I had a comment on another juniper post this month that the finished tree looked like a pronghorn antelope… which was pretty apt I thought, and yet that name could well go for this one, too. It’s a Rocky Mountain juniper collected a few years ago by Randy Knight and purchased from Ryan Neil, and my apprentice Konnor and I styled it a couple weeks ago here in Portland, Oregon, USA.
Although I assisted in choosing the inclination, front, and setting the branches, most of the work including the wiring was done by Konnor. Much fun and some late evenings later, we ended up with this styling. Please let us know what you think!
As the tree was before we began tinkering with it…
We don’t incline trees just to make life difficult, really, although it must appear that way sometimes. I hope the root system does not have us do any really freaky bending techniques next spring to get it in a bonsai pot.
Konnor and I wiring the tree. Photo by Troy Cardoza on one of his impromptu and much enjoyed visits to the garden.
Here’s the final image. I forgot to measure the tree, but as you can see from the previous photo it’s a fairly modest sized large tree. Crazy old, that deadwood is fantastic. Please do let us know what you think of this. Actually just as I’m writing this it looks a bit like a scorpion… what do you think, Konnor? Did we make an arachnid?
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This tree is special for two reasons. The first is because my friend Troy Cardoza collected it. I like having trees that link me to other people. And it’s also special because it’s quite small for its age, with some great sinuous lines.
Troy collected this Rocky Mountain juniper early last year, and it grew so well both last year and this year that I thought we’d just style it before it becomes a complete mop of foliage. It was potted in pumice and only fertilized with moderate amounts of organic pellets. Lovely raw tree. I completely enjoyed the styling session. Had a couple friends drop in while I was working on it and threw a camera at them, so there is some documentation that this transformation was not done in a disembodied sort of way. There was a person in the background somewhere…
I have a nice pot for this tree and will offer updates on its progress in the future. At the moment it is sitting in a greenhouse under shade cloth. The big bends that were needed are stressful on the tree and when it is given protection from wind and strong sun there are usually no problems. You will notice that I left many long growing tips on it, which will help it recover from the bending, and also many of the branches are a bit short and need lengthening.
One of the things that make this a rare tree to work with is that only minor carving was needed, essentially just shortening some long, thin jins. And the rest of the deadwood is completely natural on this moderately sized—truly ‘bonsai sized’—tree, at 24″ high.
The juniper before any work began.
The front and inclination I preferred for this tree. There were several possibilities, and other artists might have chosen otherwise.
I considered leaving the bark on as it was so wonderfully shreddy and thick. But decided to take it off as is customary on junipers to determine the path of the live vein and for the visual dynamic between that and the deadwood.
Two of the branches needed significant bends to use the foliage in the design.
Finished tree. Or as my friends remind me, ‘No, not finished, that’s a dead tree!’ It’s quite alive. The tree is 24″ high, 31″ wide. The left lower branch is the key branch so it will need to grow out a bit. Left flow. In fact all the branches need length, as it looks like a small tree on top of a large base. I hope I’ve set things approximately right so there will be little need for major adjustment to compensate for that expected growth. With time the future image will show more integration of foliage and the rest of the tree.
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This was interesting and seemed worthy of sharing. This tree, owned by a client, was originally Rocky Mountain juniper. It had some of the worst scale infestation that I’ve ever seen, the Rocky Mountain foliage was so covered with it that it looked nearly white from a distance.
When we decided to graft on it I did warn my client that I was not sure of our success because the stock was weak. I think we did about 8 veneer grafts with itoigawa scions and 6 took. So we were happy and a bit surprised. What happened following that was even more curious.
I should say that we did not graft to get rid of the scale but to get rid of the bad foliage type. I do wish I had earlier photos of this so you’d be more likely to believe me, but none of the itoigawa grafts ever got scale. Not a single one. The itoigawa was even touching the infested original foliage, but the scale never transferred in the couple of years we were slowly cutting back the original foliage.
We also are approach grafting new roots on this tree, just to remove a long, boring section of lower trunk. That’s what the blue tape wrappings are about, holding the approach graft in place. That graft is taking well.
I hope this does not send the message ‘Got scale? Graft!’—for that would be a bit extreme. It was just a surprising benefit of what we wanted to do anyway. Spraying oil in May and June is usually a better (and somewhat less complicated) control for scale…
Grafting top and bottom on a Rocky Mountain juniper. All the pest-ridden original foliage has been cut off after several years of letting the scions grow. None of the scale infestation remains and the tree has a completely new vigor and health. Should be a nice bunjin someday.
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This juniper has been growing in my backyard for a year. It’s a client tree, another of the great native yamadori that was collected by Randy Knight of Oregon Bonsai.
Junipers don’t like to be repotted very early, they do better when repotted in late spring when it’s warmer. So this tree, which is in a box, needed a prop of a wooden block that could support it for a few months, at which time it would be potted in a bonsai container. I also cut the box with a circular saw and leveled the soil surface at the new inclination so watering would be easier.
It’s a fun tree, dynamic, and I liked the tensions between the jin to the left and the foliage to the right. I get into arguments with people about which way the foliage should go when there is jin or shari present in a forceful way. The jin or shari, in the presumed environment of the tree, are a great hint: Where the storms are coming from, prevailing winds, etc. If a jin is pointing in one direction, the living part of tree should be styled in the other direction. I see even professionals doing very strange things with jin, as an indicator of wind direction. Only several trees ‘flag’ in the wind, spruce being one of them. Juniper is not one of them. Go into the mountains and the dead limbs are facing the environment. Check out the Monterey cypresses; same story.
To critique my own work , I think the apex should be about three inches to the left. That would bring it closer to the base and more stable. Something for the next reworking…
(I’ve noticed an acute lack of dissension on this blog… the folks who are thinking, ‘You’re a flake, Hagedorn, and don’t know what you’re doing,’ are not writing. Please write your real thoughts!)
After bending the large branches
Reworking the wooden box
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This is what I call, only partly tongue in cheek, the ‘Lazarus’ tree as it had only large roots and no feeder roots when put in a box, and after 8 months in my backyard under a mist system, sprang back into life again. Every month I would dig a bit through the pumice and check for white root tips. Anything to give hope, but for months I was stymied. Then the darn thing woke up in the fall and grew those lovely fine feeder roots, and I opened a bottle of wine. It’s a nice tree, but sadly, I only had a Charles Shaw Cabernet. I will have to pay more attention to my wine stocking in the future.
The first shot is in the wooden box that I built, and then, noticing that it was staying wet too long, drilled a million holes through the sides to air it out faster. I had boards laying over the top of it to prevent rain and misting water from reaching the soil. Before there were growing roots it would take two months for the box to dry out. Which is plenty of time to rot roots…
And in a Yamaki pot. Big tree, big pot. This was potted during my March 2010 Seasonal. Late summer 2010, probably August when it has a few more long pointy shoots, it might be styled. If it’s ready.
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