It had been a while since I last repotted my Western juniper. Although the drainage remained good, I’d been anxious to repot since styling the tree last fall and deciding on a new planting angle.
Wester juniper – August 2012
To maintain the angle indicated during the last styling, I affixed an aluminum wire that marked the front of the tree and the proper planting angle.
Marking the front with wire
After removing the tree, I cleaned and wired the pot before working on the roots.
Wired and ready to go
The pot was made by Michael Hagedorn. I’ve always appreciated the little touches in his pots like the grooves he left for the wires.
Just enough space for the ends of the z-clip
#2 aluminum in the groove – the perpendicular groove at the midpoint allows space for wire-cutters
Signature Crataegus grooves
There were plenty of roots for me to work with.
Lots of roots
After removing the roots from the bottom of the rootball, I found a peculiarly square root.
I pressed a bit from the top and it easily came loose.
Clues from the last repotting
Knocking out the block left a perfectly square gap in the roots.
A perfect spot for new soil
I’d forgotten why I placed the block under the trunk, but after seeing photos from the last repotting in early 2010, it all came back.
Chopstick and block – February 2010
Seeing the photo surprised me as the roots were now solid in all directions.
Plenty of roots to spare
I was able to complete the repotting without the assistance of blocks, however I employed a single chopstick as a short-term brace.
Although I tilted the tree forward and towards the center, the original plan was to have it lean even more toward the front.
Current planted angle
The original plan
I’ll likely tilt the tree farther forward the next time I repot, which, judging by recent history, gives the tree two to three years to grow in peace. By that time the branches will need attention and I can start thinking about when next to show the tree in an exhibit.
This past weekend, Bay Island Bonsai held its 14th annual exhibit at the Lake Merritt Garden Center in Oakland, California. For those of you who attended – thanks for coming! I hope you enjoyed the show. For those who couldn’t make it, I’ll share some of the highlights. We’ll start, today, with some scale junipers.
The Taiwan juniper below has been trained as bonsai for a long time. Its primary feature is its twisting double-trunk. Good movement and interesting deadwood are the most prized characteristics of juniper bonsai – this specimen has both.
Far more complex is the Western juniper below. Its trunk tells the story of the harsh environment in which it grew – well worth a close look.
The Sierra juniper below is off to a great start. All of the branches are in place and in a few years the tree’s fullness will provide a great backdrop for its trunk and deadwood.
This next juniper tree is massive. I’ve watched, over the past 10 years or so, the transformation from Sierra to Shimpaku, and have been surprised at how quickly the tree has grown from a small number of initial grafts. Time will make the tree even more impressive.
Shimpaku grafted on Sierra juniper
The shimpaku below is the product of over 90 grafts! The effort has not gone unnoticed – in 2008 the tree earned the National Bonsai Award at the first National Bonsai Exhibit in Rochester, New York.
Shimpaku grafted on San Jose
Interesting deadwood and impressively dense foliage characterize the Sierra juniper below. The tree makes a good case for how well Sierra foliage can be developed.
A medium-sized Sierra juniper bonsai – something sought after far more often than found.
A small shimpaku fed by a slender lifeline – the foliage is perfectly healthy and full.
On our way to visit Ishii’s nursery last fall, Akio Kondo took Boon, Peter and myself to visit one of his customers – Mr. Kita. Kita has a small, but impressive, bonsai collection. Trees like the juniper below.
Impressive, yes, but was this the front? The other side, too, has great features.
The other side
Here are some more shots of the same tree – any ideas about the front?
I believe the second photo is the current front, but it’s clear that the tree has plenty of interest points.
What was amazing about Kita’s garden was the number of trees of comparable quality. On a nearby bench I noticed one of the first great junipers I saw on my 1999 visit to Japan – a Kokufu Prize winner. If you have the book from the 73rd Kokufu exhibit, check out page 21 – the tree looks quite different now. It had been unhealthy ahead of that exhibit but has since regained much of its health.
Kokufu Prize winning shimpaku
With very few exceptions, the trees in Kita’s garden were in great shape – visiting was like touring a small bonsai museum. Here are a few of the other junipers in the garden – I’ll share some of Kita’s other trees on Friday.
Boon and shimpaku
I got around to wiring my Western juniper at a recent Bay Island Bonsai workshop. It doesn’t look like much now, but the main branches are in place and need only to lengthen and fill in. Here’s the before and after.
After removing the main branch and widening the shari (see “Refining a Western Juniper”)
After wiring the main branches
After finishing the juniper, I thinned out a small satsuki azalea that had grown full during the growing season. I removed a few long shoots and thinned new shoots to two when several grew from the same location.
Azalea – before thinning
After thinning – new planting angle
I think this tree was previously planted at a similar angle. The first branch is quite large and hard to bend. Tilting the tree adds interest to the trunk and improves the angle of the first branch. Although the current pot is appropriate for the tree, I’m ready for a change. Time to start looking for a new pot!