This tree is too tall. And the branches are a bit leggy, too.
One of the problems we get into in bonsai design is that with time and growth, height and branch length can begin pulling us away from the trunk. Literally destroying the design, making it weaker. And this tree has a nice trunk, which is a good enough reason to consider redesigning it, to compact the design.
It’s also got another possibility—it currently flows to the right. There’s nothing wrong with the right flow, but I was thinking a tighter design would be going left, even if for the time being we’ll lose some of the density, interest, and development in the branching. So for the short term, it won’t look as good… But the right branch looks young, which is yet another reason to stay away from using it as a key branch, indicating flow.
Given that thinking—and willing to be patient for a few years of re-growth for the design to recrystalize—we redesigned this tree this week.
It’s a Needle Juniper, Juniperus rigida, which we don’t see much outside of Japan. The summer trimming is over, when the long extensions are cut. Working on needle juniper will make the expressive among us let out periodic yelps, as it has the most dastardly stiff, pointy needles of any conifer. It is nice having apprentices.
Needle Juniper before redesigning. Curiously, this looks a lot to me like old work in Japan and the United States, with long leggy branches and apexes that seem much too tall. The nice things about such work is the involvement in the branching and padding, which is often pleasing. The bad thing is we tend to ignore the trunk, because we’re so engaged with the foliage…
Step one…shortening the crown.
Branches cut off the top.
Reworking crown area.
Tree with shortened crown. A small jin remains up there.
Step two, reconsidering the flow. The key branch on the right will be removed.
Branches cut off the right side to shorten the key branch, and make it a balance branch.
Final redesign. It will take a few years to crystalize the form, especially the density of the crown and the length to the bottom branches. The main thing in its favor currently is that it’s now a more compact design, refocusing on the trunk. It should be good for about another 10 years before it might need another trip to the shop, to lift the hood and see what could use tinkering.