The raft style. Not so sure about it….it seems, I don’t know, almost like cheating or faking. Or, it’s what one does with inadequate material. Kinda like when you make a tree with branching only on one side into a windswept. A last resort when you have nothing left to do. A cop out. 

Or it’s one of those collectable styles. You know, you’ll hear people say, “I don’t have a raft or a cascade yet, or a black pine. Do you know where I can get a ginkgo?  I need all of those in my collection.” 

Before I get into more trouble, let me show you what I’m working on today.  

 It’s a juniper raft I inherited when my friend, Juan, passed away.  

 A raft-style bonsai is a one that is mimicking a tree that may have toppled in the forest (did you hear it, I didn’t, but I’m sure it made a noise. Well, I can extrapolate the fact of the noise a tree makes when hitting the ground and must assume this to be the case even if I’m not there to observe it. And don’t give me the quantum space bullshit, that’s only for minutiae in the quantum world. Unless…..Whoah, we are some other spaces quantum phenomena……hmmmmnnn, this world could be nothing more than a neuron, firing in some mega-massive rat trying to navigate an ultra-massive alien scientist’s maze, searching for a bit of cheese. Or, wait, we, us, we could be….the cheese! I am the cheese! I AM THE CHEESE!) but the tree, having fallen down, doesn’t die. Instead, it’s branches begin to grow up as though they are individual trees. And you get a little grove or stand of trees. It’s an interesting idea and it does happen in nature. (i….am…..the…..cheese….)

I did check under the trunk and it has thrown down roots, so it is truly a raft (as opposed to those cheap knock-off fakes made by non-unionized labor for the shopping mall parking lot market). 

This one is even “breaking the fourth wall” so to speak.  

  It’s saying to the audience,

 “Hey, lookameee! I’m a tree! I fell down but I’m still alive! Can you hear me man?!”

Breaking the fourth wall, which is usually reserved for works of fiction, like a TV show’s character looking at the camera and talking directly to the audience, doesn’t really apply to bonsai…..or, does it?  

Back to the idea of a raft bonsai. Here’s how one could be made. 

There are even times when a raft has been made by nature and one simply collects it. I know of at least three Florida bonsai artists who collected bald cypress that had been knocked down from one of the various 2005 hurricanes we experienced. They all thought they had a unique tree. I was sorry to let them down.  

The roots have adapted well to the sideways planting. 

I might’ve left some sticking up myself. 

I won’t be keeping this little ficus in the planting. Although it is cute. 

First step with working on a juniper is to clean up and remove the brown needles, the weak growth, those shoots growing in the crotches of branches and any that don’t need to be there for the design or health of the tree.  

All these hangie bits above need to go. But keep as many growing tips as you can. As has been coined “the STRENGTH (picture a young bonsai professional making a fist and flexing his biceps when you read this) of a juniper is in the foliage!”  

When you prune, don’t pinch every tip, prune out long shoots instead. 

Some wire.  

The idea in this first styling is to position each branch so that it fits the design but, more importantly, that they are all able to reach the sun.  


When styling for health, the tree tends to look a little spindly, due to the spreading of branches so that the sun gets inside.  

Still, it looks better than it did.  

Since I’m here, let me update you on a clump-style ficus I worked on today as well.  

 Bonsai development is a series of prunings and growings and your tree may only be “pretty” for short intervals in between them. Much the same way many people don’t look good just after a haircut. 

So, haircut time.  

As you can now see, I’m getting the branches to build the structure, they just need ramification and thickness. If you’d like. click here, to read this trees first blog appearance. I originally got it from Paul Pikel. 

Here’s a nifty virtual for your enjoyment.  

It’ll be a cool tree one day. As will the raft.  

It’s growing on me. It’ll fill in and be a mini forest-y planting. It needs a new pot, but I think one where I can still keep the fourth wall broken, just to annoy those certain people of whom the title, Bonsai Police, could be applied. 

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