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.
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