Juniperus x media 'Hetzii'/Juniper Bonsai Progression Series

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The Juniper featured in this article was originally bought as a nursery tree, in early 1998. It was a fairly basic attempt at creating a bonsai and it was originally styled as a fairly typical informal upright bonsai. No pictures exist of the tree in its original state and this is probably a good thing. Needless to say, I didn't like the styling I had carried out and the tree was put to one side and out of sight for a few years!

Juniper bonsai

In 2001 I decided to start the process of rebuilding the tree. The main problem with the tree was that (as is fairly typical) I had purchased poor material from a garden centre that wasn't particularly suitable for bonsai without considerable development. One of the biggest problems with my original styling was I had produced something with a long, untapered and featureless trunk that was much too tall for its girth (around 1"/2.5cm).

The tree is pictured here in 2001 after I restarted its development; I chopped the trunk to what had been its first branch. It was still too tall however and lacked any branches, the only foliage being at the top of the trunk and there was little (no) chance of prompting the tree to backbud and produce foliage lower down. How could I reduce the height of the tree and get some foliage around the main part of the trunk?

Having studied many images of Juniper bonsai that I admired and that appealed to me, I realised that the vast majority of them had branch structures and foliage 'built' from just one or two main branches. There was no need for me to try and produce a Juniper bonsai with perfect branches like those you might see on a 'perfect', classic(al) Pine bonsai.

Why not add some twists and turns to the top of the trunk to add some interest, and at the same time, place the foliage I already had where I wanted it?

Juniper bonsai

And so I decided to place the foliage where it was actually needed.

As can be seen in this image from July 2002, by wiring the top branch downwards, the height of the tree was reduced making the trunk appear more powerful and I now had some usefully-placed foliage to develop into branches.

One obvious problem that still existed was that the base of the trunk was still very plain and boring with little character. To introduce some interest to the trunk, in July 2002 I started to create a shari (deadwood feature). Bark was removed in a spiraling path from one old branch stub to another. My plan was to slowly widen this new shari over time; much less stressful for the tree than creating a wide shari in one sitting.

Juniper bonsai

By September of 2002, the tree had recovered its vigour after the initial work removing live bark, and I continued to develop the shari. Lime sulphur was applied to the deadwood to whiten it.

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