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This post follows the progression of 6 months in the life of a Procumbens juniper. Last June i did a demonstration for a local club, Bonsai Northwest Inc. As most of my trees had been worked and I had very little left to do on them it was decided that we purchased some stock for the demo. While digging through all the stock at ‘Baloc Bonsai’ I came across this juniper.

The Juniper before the demonstration

The Juniper before the demonstration but after a bit of a cleanup.

Having looked over the tree for a day or so before hand while it was in my garden I came up with a plan for improvement. From the tree’s original front the foliage mass was not close to the trunk, I thought with  a little work I could compact the foliage mass into a denser crown.

The foliage from the original front.

The foliage from the original front.

I also thought I could change the front and make use of a more interesting trunk and jin line. This plan created a few issues that I had to deal with in order to complete the re-styling. First was the trunk angle. From the original the trunk needed to be stood up around 30 degrees, which in turn placed most of the foliage pointing out towards the back of the tree.

Most of the bending of the larger branches was completed with the help of a bending jack as seen in the photo.

Jack in place prior to bending.

Jack in place prior to bending.

The other issue was that from the new front the jin did not compliment the movement of the tree so this was bent by means of what is essentially steam bending. I wrapped the jin in wet towels and plastic sandwich film over night to moisten the jin and then used a small gas torch to heat up and soften the wood fibres so that it could be bent into a new direction.

After the jin was re-possitioned and main branch bent into possition.

After the jin was repositioned and main branch bent into position.

The next step was compacting the foliage to form the crown and subsequaint branches. This was done with a combination of guy-wires and heavy wiring. The below picture shows the result. A small towel covered some branching that was to be removed once the tree had back budded in that area.

The result at the end of the demo.

The result at the end of the demo.

If you look from the original front you can see how the foliage has been moved from its original positions to compliment the new front.

The re-styling from the original front.

The re-styling from the original front.

Since the demo I re-potted the tree into a new container at the new planting angle. It grew out well in early spring with plenty of back-bedding and fresh growth. It was time to work on the foliage.

After some strong spring growth.

After some strong spring growth.

All this new growth provided me with the chance to cut out some of the leggy old growth and replace it with more compact fresh shoots.

A leggy branch with tired looking foliage.

A leggy branch with tired looking foliage.

The branch cut back so the fresh shoot at its base can replace it.

The branch cut back so the fresh shoot at its base can replace it.

In this way I was able to improve and remove some of the poorer condition and leggy foliage. I cut more out of the strong areas and left a little more in the weaker areas to balance the growth of the tree.

After the cut back.

After the cut back.

I was also able to remove one of the branches on the right side and hopefully in a few months I will be also able to cut back the other right hand branches.

There are a few other thing I want to do, such as lowering the planting position, define the live veins, and work on the shari texture, but for the time being those things can wait.

What the tree desperately needs now is a full wiring, I want to further compact the apex and better form up the crown and branches but unfortunately that will have to wait until my wrist heals. Hopefully I will be able to do it in a few more months.  In the mean time I will keep feeding it heavily and keep replacing old growth with new healthy growth so when it does come time to wire, the tree is ready.

Winter is a hard time for me and my bonsai. For the most part, when I arrive home from work it is dark and cold. This makes working on my trees something I only tend to do on weekends. That being said I did get motivated one night after work to do some pruning on my Trident Maple (seen here and here).

Tridents grow quite quickly and within a year they can put on a lot of twiggy growth. A lot of this growth is not suitable to build future ramification on so it must be pruned off. Quite often it seems like you are taking two steps forward and one step back but the removal of twigs that are not formed correctly will ultimately make for a better bonsai in the long run.

Before and after pruning. The red lines show approximately where I made cuts.

At this point in this trees life I am looking to start to build fine twigs. Most of the vigorous growth over the last year has helped to form secondary branches but it has grown with internode gaps that are too long for the tips of a branch. As a result I have pruned to remove these long internodes, reduced all branch divisions to two and generally tried to form a better structure within the branch.

A lot of my trees were grown a little too quickly and as a result their branches do not have as good a structure as they might. I am now cutting a fair amount of  those branches back and trying to correct the structural problems. One of the main problems I have in my trees is that the branches do not have a main branch line with sub branches but instead have several main lines. This makes the branches look full very quickly but in the long-term you do not get the taper and look you would if the branch was grown otherwise. It all comes back to pruning. Sometimes you have to set a tree back a little in order for it to progress.

The tree before and after. (poor lighting care of my kitchen.)

This tree will be re-potted in the coming months and may also have its branches fine tuned a little with some wire which should then make it ready for the start of spring.

The tree below is a very nice old hinoki (False cypress) that i worked on while i was in Japan. This tree had been shown in Kokufu, so i was very honored to get to work on such a nice tree. (If any one reading this can find it in an old album please let me know what number)

The tree had been grown out without much maintenance for a number of years and as a result the it had grown very dense and had lost some inner branching.

Hinoki before

This is the tree after the first branch had been pruned.

My job was to thin out the entire canopy, remove un-needed branches and reduce the remaining branches back to a more manageable structure. This work was intended to stimulate back-budding prior to a future wiring.

Hinoki Midway

The pruning is half done.

As the tree was large, it took me a full day just to prune it from bottom to top.

Hinoki After

The pruning is finished.

After the work the structure of the tree started to become apparent.  Although it still has a long way to go, it is now easy to  imagine it future .

The tree had the most amazing twisting bark that i am sure will add to its chances of one day again being shown in Kokufu.

Unfortunately i was unable to work out what species of Chamaecyparis it was. I am guessing Chamaecyparis obtusa but i am not 100% sure. It had fine foliage that i had not seen before. If anyone reads this and can identify the species from the pics below please add a comment or send me an email.

Hinoki Foliage

The foliage up close.

It was a great tree to work on and taught me a lot about pruning. At the start of the process i was concentrating too much on the tip density. Mr. Urushibata spent some time explaining how you often you have to look deep within a branch structure and cut out some secondary branches rather than thinning the tips. It was a concept that like many in bonsai seemed simple enough but was not apparent until someone pointed it out.

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