The other day my friend Seth came over with the hope that I could give him some pointers on working with junipers.
He’s entering a competition that will be using junipers as the tree and he’s never worked on them before.
I told him to come on over and I’d do my best to slap some learnin’ on him.
He picked out this parsoni juniper from the nursery.
He was a little intimidated in his fear he started to strangle it right off the bat.
I told him that he must become one with the juniper. See its point of view, walk a mile in its shoes, all those homilies.
That’s better, whisper in its ear, caress it’s roots and give it a kiss.
It has some good deadwood to begin with but we decide it needs more.
This is the tough love part of the relationship.
We call it “scissor discipline”
Remove the foliage, then, take your Jin pliers and crush the bark (not the wood though) and it peels of pretty easily.
While he’s doing that (which he seems to be having a little trouble with) I’ll start work on my Brazilian raintree.
I’ll just be defoliating, removing the wire and repotting.
The wire is biting in some areas and the leaves are too small to my eyes (It’s in a growing phase) which tells me that it’s root bound.
Seth has successfully debarked the first Jin and cleaned the old deadwood.
He’s still having a little trouble getting into the spirit of the juniper.
Ah, here’s one reason, instead of walking in the trees shoes, he’s walking in his grandfathers shoes.
He’s like 22 and he’s into Lil B and hip hop and all, he should be wearing like Vans or Adidas or something.
But these are literally (and actually even) his grandfathers shoes.
And his granddaddy ain’t Kimura.
To initiate him further and transport his spirit into the juniperus astral plane I make him chew on a juniper berry.
This is how I get into “The Zone” when I work on junipers.
Now, I’m not sure if the look on his face is from the taste….
….or that he took the berry from my dirty hands, but I don’t think he’s enjoying it.
But he does get back to work.
And trim a few overlong branches.
What’s that you see?
Let’s see to what purpose we can put it to.
We are gonna do some high fallutin’, rare air, super duper specialized technique!
First, grasp the Jin with your pliers and heat a spot on the Jin where you want to bend it.
It’s amazing but heating the wood is just like heating metal. Once it gets to a certain temp, the branch just bends.
All the turgidity just let’s go and you’re able to manipulate the Jin.
When you have it where you want it you have to put some water on it or let it cool enough and it will hold its shape.
It’s like magic!
What is happening is the water and resin inside the branch is heating to boiling, which causes the branch to become malleable.
If you have an old, dry Jin, the process requires soaking the branch and wrapping it with a wet paper towel, then wrapping that with aluminum foil, and then heating it.
It’s an old wood workers trick for making wood furniture with curves.
Enough fun, I’ll leave Seth to the next Jin and the branch cleanup; I have to repot my BRT.
Just like the last one I did, this tree is full of roots.
Nice healthy roots with lots of those nitrogen fixing nodules on them (you’ll have to search the blog for previous posts on them).
I would like to point out to certain people in the bonsai community two facts.
The mix I used in this tree is at least 1/3 calcined clay and 1/3 pine bark. The last third is red lava.
I’m going to try a root cutting.
I’m not sure if it’ll work but I’ll let you know.
I potted it up quickly and now it’s back to the juniper.
I have Seth keep all of the branches and then I whisper into his ear the secret of the juniper……wire.
The juniper is a tree that needs wire to shape it.
You can’t just chop off what you don’t like and wait for new stuff to grow.
Ain’t nobody got time for that.
And in a competition especially, you need foliage to make the tree look good.
So….wire wire wire!
Put the branches where you need them.
This wiring for shape is, in my opinion, what makes junipers easier to do. They are like sculpting with clay as opposed to sculpting with rock.
And it’s also why the professional bonsai houses in Japan prefer conifers to broadleaf trees.
They develop faster (and therefore they’re more profitable) than growing, say, a Japanese maple.
It takes many years to get the ramification needed on a maple to really get that tree shape; a juniper fills in, after a styling, in a year.
Quick flip, that’s the game.
Moving trees and making yen.
Once you understand the concepts of using what you have, thinking with three dimensional vision, and wiring the branches where they need to go, you’ve figured out junipers.
Oh, seasonality is important too, as far as horticultural is concerned. You must keep the tree alive.
And that’s the lesson I tried to teach Seth.
I hope he (and you) learned something.
Which tree is the winner?
I don’t know.
Seth has his own blog called Another, Aspiring that you should check out (click here).
He works on some pretty cool tropical material that will amaze you.
Wish him luck in the competition.
He’s going up against some pretty talented people.