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!
I’m happy to share with you today some of the junipers on display at the Redwood Empire Bonsai Society’s 29th annual show in Santa Rosa, CA this past weekend.
The Sierra juniper below belongs to Deadwood Bonsai’s Ned Lycett. Lycett is an active collector, responsible for some of the really good junipers in the area. This Sierra is a beauty.
Sierra juniper – in training since 2005
Trunk – deadwood detail
Collected Sierras tend to have significant trunks. The Sierras at this show were no exception.
Sierra juniper in training since 1995 – great balance
Sierra juniper – informal upright
Sierra juniper – in training since 1995
California junipers were also well represented at the exhibit. The tree below is very characteristic of the California growth habit with its strong twist and deadwood “fin” leading to a full array of smaller branches.
Somewhat less common are Californias with a lighter feeling like the specimen below.
California juniper display
Rarer still are small, powerful California junipers.
Mighty California juniper – in training since 1985
Many, but not all, of the shimpaku in local shows are grafted specimens. As such, they can take a variety of forms.
Old shimpaku – in training for 40 years
Large cascade shimpaku
Shimpaku – in training since 1989
Shimpaku grafted on prostrata juniper – in training since 1994
The exhibit also included several procumbens junipers, including the older specimens pictured below.
More trees from REBS’ show coming soon!
It’s been two years since I last showed my Western juniper at Bay Island Bonsai’s 11th exhibit. It hasn’t changed a lot since then. Knowing it could use some attention, I brought it to BIB’s recent workshop run by Akio Kondo. Here’s the tree before the workshop.
In the space of 10 minutes, Kondo suggested a new planting angle, made two cuts, and drew some lines on the trunk with a Sharpie. Before removing the tree’s main branch – his first suggested cut – he asked if I had plans to show the tree this year. I said no, he cut, and he smiled, telling me that I could show the tree again in just three years.
After removing the main branch
New planting angle
More Sharpie lines
I did no more work on the tree during the workshop. A few days later, I brought the tree into my workshop to do something about the lines Kondo had drawn.
The lines were suggestions for widening the shari, or deadwood, along the trunk. I started by following Kondo’s lines with a grafting knife.
Defining the new edge of the shari
I’m working slowly – the knife is sharp!
Next I used the chisel to remove the bark and expose the wood beneath.
The new shari takes shape
Working with the grain, not against it
More new shari
The work took longer than I expected. Although I didn’t remove a lot of bark, I had to work carefully to avoid cutting into the bark I wanted to keep.
I then treated the edge of the live bark with cutpaste to help the tree heal. I didn’t cover all of the shari because I don’t want the whole area to heal over.
Cutpaste along the edge of the new shari
My next job is to wire the tree, and to grow a new key branch. Kondo removed the main branch because it grew in front of the trunk. In the future, this area will be filled by growing the back branch toward the left side.
View from the left side
The back branch that will fill in the left side
Work complete for now
This fall I plan to wire the tree. I’ll work on establishing the main branches and then make the silhouette more compact. I’ll repot the tree at its new angle in winter. The current pot is a good size and style for the tree, but that won’t necessarily stop me from making changes when the time comes.
The bonsai at Elandan Gardens are displayed against the attractive backdrop of Puget Sound and the fantastical background of the gardens themselves. Dan Robinson has adorned the reclaimed land with stones, trees, and even deadwood collected from the mountains in an effort to create an experience that evokes alpine beauty. It’s a great spot to spend an afternoon.
Pond at Elandan Gardens
Juniper deadwood at Elandan
Not far from the displayed deadwood one can find live junipers with outstanding deadwood.
Rocky Mountain Juniper – Juniperus scopularum
Discovered near Drummond, MT on a quick reconnoiter up a hill in 1989. Carrying just a crowbar and pruners, I had to sacrifice my shirt to tie up the roots of this beauty after extraction. It was growing in crumbling basalt, so it came out bare-rooted. Its incredible trunk line and profound age make it a favorite.
Rocky Mountain juniper
The deadwood at Elandan is testament to Robinson’s eye for good trees. This is no surprise considering that he’s been at it for 50 years – read Dan’s Story at the Elandan Gardens website for details.