Beginner juniper bonsai

Norridgewock, ME(Zone 5a)

I bought this seedling Juniperis chinensis a few years ago and finally tried trimming and wiring. The rock and pot are too big, the whole thing is challenged, but at least I did something. I've spent a lot of time trying to get up my courage! It is hard to go from reading the books to actually cutting...

This message was edited Oct 24, 2009 7:08 PM

Thumbnail by granitegneiss
Barnesville (Charle, GA(Zone 8b)

Looks pretty good, just need to take a piece
off here and there. The rock is Great.
One you start in, it won't be difficult.
I love to prune....

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Shimpaku is my favorite of all the junipers and probably my favorite material overall. It's such a forgiving, versatile plant and makes a beautiful bonsai. Good choice! Congratulations on working up the courage, too. It's not unusual for even very experienced practitioners to look at material over and over again (sometimes for several years) before they decide on how to precede and what/where the first cut should be.

I wouldn't worry about the rock. It's probably not going to be part of the composition in years to come, and the larger pot is appropriate for younger material you'd like to see put some new growth on. You didn't ask for suggestions, so I won't offer any, but if you change your mind .....

Good luck.

Al


Norridgewock, ME(Zone 5a)

Absolutely, I'd love suggestions, please provide them if you are so inclined.

Barnesville (Charle, GA(Zone 8b)

Yes Al, we all need advice. Please help us out.
Charleen

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Let me ask a question first. It's in sort of a slant or windswept style now. Is one of those your intent, or would you prefer it in something closer to an informal upright?

Al

Norridgewock, ME(Zone 5a)

Windswept was my intent.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

OK (if it was my tree) - branches in the windswept style look best when they are positioned with the tips a little above the point where the branch comes off the main stem. It's difficult to tell if there is a slight undulation to the trunk, but there should be - be sure the movement is mildly sinuous and not radical (no sharp bends).

The appearance of the composition would be enhanced if you remove all the very fine foliage that comes off the main trunk, and any branches/foliage growing from under the branches. Each of the individual branches should have some slight undulation in them as well. Try to reshape any branches with a crescent moon shape and put some slight bends/undulation in them.

Windswept trees have struggled mightily against the elements, and are usually very sparse in foliage. Your tree probably has too many branches to present the most believable image of a windswept tree, but it's very young, so I wouldn't remove any branches now. What I WOULD do, is select the branches you want to keep, and keep them pinched, letting those that you don't think will be a part of the composition grow freely. These branches will fatten the trunk and help the tree regain vitality after the recent work. In a couple of years, you can jin them, which will help sell the idea that the tree has had a mighty struggle with nature.

Don't be offended by anything I said. In bonsai, all thoughtful criticisms are constructive and generally embraced by the tree's owner. Critiques are nothing more than one person's opinion, and opinions vary widely between observers. I've been to shows and paid to attend several critiques of the same show (same trees), but by different masters, and it's not at all unusual for one or two masters to praise a tree and another to suggest it needs many changes to be a good bonsai, or one or two to suggest it needs lots of work, and another praise it. The good thing that comes out of having your tree critiqued is that you get to see it from another's perspective. The two things that have helped me gauge my own trees, even more than taking workshops to enhance my judging ability, were attending workshops as a silent observer, and attending critiques.

With some trees, you have to look hard to recognize their potential, but you have a nice tree, in which the potential is evident. Good job.

Al

Norridgewock, ME(Zone 5a)

Thank you so much! That was super helpful. The fine foliage on the trunk, for example--I hadn't even thought of it, I was so focused on the branches. It is truly wonderful that you are willing to spend time helping others find their way in this challenging hobby!


This message was edited Oct 27, 2009 5:28 PM

Barnesville (Charle, GA(Zone 8b)

Al, you are so nice.
Thank you.
Charleen

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

I really am glad to help where I can, but sometimes what I've offered as help here has been mistaken as being sour. You seem to have the attitude that will take you far in bonsai, especially if you can pair a measure of determination with it. Best of luck.

Al

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Thank you, Charleen. I got called away before I finished typing my last reply, so didn't know you had offered the kind words. Take care, guys.

Al

Barnesville (Charle, GA(Zone 8b)

Wynne, I am so glad Al came to the rescue. I thiank you got it going now. Good luck.
If you need a cedar tree, let me know. I'll sendyou one or two. You can practice with them.
Just send me a D-mail. best of luck, .
Charleen

Norridgewock, ME(Zone 5a)

Al,
Your message was so careful to be neutral and say nice things, I felt sure you'd been burned in the past, which is a real shame. I do have one more question. You mentioned the trunk should be undulating. I assume you mean side to side bending, not up and down. There are no curves like that now, just a downward curve. Should I attempt to introduce a bit more side bend now, or wait for the tree to get used to the downward curve I just introduced first? Thank you.

Charlene, thank you for the good wishes and offer, but I think I've got enough to worry about for the moment.

This message was edited Oct 27, 2009 5:37 PM

Barnesville (Charle, GA(Zone 8b)

Anytime, Just give me a call.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Granite - Your job is to imagine and portray the branches & trunk of a tree in a double gale. A piece of yarn or a flag in the wind has sharp bends, but a tree branch is rigid and resists those sharp bends, Try to portray the battle between the wind trying to bend the branches and the rigidity of the branches resisting the wind. The results of that battle is a random and subtle side to side AND up/down undulation. The branch tips look better if they are rising at the tips.

Another tip that you needn't act on now, but at some point you may wish to. Trees grown in windswept areas rarely have branches that emerge at sharp angles to the trunk. Because the wind dries and driven sand/snow scours and kills buds on the windward side, the branches come off the trunk growing leeward - with the wind - narrow Y's instead of T's.

Observe how the first two branches appear in the pic to come off the tree at a sharp angle - almost 90*. If you were to reposition them so the crotch is much narrower (30* or so) and with the branches at different heights, it would look more like something you would find in nature, which of course, is part of the story you want your tree to tell everyone who looks at it.

Al

Barnesville (Charle, GA(Zone 8b)

Al, is a cedar tree a good candidate. I have one that I want to do something with.
Should I wait til spring to start work on it. I would like it to be windswept too.
Are there any windswept cedars? I will try to get a pic. today, looks like the rain has
passed on it's way.
Charleen

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

We need to be careful about piggy-backing on Granite's thread, so you might want to start another or contact me off forum. Be sure to nail down what kind of 'cedar' it is. I can think of several trees in several genera (plural of genus, in case someone wondered) that have the common name 'cedar'. Usually the main two are Juniperus virginiana and Thuja occidentalis, but Cedrus, Chamaecyparis, and others also have trees called 'cedars'.

Al

Norridgewock, ME(Zone 5a)

I worked on the tree a little more today, trying some of Al's advice. That led, of course, to more questions. I'm posting both top view and side view this time to help you see it better. Here is top view.

Thumbnail by granitegneiss
Norridgewock, ME(Zone 5a)

Here is side view (see previous post for top view). I've removed some branches as you can see, and tried to add some undulation to the trunk, which is hard in a tree so small, but perhaps you can see a change, not sure if it will be obvious to anyone but me!

Now for the questions.
I put an arrow on one of the branches just to help be sure we are talking about the same things. The branch with the arrow I'm thinking, when it gets long enough, of taking under the tree and over to the other side to reinforce the feel of the wind. Good or bad idea?

The pair of branches above the marked one (easier to see in top view, since one of them just blends into trunk in side view): I'm thinking of leaving the one on the left to grow and become a jin someday, and keep the one on the right, but how to shape that one, I'm not sure. Is the jin thought not so good, maybe just remove the branch?

Finally, the major branch at the base of the tree. I'm wondering if that entire branch should become jin someday, since it angles right into the wind at it emerges from the trunk, and though I've bent it toward the side in what I hoped was a logical manner, perhaps the argument that it doesn't make it is a good one, and it was so low on the trunk anyway it is better not to have it in the end?
Thank you for any additional thoughts you might have.

This message was edited Oct 28, 2009 12:33 PM

Thumbnail by granitegneiss
Barnesville (Charle, GA(Zone 8b)

I am so sorry Granite, I wasn't try to hi-jack your link.
Very interestng to learn new things and sometimes
I just get too Gabby,
Charleen

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

The branch with the arrow I'm thinking, when it gets long enough, of taking under the tree and over to the other side to reinforce the feel of the wind. Good or bad idea?

There are certain "rules" in bonsai. One of them is that no branches cross other branch lines or the trunk line. Rules are very useful for helping us build beautiful trees or to pinpoint what is wrong with a tree when we know "there is something wrong with that tree, but I don't quite know what it is." The good thing is, we're not necessarily bound by the rules, but like John Naka said once said, "You must first understand the rules, before you can break them." Just because your idea isn't generally advisable is no clear indication it won't work very well with your individual composition. Your tree is young enough that you can still try lots of different ideas out and see what appeals most to YOUR eye.

The pair of branches above the marked one (easier to see in top view, since one of them just blends into trunk in side view): I'm thinking of leaving the one on the left to grow and become a jin someday, and keep the one on the right, but how to shape that one, I'm not sure. Is the jin thought not so good, maybe just remove the branch?

I think your idea is ok. In looking at the picture, I can envision that the actual apex of your tree will probably be a jin, and that the last 'branch', or the branch that serves as the living apex will be the short branch immediately above the two branches that emerge almost side by side just above the arrow. IOW, at some point, you're going to need to shorten the trunk & that seems logical at this point.

Finally, the major branch at the base of the tree. I'm wondering if that entire branch should become jin someday, since it angles right into the wind at it emerges from the trunk, and though I've bent it toward the side in what I hoped was a logical manner, perhaps the argument that it doesn't make it is a good one, and it was so low on the trunk anyway it is better not to have it in the end?

Your tree is young and still has lots of options. In a year, you may look at your tree and see an informal upright waiting to emerge. The branches are still very flexible, so that branch can still be pulled or wired into another position, but you're right, on that particular tree it may end up as a short jin, but there is no need to rush into it. Let the tree recover for the winter & part of summer before you remove anything else. Read up on the difference between pinching & thinning the foliage, so you're prepared to maintain it when it starts growing in earnest next year.

I have lots of trees, so it's very easy to resist the urge to work on them because there is ALWAYS something to pinch/prune/wire ..... I'm never at a loss for something to do when it comes to trees. When you have only one, or a few trees, it's much more difficult to be patient, but it's the best approach. Work on your trees, then let them recover and gain strength so you can perform the next round of training. It's a work, wait, work, wait kind of arrangement that works best.

Gotta go - time to fix dinner.

Al





Norridgewock, ME(Zone 5a)

Thank you, Al, I appreciate your time and thoughts. Last question, for now... As I was removing some of the little needles along sides of branches, I remembered reading somewhere to be careful that you don't end up with a "poodle cut" tree, and looking at the tree now, that is what I'm thinking I've done. Did I remove too much?

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

No, I don't think you removed too much. As you pinch (later) you'll be trying to pinch/prune so the foliage pads flow with the wind and are longer than wide, unlike junipers in other styles where the pads are wider and intentionally kept tight to the trunk whenever possible.

Al

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