Bonsai Tonight

Mr. Kita’s junipers

Posted in Excursions by Jonas Dupuich on October 30, 2012

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.


Large shimpaku

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?


Great jin


And shari

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





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Wiring a Western juniper

Posted in Before and after, Bonsai Development by Jonas Dupuich on September 18, 2012

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.

Western juniper

Western juniper

Ready to wire

After removing the main branch and widening the shari (see “Refining a Western Juniper”)

After wiring

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.

Before thinning

Azalea – before thinning

After thinning - new planting angle

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!

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Junipers from the Redwood Empire

Posted in Exhibits by Jonas Dupuich on August 28, 2012

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

Sierra juniper – in training since 2005

Deadwood detail

Trunk – deadwood detail

Collected Sierras tend to have significant trunks. The Sierras at this show were no exception.

Sierra juniper - in training since 1995

Sierra juniper in training since 1995 – great balance

Sierra juniper

Sierra juniper – informal upright

Sierra juniper - in training since 1995

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.

California juniper

Somewhat less common are Californias with a lighter feeling like the specimen below.

California juniper

California juniper display

Rarer still are small, powerful California junipers.

California juniper - in training since 1985

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.



Shimpaku - in training 40 years

Old shimpaku – in training for 40 years


Large cascade shimpaku

Shimpaku - in training since 1989

Shimpaku – in training since 1989

Shimpaku grafted on prostrata juniper - in training since 1994

Shimpaku grafted on prostrata juniper – in training since 1994

The exhibit also included several procumbens junipers, including the older specimens pictured below.

Procumbens juniper

Procumbens juniper

Procumbens juniper

Procumbens juniper

More trees from REBS’ show coming soon!

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Refining a Western juniper

Posted in Bonsai Development by Jonas Dupuich on August 17, 2012

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.

Western juniper

Western juniper

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 main branch

After removing the main branch

New angle

New planting angle

Lines outline the new shari

Sharpie lines

Lines outline the new shari

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.

Carving tools

Carving tools

The lines were suggestions for widening the shari, or deadwood, along the trunk. I started by following Kondo’s lines with a grafting knife.

Marking the edge of the new shari

Defining the new edge of the shari

Marking the edge of the new shari

I’m working slowly – the knife is sharp!

Next I used the chisel to remove the bark and expose the wood beneath.

Widening shari

The new shari takes shape

Widening shari

Working with the grain, not against it

Widening shari

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.

After widening shari

Shari complete

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.

After applying cutpaste

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.

Foliage from left side

View from the left side

New main branch

The back branch that will fill in the left side

Ready to wire

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.


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