Instant reward with Blaauw juniper

 

It’s almost needless to say that junipers are the most popular material for bonsai. They can withstand lots of work done in a short period of time. Available at most nurseries in all kinds of varieties and sizes. They are almost ready to work on and instant satisfaction is yours. We show you what you can do with a simple Blaauw juniper.

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Analysing the tree: Long branches with plenty of small, scale-like leaves. Top section is very strong and needs to go. Lots of flexible branches to choose from. Slight curve in the trunk.

Analysing the tree

We have chosen to work on this Blaauw juniper, strong and vertically growing with small scaly leaves. These are quite easily obtainable in nurseries because they are popular as garden shrubs. Fresh junipers arrive in spring and you can pick and choose the best one. A downside of the Blaauw is that it has a very stalky trunk which is sometimes rather too straight, so we went down on our knees to look for a trunk with a slight curve.

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Dominique checks if the lower thick branch at the base is of any use in the design
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Tilting the tree towards the left will improve the movement of the trunk
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These branches are now just too vertical
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We need to solve the problem of the dull part in the trunk,’ Dominique says
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After removing the thicker branches at the base and shortening the top
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A slanting style will be the best option

Removing the branches

The middle part of the trunk is quite straight, but by tilting the tree to the left the movement is improved, creating a more slanting style and using the branches at the upper part. This means that the thicker lower branches have to be removed because in this new position they would face upright.
A more slanting style is suitable for this tree using its upper branches to create the major, side and top branches.

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The stumps are made into jin using concave pliers to circle cut the bark and peel it off

Making jin and shari

Jin and shari are features that very much belong to a juniper. In mountainous regions you will encounter junipers with deadwood caused by falling rocks or by the weight of snow. Wind, sand and sun shape soft deadwood leaving only the harder core wood. It’s a very dramatic effect which we can easily mimic in juniper bonsai. A young tree can become far more interesting and a sense of age is added instantly. In the Blaauw juniper especially, you can use some deadwood to add more interest and disguise the stalky trunk.

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Using jin pliers to pull splints of wood
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Carefully peeling off splints of wood to create a more rugged surface
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‘I use a small sharp knife to cut through the bark and then peel it off’
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With the concave pliers you can make a cut into the wood and peel off a part

 

 

 

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The result after making the stumps into jin
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Seen from the right side, a small shari at the base
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The stump before removing the bark
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The stump at the top part needs to be made into a jin, too. Again, concave pliers are used to tear of the bark
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With a sharp knife I make a v-shaped incision to incorporate the jin with a small shari. This makes it look as if the top was torn off by a storm or falling rocks
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Concave pliers are very handy tools to create a jin

 

 

Wiring the tree

Wiring junipers is easy, they are very forgiving and are flexible. Try to combine branches with a single wire letting the wire start at the top, or so-called ‘branch shoulder’ so that it starts at the outside of the curve.
Blaauw junipers are somewhat more brittle than the normal chinensis variety, so I use aluminium wire. Some branches at the top need a small layer of wet raffia for protection. Wire always in the direction the branch is bent.

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‘Because the foliage mostly grows beneath the branches I will gradually rotate them while wiring to make them somewhat more horitzontal’
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Anchor the wire around the trunk and then wire the next branch
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One wire is combining two branches; here the first branch below is wired with the one back branch

This branch will be bent in a curve. So, to give extra protection, I have wrapped it in raffia, using the jin as the anchoring point.
The two ends of the raffia come together at the tip of the branch and are tied together

 

 

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Then the branch which will serve as the top is wired

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The main branch is positioned
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I wire and bend the top branch then take a look to see if it still needs further bending
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To create a fine ‘swing’ in the top part of the tree the branch needed more bending
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Once the main shape is set I continue with the detail wiring. The smaller side branches are wired.

Carefully wiring the very small side branches at the top. These need to grow into dense foliage pads.

From shrub to bonsai

Just a shrub, only with long branches | Top and lower side branches are cut off | Top branch (right) and main branch (left)

The result so far

With junipers you can receive an almost instant result, very rewarding. However, this little tree still needs time to grow dense foliage pads, which will make it look more mature. In the spring of next year it can be repotted safely. The wires must be monitored in autumn; if some start to become a rather tight they may be removed.
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Text and photography: Bonsai Focus Studio
Skills: Dominique Bosch