Another Yamadori Rocky Mtn. Juniper–

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…

Before work

After bending the large branches

Reworking the wooden box

After styling

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  1. Al Polito says:

    You’re a flake, Hagedorn, and you don’t know what you’re doing. Except when it comes to bonsai. You kind of know what you’re doing with that. πŸ˜‰

    Nice to see more blogging here.

    Judging by the lengthy nebari extending out underneath the large jin, I am wondering what kind of pot will be chosen for this tree and how you would position it. A long, flattish pot with the canopy hanging over the side? Or an even longer, flattish pot with the canopy hanging over more of the pot?

    • crataegus says:

      The pot will actually need to be a deeper one, as the tree has a key branch that is very close to a semi-cascade. so, a long, narrow, slightly deepish pot… but not so deep that it appears to be a cascade pot. not the easiest thing to find! For the first potting we might well have to use a normal width pot, and just keep looking for a narrow one. This tree is good enough to warrant an antique Chinese pot, and there are many of those which are narrower.

      It is a good option to go the other way, and plant this on a slab of some sort. That would increase the flattened and blown feeling. I guess I’m considering both at this point! I have a few months to think about it.

  2. Gary Wood says:

    With a name like Hawthorne, I would expect you to be a little “flaky” Super tree and work!

  3. Jeremiah Lee says:

    I bet you have one Happy Customer!

  4. Satsuki says:

    Very nice Michael!

    I think work like this shows that you know what you are doing. Should the apex be 3 inches to the left? Maybe, but you can do that next time. You certainly did a nice job, and next time I sure it will be even better!

    I am looking forward to seeing you in St. Louis in March,


  5. Jeffrey Robson says:


    Very nice indeed. Inspires me. My RMJ is still in a deep sleep. Final above freezing here for the first time in a while.


  6. John Cotoggio says:

    Nice work Mike. I spend a weekend out at Ryan’s two weeks ago. Randy is collected the best trees I have seen in this country !

    Your work is very nice ! Guess your customer is a happy camper now !! The trunk is outstanding !!
    Great Work Mike !!

  7. John W Stieber says:

    I can tell you for a fact that the client is ecstatic! He initially worked with Mike just taking the old bark off the branches last fall. He had no idea where the tree was ultimately going as it was just a tangle of branches, bark, jin and scruffy live wood. A truly amazing transformation Mike! By the way, I am the client.

    Many grins, John

  8. Sam Ogranaja says:

    Mike, I love your work man. Keep working and blogging. Seeing where you’re going with a piece of raw material is very inspiring and revealing. It’s like a post dated love letter. Too cliche…I agree.

    I got a question (spoken with a slight French accent) for you. If I just repotted my black pine shohin (Raleigh NC) when should I start feeding? I read somewhere to start immediately slowly and feeding more and more and more to a peak in June. Does that sound about right? Also, can I use Osmocote until I run out of it, or do I need to bite the stinky bullet and make some cakes?

    I appreciate the help brother
    Have a great week

    • crataegus says:

      Yes, your fertilizer plan is fine, if you have lots of fine roots you can start fertilizing very weakly. But it would not hurt to wait about a month. Keep increasing fertilizer as the weather warms up and the tree is able to use it to grow, the two are connected, heat and fertilizer (until too hot… then it goes the other way). Be careful with osmocote… it is easy to overfertilize as it releases according to temperature… which sounds like a good thing until you have a lot of it sitting there and you get some hot weather. Then you get root burn. The stinky bullet is a good buffer for badly overfertilizing a tree. A bit of inorganic fertilizer is ok for the spring when the temps. are low and the organics are not very actively releasing. Bacteria need warmth to be active, breaking down the cakes and releasing nutrition.

      Hope that helps. More important is the level of fertilizing with each tree and species, according to what you’re trying to do with it and the species can use. Black pine needs more than just about anything if you’re cutting the candles in late spring. The black pine pots in Japan may be covered with fertilizer cakes before candle pruning.

  9. Amazing tree! Amazing work! Congrats πŸ™‚

    Best regards,

  10. Dale Brock says:

    It is a great tree! Yes there is alot of arguement that could be thrown around about the design. My first thought would be to move the foliage to the left to make the tree more narrow and compact but that is all personal preference. However, moving the apex that three inches you mentioned would pull it together. I ciuld even see bringing a back branch far over toward the jin and giving it the feel of a short fat sumo shape to the design.
    What a great tree to inspire thought. Lots of possibility and ideas. Nice job!
    On an off note, how did you trees do at the show in Japan?

    • crataegus says:

      Yes, one could do a sumo style on this— I’m just not a big fan of it. It looks like an artificial imposition on a tree rather than a natural form. My taste.

      Both trees, the juniper and the white pine, got in the show!

  11. Graham says:

    Hi Michael,
    A great transformation but then again you had a quality tree to start with πŸ™‚
    I think a slab would be superb and reflect your thoughts on the natural environment aspect/form you mention.
    I’d also like to discus your thoughts on jin’s facing the environment – perhaps over a beverage next time your up this way.
    Cheers G.

    • crataegus says:

      I think a slab is an excellent option for this tree! And, for those who don’t know Graham, he’s a forester, and his ideas on environment ought to be heeded…

  12. mauro stemberger says:

    Love the work you did on this spectacular yamadory ! Keep it Up my friend πŸ™‚
    best regards from Italy !!!!!!

  13. Dallas says:

    Hi Mike,
    Just a comment/question about the idea that the foliage grows away from the jin or shari. Didn’t the tree grow that way at some point? Why is it hard to believe it wouldn’t grow that way again?
    Just a comment, but regardless of the “rules” the styled tree looks great which trumps any arguments for or against right!?

    • crataegus says:

      That is an excellent point. It did grow that way originally. But the the shift here is reality versus fiction, and bonsai is a fictionalized imagination. In reality, a borer probably killed off that branch. Less likely, a porcupine. In my imagination, it’s a bigger tree and the environment plays a larger role in that larger scene. So, I’m a fake. You can post it on the web, if you like.

  14. Flex says:

    Mike…The styling on the RMJ is good…

    The large jin on the left, to my eye, could be made a lot shorter. This would then give the beautiful swirl in the middle of the tree more of a center stage.
    Foliage looks great where it is, and, as you analyzed, it is on the correct side of the tree, based on the environment in which it grew.

    Keep up the great work!

    • crataegus says:

      Ya, one could shorten it. My feeling is that jin is quite marvelous and wind-torn and simply feels so natural that I did not want to shorten it. The challenge was making it work while leaving it… and maybe I failed.

  15. Jeremiah Lee says:

    So how many trees have you styled for the Kokufu now?!! Great job, what an accomplishment! Thanks again for sharing all this wonderful info.

    • crataegus says:

      Not sure. Most were manipulated enough to call them my work, but there was one Winter Hazel that all I did was put on moss and make a few shortening nips. Hope to be making trips in the future to continue that interesting, challenging work.

  16. Hey Michael, very nice work, but I have a bone to pick with you about your own critique of your work here. Moving the apex 3″ to the left–as you suggest you’d prefer to do–would be a mistake.

    This is a dynamic tree and, with the clear indications offered by the wood structure, should show a dynamic living activity. Making this tree “more stable” (as you put it) would destroy the dynamism and create a farce instead of a believable story.

    I’d suggest that what you’ve done here is closer to the “real” story and could, in fact, be made far more dynamic–especially to distract from the parallel lines of the root/deadwood structures. Aim for more dynamism rather than more stability…or you are a cad. πŸ™‚

    Kind regards,

    • crataegus says:

      Ah, we’ve finally found the irascible element… (Good to hear from you, Andy!)

      As I envisioned it, the shifted apex would not diminish the drama of the tree, retaining the position of the key branch and all. But maybe I’m wrong. Being as stubborn sort, I’m likely to just grow the tree somewhat to the left on the crown, fill it out a bit that way, rather than manipulating anything further. If it does not ‘work’, you’ll be the first to know…

  17. bonsaitico says:

    Hi Mike!

    Congrats on the Kokufu entries!! That makes it what… a couple every year? πŸ˜€

    Speaking about your work above, which is nothing short or amazing, I would love to see it in a custom-made Hagedorn pot … πŸ˜‰

    Do you think that reducing the length of the horizontal root would mean a loss to the treeΒ΄s naturalness?

    Best regards,

    Juan Andrade

    • crataegus says:

      hi Juan, good to hear from you–

      Yes, I think the large horizontal root is essential to the tree and cutting it more than an inch or two would be a crime. So I’m endeavoring to incorporate that and find a pot/slab that works.

  18. tom tynan says:

    Michael ,,,What’s your feeling about the contrast between the strong motion of the live vein and the twisting jin – with the strong dome shape of the crown. I understand it is only the first styling – so that has to be taken into account – I am just interested in hearing from you as to how the crown will be further styled down the road – do you see it as fairly symmetrical or more asymmetrical moving from left to right? I am sure in person the depth and motion of the jin and trunk are spectacular. Could you also add a few thoughts about how you will get this RMJ into a pot and when will that process start…..regards and best wishes from NY….Tom

    • crataegus says:

      With this tree I think the dome should be wider, to accentuate the flat, elongated feel of the design. I tend to prefer smaller apexes on severe environment trees, but this one calls for something else. Also, I should have mentioned earlier, it is a larger tree and so my proposed apex shift 3 inches to the left would not appear as much. The shift to the left would be subtle and with the strong right of the key branch, it would be strongly asymmetrical. Hope I’m understanding the question correctly? The box is relatively shallow, and it’s only the length on the left side that concerns me. As it is as strong tree, and the major bends were made last fall, I plan to repot into a bonsai container in late April. Junipers seem to do better when repotted later in spring (late for Portland, Oregon…).

  19. Jeremiah Lee says:

    John and Michael

    I set the last picture as my desktop background of this tree(hope you don’t mind). I just don’t get tired of looking at this tree! It’s so beautiful! Thanks again for sharing, John i’m so jealous.

  20. Shaukat Islam says:


    This is a great material (although you prefer to call it a ‘fun’ tree) and the styling is awesome……and it is definitely going to be a killer tree!

    The deadwood and shari is the focal point…..and you have done justice to it……now it is to be seen what type of pot you finally choose, which is going to be a challenge. But I’d like to visualize this tree in a flat slab. Let’s wait till April next year and see the final outcome.


    • crataegus says:

      Ah yes, that is the timetable- In Oregon it is so cool in the spring that if we repot before April, juniper will just sit there and sulk. Juniper needs a bit of warmth to establish after repotting.

  21. sjoshs says:

    Hey dude,

    So critiquing time…

    I think the only thing I noticed that is worth critiquing is that the jin to the left is perhaps a little unnatural looking. In the wild, jins don’t break off flush like saw cuts, they break at an angle with the surface, making the ends more pointy. Fix that and you have an AMAZING tree. The foliag plays very nicely with the trunk. And the interplay of the live and deadwood is something to beheld, tbh.

    • crataegus says:

      Good point. The issue is a matter of contention in Japan, whether one should carve or adulterate wood that was weathered by mother nature or if everything is should be left alone that was exposed wood. We can all make our own minds up. If this jin were carved, it would make the tree look better from far away, more like a natural tree, but worse closer up. I like close up views, and as all of that part of the jin has been eroding for about 100 years I think it did a better job than I could. If you saw them up close they’re fascinating. But then this is all a very personal choice. I think one could carve them, and it would improve a different aspect of the tree, as you say. Thanks for the comment! Good conversation to have.

      • Jesse Strong says:

        The whole Jin looks untouched…if that break and weathering was done while this tree was in the ground where it had been growing for probably over 100 years would that not be the definition of natural? How can something shaped by nature and the drastically changing seasonal elements of the environment not be entirely…natural…?

  22. John says:

    Mike, as a prior owner, do you have any present day photos of this tree? I would love to see how it has matured so I can say “you silly boy” for dispatching it.

    Grins, John

  23. Rory says:

    Maybe I missed them but did you post current pictures of this tree? I wanted to see what pot you used. Older Chinese container? Japanese pot with flared sides?

  24. montymoo12 says:

    Love your work but maybe you should remove the the hole large Jin on the left side it would give the tree more power.

  1. […] A Rocky Mountain Juniper, also from Crataegus Bonsai (but not by […]

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