Bonsai Tonight

Grafting Utah juniper – removing the original foliage

Posted in Bonsai Development by Jonas Dupuich on August 5, 2014

I grafted the Utah juniper below almost a year and a half ago (see “Grafting Utah juniper“). The scions have really taken hold – so much so that it’s time to remove some of the original foliage.

Utah juniper

Utah juniper grafted with kishu shimpaku foliage

Utah juniper

After removing most of the original foliage

I left two of the original branches alone as the scions grafted to them are growing more slowly than the others. That’s somewhat expected as they have been shaded out by the branches directly above.

Utah juniper

Less vigorous scions

As for the new foliage, I’m leaving the ties in place. I’m in no rush to remove them as they help keep the scions in place while the fused connections grow stronger.

Utah juniper

Grafting tape and what remains of the grafting bags

I’ll likely remove the tape and bags at some point between now and next spring depending on how quickly the scions grow.

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The twistiest of junipers

Posted in Excursions by Jonas Dupuich on June 13, 2014

This is the first juniper I fell for on my previous visit to Meiss Meadow.

Juniper

Twisty Sierra juniper

It’s one of the twistiest specimens I know of. The deadwood is great.

Juniper

Deadwood detail

From some angles it’s difficult to tell if the trunk line is coming or going.

Juniper

So many twists

How large is this specimen?

Juniper

Posing with a great juniper

When approaching the tree from below, it’s easy miss the great curves.

Juniper

The twisty juniper from below

The sheer variety of fun trees at Meiss Meadow is hard to overstate.

Juniper

A profusion of trunks and deadwood

Juniper

A relatively straightforward juniper with bonsai-sized companion at its base

Juniper

Another twisting juniper

The tree below would make an interesting bonsai.

Juniper

Fun movement

Juniper

The same tree from the side

Another tree brought a big smile. This long juniper took advantage of shelter at its base and found a nice perch for its foliage about 20 feet away.

Juniper

The Snake

Looking up, some of the larger trees sported branches that resembled cascade or semi-cascade bonsai.

Juniper

A beautiful old branch

Looking down on some of the larger trees with dieback near the apex reminded me of the form some of the older bristlecone pines can take.

Juniper

Two large junipers

Among my favorites were these two giants.

Juniper

A pair of giants

That’s it for this trip to the Sierra Nevada – next week it’s back to bonsai!

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Spectacular Sierra junipers

Posted in Excursions by Jonas Dupuich on June 10, 2014

Among my favorite trees in nature is this Sierra juniper.

Juniper

 Spectacular Sierra juniper

The tree sits on a throne facing East where it enjoys limited protection from the wind. It gives evidence to a protracted and tortuous existence. How big is it?

Juniper

Standing on the rock behind the tree for perspective

Pretty big. The deadwood is terrifying.

Deadwood

Deadwood detail

Possibly because I take so much enjoyment from being in the mountains, let alone being near such trees, this was the first visit on which I was able to step back a bit and appreciate how these junipers survive in such an environment. Some of what I noticed surprised me. Although the most sinuous specimens occasionally cascaded down the granite, they more frequently grew upwards, supported by the boulders from which their roots sprang.

Juniper

Juniper creeping up the rock

In addition to providing a solid anchor for the roots, the boulders provide support to branches attempting to grow towards the light. When there was no stone to cling to, and when a slight protrusion in the stone offered additional shelter, the occasional cascading branch descended.

Juniper

Cascading branch

Lower down on the same boulder was a fully cascading juniper.

Juniper

 Cascade Sierra juniper

The deadwood and trunk line is impressive

Deadwood

Contorted deadwood

I found a surprising number of trees that followed the same general pattern – roots emerging from stone and a silhouette that mirrored the shape of the boulder below. On the smaller side, some of these extended no more than 3′ above the base of the roots.

Juniper

Compact juniper

Some larger trees followed the same pattern.

Juniper

One of my favorite silhouettes

Junipers growing at the base of larger boulders took on quite different characteristics. The large juniper below sported a variety of deadwood ranging from sinuous and twisty to wild and splintered.

Juniper

 Large Sierra juniper – no twists in the main trunk

The branches were a different story.

Deadwood

 Zigs and zags

Below this, a lower trunk sported what looked like a wave or a fold of soft fabric.

Deadwood

Deadwood on the lower trunk

The side with the greatest exposure to the elements looked it.

Deadwood

Wild deadwood

I took a different route than I’d taken in the past which brought me to a few new trees – some alive, some dead. The dead specimen below had some of the more beautiful and flame-like movement on the mountain.

Deadwood

Long-dead juniper

In the lee of the stone on which this tree once grew was one of my new favorites. The shot below fails to convey the highlights, but the short version is that the tree starts with a base over 6′ wide and tapers to nothing at 3′ where the entire tree loops back down behind the shelter of the boulder. A cascading branch protrudes to the right.

Juniper

Looping apex, cascading branch

Just below this tree I found a large semi-cascade juniper. The giant base was about 6′ across.

Juniper

Semi-cascade Sierra juniper

Other junipers simply made up shapes like the corkscrew below.

Juniper

Corkscrew juniper

More common – and more iconic – were the specimens that rose up at one point but were subsequently buffeted by the elements and knocked down to a much lower height.

Juniper

Upright juniper

In these specimens there is little question about which side bears the brunt of the elements.

Juniper

Windswept Sierra juniper

This phenomenon is borne out by the general landscape on which little sticks around that’s not anchored to stone.

Juniper

Pausing to enjoy the view

Up next – final highlights from Meiss Meadow.

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Junipers on the edge

Posted in Excursions by Jonas Dupuich on June 6, 2014

The Sierra juniper, Juniperus occidentalis, is found in pockets throughout the Sierra Nevada. When exposed to particularly harsh conditions like those found at tree line – the elevation above which no trees can grow – junipers can display krummholz. Krummholz is the phenomenon whereby trees are dwarfed or contorted by the elements. Among the many varieties prone to the formation of krummholz, junipers can take on some of the most sinuous of forms.

The best specimens I’m aware of can be found near Meiss Meadow in the vicinity of Carson Pass, California. I first visited these trees years ago with Daisaku Nomoto and Boon Manakitivipart. Boon periodically leads groups to the site and for this I’m thankful as it’s one of my favorite alpine hangouts – thanks Boon!

A short walk from the parking lot puts one just above a lush forest of lodge pole pine.

Looking south

The view to the South – near Carson Pass, California

To the North lies Red Lake Peak.

Red Lake Peak

Scattered juniper and lodge pole pine on Red Lake Peak

At this elevation, around 8,750′, Sierra junipers and a handful of lodge pole pines struggle against the elements. Unbelievably, even young trees can find support in the granite outcroppings.

Young lodge pole pine

Young lodge pole pine

Very young Sierra juniper

Baby Sierra juniper

Given time, some of these specimens will grow a bit larger.

Young Sierra juniper

Young Sierra juniper

If the conditions are right, these junipers can grow tall and straight like so many other forest trees. Here’s a juniper growing in good soil that enjoys some protection from the elements.

Tall Sierra juniper

Vigorous juniper – no evidence of krummholz

About 300 yards away, a juniper hugged the ground against which it grew, unable to grow any higher.

Low profile juniper

Low profile juniper

Large Sierra juniper

The same tree from above

Looking up the mountainside from this point revealed a barren landscape – a shocking contrast to the pine-filled valley below.

Treeline

A high desert of sorts

Alpine annuals

Alpine annuals

It is at this spot – right along tree line – where the interesting junipers grow.

Large Sierra juniper

Sprawling juniper with deadwood

These trees can grow in clumps or on their own.

The juniper zone

Scattered juniper and pine

The most exciting ones – those that have lived the longest – hugged a granite ridge offering shelter from the wind.

Junipers growing up to treeline

Junipers growing out of the granite

We’ll take a closer look at these next week.

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