The advantage of starting with a better tree

This time I’m starting off with a really good specimen that I picked up from D&L Nursery up near Ocala (great people, great trees, if you get a chance to visit I highly suggest it. Their website is
Here’s the tree:
What has gone before: the work I’ve done previously is a little Jinning on some branches and I transferred it from a nursery container with regular soil into a bulb pan with bonsai soil. That’s about it.
This post and the finished product will really demonstrate that the more advanced the material the better the finished product.
As a wise man once told me, if you work on great trees, you’ll be considered a great artist.
It’s very twisty, as is indicative of the variety.
You’ll notice the jins.
I’ll be adding more.
The nebari (root spread) is quite nice for a juniper and the trunk movement is beyond good, it’s “hell’s yeah mad good”.
If you were examining the pictures above you noticed some browning on the foliage.
A common question I get is “my juniper is turning brown, is it dying?”
The answer: probably not. The browning on this tree is occurring on the interior and the shaded branches. Which is natural, as foliage doesn’t last forever and shaded foliage tends to die anyway. As long as you have green, growing tips,
the tree is healthy. Mostly.
Not to mention that back budding is a real good indication of health, not death.
The first step in working on a juniper is removing the brown, weak, and unwanted foliage.
The next step is cleaning the bark.
The reason we do this is not just to bring out that nice red color but it actually keeps the tree growing and, therefore, young.
Next, I’ll create some more deadwood

It’s important to leave those little twigs, especially on a smaller tree.
I’ve too often seen big, chunky Jin on itty bitty trees and the scale is just thrown off and the illusion is ruined.
Scale and proportion and detail are more crucial the smaller the size of the tree, which is why a well done shohin tree could have twice as much value (and price tag) than a chuhin size tree.
One of the most satisfying comments I’ve had is “Wow, that tree looks a lot bigger in the photographs!”
This will be the approximate front (my regular readers know I like to change fronts as the whim suits me)
First thing I’m going to do is, using a guy wire (and it is “guy” wire and not “guide” wire. Sorry, a pet peeve), lower the leader and turn it into a side branch.
The technique is one I’ve learned from Paul Pikel: you make a loop around the branch and a larger “something” below and, using a small piece of wire, twist that loop in the middle, pulling the branch down with each twist.
A clever and effective lowering technique.
Now, finally, I’m getting to the theme of the title: better material.
This tree will look much more finished at the end of this post than the last couple of junipers I’ve posted about.
I’ll take the time to wire every branch and place them where they need to go and it’ll actually look like I know what I’m doing (This art is all trickery you know).
If you remember, I’ve called junipers easy (and been reamed out because of it)
One reason is that they like to grow into a canopy if you just leave them alone. (Look at the before pictures as evidence. I’ll even get comments asking why I went to so much trouble wiring every branch when the tree was full already.)
Another reason is the movability of the branches (the plasticity, if you will).
One instance, though I must admit, that is more difficult than with broadleaf trees is the difficulty of wiring. I could wire three ficus in the same time I wired this one junipers.
The foliage really gets in the way and the needles can be painful.
The top:
It definitely took a lot longer to wire this than a juniper of similar branch density.
Other side:
Aren’t those Jin pretty?
The tree before work (so you don’t have to scroll back up)
And now the finished piece:

If you want to see a 360 degree view here is the YouTube link (click here)
And if you’re on Instagram, click here.
I’ll repot this in January (hopefully I have a pot for it) at a class I’ll be teaching on the 26th.
I’ll put the info about the class and other upcoming events on it’s own page and if you’re interested, send me an email and I’ll put your name down (
See you in the movies!

About adamaskwhy

Visual artist specializing in bonsai, mostly.
This entry was posted in branch placement, styling bonsai and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The advantage of starting with a better tree

  1. Did you end up repotting this one? I’d love a follow up.


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