One of my favorite starting points for longer term projects is bonsai that has been developed for some time but is no longer in good shape.
Neglect and infestation are two of the most common reasons why a bonsai no longer looks as good as it once did. Failure to repot or cut back a tree for several years can kill off interior branches and upset the balance of the silhouette. Insects and disease can cause similar damage within a single season.
As long as the trunk retains its interest and there is hope to repair or regrow primary branches, the tree can be remade.
Here’s a photo of a procumbens juniper that has been trained for a number of years as bonsai but neglected for the past few.
Neglected procumbens juniper
Despite having a slender trunk, the tree has interesting movement and deadwood features.
Deadwood near the base of the trunk
The other side of the trunk
The rest of the trunk has subtle movement with a few deadwood features along the way.
You’ll also notice that the silhouette is undefined and that there is very little branch structure.
View from the other side
The work from here is clear – get the tree healthy and develop new branches.
Taking on the care of neglected bonsai can help us address the following questions:
- Can I help the tree regain vigor?
- Can I identify obvious improvements?
- Can I create foliage density?
- Can I feed the tree appropriately for the stage of development?
- Do I enjoy detailed wiring?
Working with neglected bonsai can be a lot of fun because although the challenges are clear, it can be easy to visualize the result of the effort.
Of course, some enthusiasts prefer working on trees that can be exhibited at any time. These trees too, however, have their own care requirements. More on that next week.
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