Another juniper? And again, in July?
Why not?
Today’s victim:
A juniperus chinensis “parsonii” (or at least that’s what we call it. It’s not really parsonii: see this post)
I don’t remember where I got it from, probably from a regular landscape nursery.
This January I repotted it into my standard mix bonsai soil and it seems to be enjoying it.
There is one major flaw with the tree
Can you see it?
It’s the straight trunk
What can I do about it?
This is where I get crazy and throw caution to the wind.
July is not really the time to be working junipers (at least not what I’ll be doing to this one) in Florida.
But I tend to experiment some and since this tree was probably only $8 when I bought it, it’s not too much of a loss. And I will have learned something and taught you all as well.
A little pruning first-
This branch will go
And by leaving some length I can carve it a bit
and give it some interest.
Today’s special ingredient is:
Raffia, well soaked
And highly specialized tool:
a branch bender
You can see how much I use it. It’s all rusty.
It’s a pretty expensive tool if you buy it.
I actually made it myself. So, if you don’t count the $400 welder and $35 dollar wire and $100 shielding gas, it was pretty cheap.
It’s purpose is to give you leverage bending big branches.
The trick to raffia; separate out 4 or so strands
Tie them at one end
And either tie the knotted end to the trunk or wrap the raffia over the knot when you start applying.
And wrap it as tight as you can.
Especially if you’re an idiot like me and you try to do this in July.
What purpose does the raffia serve?
I’m going to try to bend the trunk, right?
When you bend any branch the place where it’s most likely to break is on the out side of the curve. This is where the most stress is. If you wrap a branch in raffia (or whatever you use) the tension is now on the raffia and not the outer bark. (In fact, the bark under the raffia will be compressed now, not stretched).
Cool beans, it means no torn bark and less stress (especially if you’re an idiot like me and… you get the point).
The raffia also will protect the bark from the heavy wire I’m putting on it.
Now for the implement of dee-struction
Recruit a helper, in this case, it’s James
And bend. I do not recommend using this tool without hands on teaching with an experienced teacher.
Grunt, groan, pop a few blood vessels…..this tree is tough.
I think I bent it-
I need just a little more though (a boo-yah to the first person who can tell me why you are not supposed to put more than three wires on a branch)
I think I need a guy wire.
There we go.
Scarily, there was one crack when I was bending.
So I’m asking for a collective finger-cross on this one.
Now that I have the juniper’s attitude adjusted (quick, what movie is this from “You need to change your attitude!”
” Oh yeah? Well you need to change your underwear!”) I can begin to select some branches.
I left these on top, maybe hoping to use them
but the angle they’re coming off the trunk is just too odd.
That’s better.
Now it goes quickly from here.
A little rearranging but little pruning.I’ll leave the branch tips long. I’ve stressed this tree enough
The strength of a juniper is in the growing tips. If you continually pinch the tips, the tree will slowly decline and you’ll lose branches.
The unveiling….
And front
A before pic

Since this is the first styling, and the pads are a little rough, here’s a drawing to give you an idea of where I see the future direction of the tree going

How do I care for this tree after this brutal treatment?
I’m going to put it in some shade I think. Make sure the humidity stays up around it (which is easy, we won’t have below 100% humidity until September). And let it grow. I can’t do much else now, can I?
Wish me luck!

7 thoughts

  1. Inspiring post Adam! I’m 4 weeks into a major branch bend on a procumbens nana. My sensei had lead the effort as it was all new to me. All went well until the final bend at the top and . We had done the full raffia wrap and triple wire spread under the raffia to add support. We backed off the bend a bit and are crossing fingers that the top stays alive. Either way, it’s a really great and transformative procedure adding huge value to ordinary shrubs.

    Hoping all is still going well with yours.


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