Last summer I picked up this little juniper for a couple bucks from the section of the garden center where they put the plants that don’t look so good. In fact, this particular garden center calls it the TLC area.
The fall show for my bonsai club is coming up in a couple of weeks. Our fall show is open to any member who would like to bring trees to show, and it is not judged. It’s just a great opportunity to share bonsai with the public.
I know several of our most experienced members will have trees unavailable for the show because of another exhibition, so I really would like to show at least two bonsai. Looking over my trees though, I felt like there was only one in “showable” condition. Maybe I could get this San Jose Juniper (Juniperus chinensis ‘San Jose’) cleaned up and ready to show.
It’s a bit sloppy at the moment. Let’s see what I can do. First, I need to get the moss off the trunk. I want to get as much moss off the bark as possible without damaging the bark texture, so it’s careful tweezers work.
Then it’s really all about wiring the branches so I can position them and clean up the shape of the tree. I’d like to do this while removing as little foliage as possible. The tree is doing well, but I don’t want it to lose any strength for this.
I wire the lowest branch first.
For this Juniper, I went with a pale, bluish lichen and moss mix. I think it looks nice.
Ficus Benjamina. Not always considered outstanding material for bonsai, but it is readily available and will survive indoors, so I suspect it is used as bonsai more than many species — even if by the inexperienced and curious.
Mine is not dissimilar as this is a tree I have had since my early years in the art. By my records, I’ve had this plant for a solid 20 years.
I’ve been warned that F. Benjamina can die back if you don’t leave a leaf at each growing tip, but that creates an odd challenge. You see, I like to see the tree structure when I prune, and I don’t know which leaf will be at the tip until all of the decisions are made. So, here’s hoping for a strong growth response.
After removing the leaves I do some initial pruning.
I was struck when I took an initial look at this redbud today. As it is shown below, there is a tip toward the front at the apex and there are branches at textbook locations on the larger trunk: left, back, right, left, back, right. It was almost too good to be true, so I moved it to the bench and grabbed some wire to start this young tree on the path.
Closer examination told a different story. This next picture shows the base (with some poorly applied wire) from the same front as above. Can you see how it curves under and back as it meets the soil?
Branches were wired down and new growth pruned a bit to encourage some branching. Unfortunately, the tip at the apex, which now goes in the wrong direction, had to be removed leaving what’s left of the apex rather skimpy.
I’m trying to quit tropicals. They were for me, and are for many, a great way into bonsai, but I just don’t have appropriate indoor space for very many tropicals to overwinter.
Trying to quit really means I am just trying not to get any more. I have seven ficus (of a few different varieties) and don’t want more than that. This also means resisting the urge to root any large cuttings. Because ficus are so easy to propagate, this is sometimes challenging to resist.
Ok, I’ve said my piece, now let me get onto today’s tree.
I started this tree from a cutting all the way back in the beginning of my bonsai journey, over 20 years ago. It’s been on that rock for years, and I just put into this new pot which fits it much better than the oversized blue pot it has been in.
Now for some wire.