Once the excess foliage has been removed (‘thinned out’) from the branches of a Juniper bonsai, the structure of the tree can be seen clearly and it is possible to coil wire around the branches in order that they can then be repositioned.
The remaining shoots all over the tree require removal of the foliage along their length leaving flattened ‘pads’ of foliage at their tips. It can be a difficult process to carry out when first applied as it runs contrary to what many enthusiasts first learn about pruning back Juniper foliage.
Two Juniper shoots cleaned and ready for wiring and laying out
The tiny foliage mass at the tip of each shoot must be flattened into a lozenge-shape (when seen from the front) and this also requires that all downward and upward-growing foliage is also pruned back.
The newly thinned out branches of a Juniper bonsai, note the otherwise bare shoots carry sprays of foliage at their tips.
Arranging the Foliage Mass
The next task in arranging the branches of a Juniper bonsai is to wire and arrange or ‘lay-out’ the foliage mass. As has been described, during the process of thinning out the foliage, I had also created a large number of secondary and tertiary branches that each carried a small pad of foliage at its tip. Each and every foliage-carrying branch then needed to be wired and its pad positioned so that it became part of a much larger mass of pads.
A secondary branch consisting of 7 tertiary branches, each carrying a pad of foliage, fanned out to create one large foliage pad.
When seen from above, the foliage on this tree looks relatively sparse and unattractive. Over time and with regularly pruning, the foliage pad or ‘cloud’ will now become denser, better ramified and beautiful.
The same foliage pad seen from the front of the bonsai
However, when seen from the front of the tree, the same 7 small pads of foliage fanned out together, have created a larger foliage pad or ‘cloud’ and one that is worthy of a good quality bonsai.
The fanned out branchlets of a Chinese Juniper
The foliage of this Chinese Juniper has been thinned out, each of the small shoots left carrying a tuft of foliage, wired and then laid-out as previously described.
The same area of the Juniper foliage mass as seen from the front of the tree.
As each individual tertiary foliage is pruned and its tips pinched out over the coming years, it will become denser and be allowed to almost merge with its neighbours, creating an attractive mass of green foliage.
Laying out the branches of a Juniper bonsai
Always start with the lowest or first branch as this dictates the shape and style of the foliage mass as a whole. First the primary branch was wired and placed, followed by its secondary branches and then their tertiary branches, before beginning to work on the next primary branch up on the trunk. This process continues, always working upwards towards the crown until the entire foliage mass has been laid out.
Chinese Juniper bonsai foliage being laid-out by the author as part of the styling of this tree during 2012.
The Chinese Juniper after laying out all the foliage, as seen from above. From this view it is possible to see the ‘workings’ of the foliage mass.
When seen from the front, all of the various elements of foliage mass come together to make a whole.
This part of designing and styling a Juniper is a time-consuming process (the foliage mass of the Chinese Juniper above took approximately 8 hours to arrange) but is also essential if the bonsai is to have distinct shape and form and not simply be a shapeless mass of foliage.
And the results can be quite simply stunning.