'NOTHING more than a magical green carpet,' this was literally the first thought that popped into my mind as I for the first time started working with what I believe has got to be the most irritating species of Juniper - and there are more than 76 species of this shrub/tree in the cypress family.
Head to any nursery you like, they don't even have to specialise in bonsai for you to be able to get your hands on one of these 'magical green carpets'.
Magical because, I believe they are very difficult to kill - except if you are a plant butcher who somehow has the inherent ability to slaughter innocent plants.
Irritating because their needles can be quite pointy.
Needless to say, I have come to love the sheer flexibility with these species of tree/shrub and, if you are looking at getting your hands dirty for the first time with bonsai, this might just be the right place to start.
Now, one of the Junipers I've been allowing to settle for quite a few years now is the one below.
Roughly, this 'tree' is about five or six years old and, was allowed to grow freely until I potted it earlier this year around March - I left it until the weekend to settle after the potting so as to allow the roots to take some firm grip before I actually got around to styling it.
During that time, I did do some occasional pruning to ensure that when the time came, I could simply go about what I wanted to do with the tree so as not to shock it too much. One should never force too much work onto a bonsai as the effects can be catastrophic regardless of which species you are working with.
Winter has come, so strictly speaking, I view this as the best time for styling as the tree is pretty dormant during this time.
As you can see, some work was done prior to potting the tree above, some minor pinching of new growth and existing growth to keep the tree in shape.
When I had the tree growing freely, one of the larger, upward growing branches got damaged and had to be removed however, the growth I've seen returned into the tree has been worth the sacrifice and will greatly add to the overall aesthetic value of the plant in a good few years - perhaps as many as ten years or so.
So what was I going to do with this plant: Many ideas were suggested by friends and family alike of which the most common suggestion was to cascade the tree but, I had other plans in mind as I started thinking of the possibilities some time ago.
Bring on the 'Ikadabuki' moment:
In nature, at times, trees are severely damaged through harsh elements causing them to break and fall, or simply become uprooted and fall flat down to the earth.
If the tree has a strong root support system, it may recover in its downward position and new growth or existing growth will of course then continue growing upward - my description of this is probably tacky at best but you should get an idea of what I am talking about.
Now, this tree had at the time probably attempted telling me subconsciously just what its future was while I deep down always knew what I wanted to do, hence Ikadabuki, or better known today as a 'raft style'.
I set to work carefully selecting which branches I wanted to keep and of course, which I did not. I knew full well that I would leave the growth at the opposite ends of the tree alone as I would continue to add more 'trees' in the years to come by utilising the new growth.
First and most importantly, although not part of the raft style, I wanted to give the tree a weathered look by stripping some of the bark off the branches in order to create some deadwood, adding a sense of age.
By the time the bark was removed safely, I treated it (very carefully!!!) with lime sulfur so as to avoid any possible infection.
Thereafter, I continued working on removing some of the growth I no longer needed in order to also better wire the tree and its branches and, within a matter of about an hour, I was done.
Above is an image showcasing the effort and, within the coming years, more work will be put into the tree to create 'cloud' formations using new growth which will be wired to grow sideways while maintaining the overall upward growth of each branch.
Some pieces of wire were left uncut so as to make some more changes as the time comes.
Although it doesn't look like much at the moment, the effort is sure to pay off and given some time, the tree, I'm sure, will look marvelous.
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