Styling A Shohin Juniper Itoigawa By Lewis
This was a little tree we had for sale on our website and shows what can be done with some of the material we offer for sale here at Premier Bonsai. These little Junipers were imported from Japan this year (2017) I selected this particular tree because i saw lots of potential hidden underneath the ball of foliage. It has a very interesting little trunk with lots of movement and good branch placement. The nebari was also reasonable although a little one sided. The tree had plenty of growing tips so i knew it was growing well.
The first step for this tree was to thin out the foliage by pruning the growing tips and removing undesirable foliage. Undesirable foliage can be a mixture of different types of growth. Shoots or branches growing straight up or down from another branch are usually removed as they aren't desirable when styling a bonsai tree. You want shoots and branches to be growing from the sides of other branches. Very weak shoots that will never amount to anything are also removed as they are a waste of energy. Energy that could be going to more important areas of the tree. Growth right in the forks of branches are also removed as you only want your branches to fork into two and not three or more. It can also create thickening and knuckles at the junctions if this growth is left unchecked. If the growth / shoot is a little further away from the fork i.e down the branch away from the junction it can be kept and potentially cut back to later once the branch in front has grown to thick or large. Protect these young shoots by allowing plenty of light and air to circulate around them or as the tree ages it will just keep getting bigger and bigger as there won't be anything to cut back to. Cutting back to these younger shoots is how bonsai are kept small over a long period of time. This also creates taper in branches giving trees a more aged look.
Now the tree has been thinned you can really see the branch structure and shape of the trunk. We haven't removed a huge amount of foliage, just enough to give the tree a lighter feel and to open some spaces between the branches. Now this is done it's time to clean the trunk and branches by removing the old flaky bark and cleaning with a water and a bonsai cleaning brush revealing the beautiful rich red colour underneath. This is probably my favourite job when working on Junipers. Its amazing the difference removing pieces of flaky bark can make to the overall shape and look of a trunk. It often reveals radical twists, shapes and creases in the trunk that couldn't be seen before. This is a very satisfying task when working with Junipers. Once completed the deep red colour really contrasts well with the bright green foliage.
After the trunk was cleaned it was time to decide on a front view. Originally i had planed to use the front that can be seen in the before picture but after inspecting other options i managed to find a much better front that really shows off the shape of the trunk and branch placement.
Now we have our front sorted i decided we needed to add a little interest in the way of a couple of small shari and a small jin. These were carved using a sharp scalpel and some jin pliers. These will be allowed to dry out a little before we apply any lime sulphur to bleach them white.
The tree was then wired and the branches were placed trying to keep the bottoms of the lower pads as flat as possible. A small guy wire was used on the lowest branch to lower it a little further. The lowest branch was over to the left side of the tree so it made sense for the direction and the feature pad go off to the left. The majority of the nebari was also on the left giving the tree a stable and balanced look. There wasn't really any major bending involved, just lightly placing branches into place and adding slight movement. The tree will be fed and watered well then left to recover for a good while. Once the tree is growing strong it will produce lots of growing tips and we will be able to tighten the image further and define the pads even more.
Of course this is just my take on where i see this little Juniper heading in the future. If someone else had this tree to work on they could well have found other and possible better options. This is the amazing thing about bonsai. The options are sometimes endless. People have different views and ways of looking at things and it can really keep things fresh when styling bonsai trees.