One of the first trees to catch my attention at Midori’s 40th annual show was a California Juniper, juniperus californica, that belongs to Peter Tea. The tree is beautiful and well deserved recognition as Best in Show.
California juniper – Best in Show, 2009
The juniper first came to my attention a number of years ago in Boon’s backyard. It was planted in a growing pot after being collected in 1992 from the Mojave Desert. While the tree had good potential, I didn’t think much about it until 2000. This was the year of the inaugural Bonsai Intensive held by Boon.
The experience lived up to its name. Michael Hagedorn and I, the only attendees, worked three long days in a chilly workshop on a great variety of trees. By the end of the third day, Michael had cut back, thinned and wired this juniper. While I don’t have a photo from the event, you can see how it looked two years later as exhibited in the 2002 JAL World Bonsai contest on Boon’s website (click on the thumb – it’s the fourth tree from the left).
You’ll notice that the tree is pictured with a different front. I remember weighing the merits of both fronts as part of the intensive. One side had good deadwood but the branches grew in the “wrong” direction. The front selected yielded good deadwood and good branch placement. Several years later the tree was shown with this front at Bay Island Bonsai’s 5th annual exhibit in January, 2004 (see photo).
Often in bonsai there are a number of good styling options available to us. It’s a great dilemma to face because even though a single direction must be chosen for the present, we can always choose to pursue the other direction somewhere down the line.
That’s the case for this juniper. After several more years of branch development, Peter noticed the tree had the potential to look even better from the other side. He made the switch, re-worked all of the branches, and prepared the tree for show. The result is in the photos you see here.
Looking up at the wired branches
It was a treat to see the tree so well-styled with the front we had thought about some 9 years ago. And it’s this forward progress that makes me so optimistic about the future of bonsai. Seeing trees improve like this not only gets me excited to visit as many exhibits as I can manage, but it helps me focus on my own collection as well. The goal, of course, is for my own trees to experience similar improvement.
After bringing the tree home from exhibit, Peter repotted the juniper for further development. As a result I imagine it will look even better the next time it’s shown.
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