I was asked recently to style this Juniperus communis/Common Juniper. The bonsai had been purchased with the main trunk already dead and this had been turned into a large jin which gave the tree an very abstract appearance!
At the base of the dead trunk were two live branches carrying healthy foliage. Unfortunately, as can be seen in the image above, the foliage and the smaller trunk carrying it was some distance from the base of the deadwood trunk.
From this front I could see the possibility of a bonsai, the twists and turns of the deadwood carrying great drama and interest. But again, the distance between the foliage and deadwood (although difficult to see in a photograph) was too great.
I began styling the juniper bonsai by cleaning up the flaking old dead bark with a brass wire brush and it became immediately apparent that the base of the deadwood was in very poor condition. Underneath a thin layer of dead bark was soft, pulpy wet wood that simply fell away.
By the time I had cleaned the deadwood trunk back to wood that was strong enough to be preserved, it had halved in diameter and I had real concerns that the weight of the upper parts of the trunk would become too much for this lower section to bear. And so I made the decision to shorten the deadwood trunk considerably to greatly reduce the stress on the lower section.
For the next 8 hours I cleaned and carved the remaining deadwood before ending the session by turning the tree in its bonsai pot to show what I believed to be the trees best front. Finally I bent the 3"-4" diameter deadwood trunk forwards by thinning out and then steaming its middle section.
The trunk after applying the first coats of lime-sulphur to whiten the wood. The final part of the styling was to simply wire and lay-out the foliage.
Juniperus communis/Common Juniper bonsai
Height 60cm, 50cm wide
There are several choices of front for this bonsai when the owner repots the tree into its final bonsai pot
The deadwood and live veins at the base of the tree, before and after styling
The foliage laid out
The previously straight middle section of the deadwood, bent using steam
Detail image of the base of the trunk.