Photos can be clicked on for a larger view.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

First styling on a CA Juniper

I guess by now everyone realizes I have a fondness for CA Junipers. I think they are some of the finest wild material available for bonsai in this country. They usually have very dramatic deadwood, the result of hundreds of years growing in high desert mountains.  Because of the growing conditions they can  sometimes get some amazing shapes in the trunks. Very often the combination of weather and insects create unbelievably incredible sculptures of the trunks.
This juniper was collected in Lancaster, CA in January 2007. I planted it in this pot right away. For the last few years it has just  been watered and fertilized and pretty much nothing else. The tree has very  interesting natural deadwood. There are several things about this tree that make designing a bonsai from it difficult.
First off all the branches pretty much come from the same place on the trunk and are pretty small. They are going to have to be moved around to create the foliage pads.

Also the best view and inclination of the trunk doesn't show the lifeline at all.

After cleaning up the trunk I decided on this as the front.

It has interesting movement and balance, also the lifeline is clearly visible. I had to remove some of the jin at the top of the trunk some I could bring the apex forward , then I needed to wire every branch so that I could place them in position in such a way that they look like they are on different levels.

After wiring and positioning the branches I cleaned the life line and deadwood with water and here is the result. The upper right side will take a little while to fill in but all things considered I'm pleased with the results. This coming spring I will repot the tree into a rough textured round pot.
Here is the result after todays work.

I hope you enjoyed todays project. I welcome any comments or suggestions for future posts.


  1. Hey Bob, I wonder why you choose to style this tree with a pointed apex? As you mentioned the deadwood has the potential to add great character and age to the image. Yet, you choose to style the foliage in a very juvenile/immature way?? In my mind I think you would create a much more successful image if you would work toward a more mature appearance for the foliage.

  2. Thats a great question, thanks for asking. You're right the foliage looks immature because it is! The fact that all the branches are so young is one of the challenges of this tree. By this time next year I expect to have a much more mature looking foliage. Now its about letting some things grow to strengthen them ( the entire upper right portion of tree) of encouraging branching and backbudding in other areas.
    Once there is enough foliage to do so, this will have a more rounded head. I'll repost it a year from now so all can see the progress.
    Thanks for reading my blog.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Hey Bob, I think you missed my point. It is not that the foliage is immature(this tree has/d ample foliage to create a believable image), it is the way you shaped the apex that makes it look immature. When creating an apex if you use the tip of the branch for the top it is always going to look like what you have, a pointy young top. Instead, if you will use some foliage along the mid portion of the branch as the very top and bend down the tip of the branch to form a branch at apex level I think you will be more pleased with the appearance of the apex. If you watch the folks that are really good at creating bonsai they rarely if ever create an apex in the manner you have.

  5. I understand what you are saying and most of the time I would agree and shape the apex that way.
    I purposely did not worry about creating an apex yet because I intend to let that top branch grow unchecked for the next year or two to strengthen up the foliage at the top of the tree. After a year or two of growth the whole tree will benefit and it will be as easy thing to create a new rounder apex.