The subject of today's post has an interesting story. This is a 25 or so year old San Jose Juniper that was originally styled by me in a workshop with John Naka in the early 90's. Sometime around 2004 it developed root rot and over the next couple of years the tree's health severely declined. One by one, major branches died, the nebari was starting to rot and the foliage that was left looked terrible. By 2008 it was more dead than alive; I almost threw it away then, but just couldn't part with it because it made me think of John. So I took it out of it's bonsai pot, cut off the dead roots and put it in a training pot. Off into the not-for-sale area it went to recover, and - I hate to admit - was promptly forgotten about again.
The other day I was back in the NFS area and saw it on a bench. It was a pitiful sight; it had fallen over on it's side and was hanging out of the pot, the pot was full of weeds and there were a lot of areas where the bark was just falling off. I picked it up to finally throw it out when my assistant said "It's about time you did something with that tree." That stirred up enough guilt that I decided to take a look and see if there was anything I could do.
The first couple of pictures show the sorry shape it was in when we started.
Here you can see where roots have died, the bark is peeling and the tree is laying sideways .
Here you can see the branches that died back as the roots died back.
The next step was to get the tree standing back up in the pot, and get the dead loose bark removed.
After the trunk was cleaned up and all the dead bark removed, the life line was visible once again, and the natural sharis that occurred because of so many branches dying back turned out to be beautiful - a feature that will be highlighted in the future.
So - I wired all the branches and moved them into place. And here is the result. Height 32"
This is what I intended to be the front. I took a couple more photos to show the other sides and noticed a much better view of the deadwood and the curves in the trunk.
After noticing this I decided to change the front and to bring what was the apex down and created a new back branch and apex as well as reducing the height by about 8 inches.
Seen from new front. Height 24"
So far so good. I'm very pleased with the results and excited about giving this tree a new lease on life. For the next couple of months I'll just water and fertilize to let it start to recover its strength. This spring I'll pot in back into a proper bonsai pot and start pinching and trimming to fill out the foliage masses. If it responds well I'll do some work on the deadwood next summer and really bring out what I feel is the most dramatic feature of this tree.
I hope you enjoyed today's post and as always I welcome comments and suggestions for future projects.
Be on the look out for the next post where we make some big bends on a fairly large trunk.