originated in China over 1000 years ago. The Chinese collected naturally dwarf or compact specimens from the wild and transplanted them into pots. In Chinese, this art is called "penjing." The Japanese adopted this tradition during the Heian period, beginning in about the 8th century, and refined it to include the deliberate dwarfing and training of specimen trees. In the 19th century, when Japan opened to the West, interest in bonsai developed in Europe, England, the United States and many other countries.


Juniperus is one of the most popular genera for bonsai. Among the most frequently trained species is Juniperus chinensis or Chinese Juniper. Bonsai enthusiasts sometimes choose the low, spreading Juniperus chinensis sargentii, which is native to Japan. Another species, Juniperus rigida, is also popular and features sharp, blue-green needles. Sometimes another Japanese species, Juniperus procombens, a ground-cover plant that only grows 1 to 2 feet tall in the wild, is also used.

Bonsai Forms

In addition to the Fukinagashi or windswept form, Japanese bonsai trees are trained in a number of other traditional styles. Chokkan is an upright form that mimics the ideal natural growth pattern of the tree. Moyogi bonsai are also upright, but less formal in appearance. Shakkan-style trees grow at a slant, with part of the trunk exposed to provide balance to the composition. Kengai specimens cascade over the side of the pot. The Hokidachi style features tree crowns that fan out from a single trunk. Yose-ue bonsai consists of several specimens in a single pot.

Bonsai Collections

Many botanical institutions and arboretums have bonsai collections that showcase plants trained in the various styles. They include the Chicago Botanic Garden, with 187 plants; Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania; the Huntington Library in San Marino, California; the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in New York; the International Bonsai Arboretum, Rochester, New York; and the Montreal Botanic Garden, in Montreal, Canada. Britain's National Collection is located at the Birmingham Botanical Garden. The Heathcote Botanical Gardens in Fort Pierce, Florida, has the United States' largest collection of tropical bonsai. The National Bonsai and Penjing Museum in Washington, D.C., is affiliated with the United States National Arboretum.

Bonsai Culture

While there are many books and videos on bonsai culture, the best way for a beginner to learn is by joining a local bonsai society. In the United States, the American Bonsai Society website,, can provide links to information about local societies, plus links to international organizations. The society also publishes a journal and sponsors a members' forum.

Keywords: windswept juniper bonsai, juniperus bonsai, bonsai styles

About this Author

Elisabeth Ginsburg, a writer with twenty years' experience, earned an M.A. from Northwestern University and has done advanced study in horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden. Her work has been published in the "New York Times," "Christian Science Monitor," "Horticulture Magazine" and other national and regional publications.