Care of a Complicated Juniper

In this video I take a challenging San Jose Juniper and show you the thinking process behind deciding on how to create a bonsai from this material – it’s quite drastic!

I have here a very very interesting project that has been brought to me by one of my alumni friends and this is an extremely interesting but very complicated tree it is i think a type of variegated san jose because the habit and foliage is like a san jose except that it is got these yellow specks on it let me just say something about the variegation in trees there are quite a few trees that are variegated variegated means you get yellow and green you get it in nasturtiums many herbaceous plants not often in trees but you do get it in trees some of the chemicals lost in cyprus you can get it variegated but for some reason in oriental folklore which is the basis of most of the bonsai tradition variegated plants are not often used you know these specks of yellow it’s not a pure green i don’t know why that is maybe because it could be a bit distracting so i just say that in passing but that is not the main consideration in choosing a plant okay now this plant is interesting and i will just get um my friend shobo to just say something about it so can you just tell me the source of this and the history of this plant uh so this was a guy who is based somewhere close to luton who got this plant and he then he planted it on the ground and he uprooted it and put it in a bucket and then he decided that he wanted to make this into a windsurf design and after a couple of months he lost sight and lost interest and then what he did was he was he put it up on facebook that he was throwing it away or somebody who won’t actually come so i drove all the way down to luton got this train to my car and drove back and for the last nine ten months all i’ve been doing is i’ve just been feeding this plant keeping it in the corner who did some of this i noticed that there’s some wiring and ginning and all that is that your work yes so i’ve been trying to go with the same logic that if i were to make this into a winchester how do i make one front yeah i can see why the thinking of the windswept because it sweeps to that side but for my thinking so what did you have in mind just sweep all the branches there actually i was thinking of making a couple of dead wood and removing some of the branches and making much more or the other option is to take it off the pot and make it into a cascade with that being the apex so these were the two ideas i had when i was going so i was actually growing it more into that direction than into this so this side i kept me and the growth has been in this direction okay okay this plant is growing well uh obviously nothing’s been done to it since well this as i say is a very challenging plant and whenever i get a complicated and challenging plant what i do is i leave it around and i look at it i remember i used to have a very complicated you and a juniper in fact we have lots of complicated trees here that are left lying in the nursery and people wonder why they’re lying in the nursery and there’s a good reason why i leave it lying around the nursery it’s left lying on the nursery because every time i pass the tree i look at it and in my mind i say to myself now what can i do to it you know can i do it this way can i do it that way so the thought process is always there so it’s in the back of the mind and it can go into the subliminal recesses of the mind and you begin to say to yourself is it possible to do it this way is it possible to do it that way so all these things are turned around in your mind and because trees can be complicated sometimes it is not a good idea to take rash decisions i know that i can work fast and i can think fast when it comes to doing bonsai but there are instances where a bit of thought uh might be useful so as my friend shona said there are many possibilities because the plant is growing this way the natural tendency for most people is that it could make a nice windswept going that way all right it is possible but if it is going to be a windswept i think it needs to be rationalized a bit because it’s too fussy there’s too much going on in the tree you can’t see the actual tree for all the density of branches let’s look at it this side there is so much going on here that it is a bit confusing there’s this long branch going there so there is a possibility of a cascade but as with most of these things there are many many possibilities if you can turn it this way it can become like a more like a conventional tree so let’s turn it around and then lift it again so this part is quite interesting that could be made like an almost like an informal upright tree because of that beautiful bend there’s some bends there and then popping up there so it is exceedingly complicated let me take you through what i’m going to do by way of analysis i will begin by taking out some of these i know you’ve done all this wiring this is a bit confusing this is a bit confusing i don’t think we may need too much of that i know that young branches can be wired can be warm so i don’t get rid of thin branches it’s the thick branches which very often are the difficult ones but looking closer at the tree if you can bring the camera close i can see that there are like two trunks here so there’s a case of splitting that and making it into two trees see it’s not really it is connected but i think it can be split and made into two i think you have seen some videos where i do in fact do that so that is a possibility if i split it i will get a very interesting tree with just this part and the other part can make an interesting plant as well now let me just see if i can if i didn’t split it what could i get with that if i didn’t split it i could get that as a hand and this coming down this way so that is also possible see splitting it is irrevocable if i do it i can’t rescue it i can’t change my mind after that so that becomes quite a drastic choice to make but if i made a separate tree out of it i don’t think it would be anything spectacular it may be just taking a problem out of the way so this becomes a tree this part just this part becomes a separate tree so this you could get a windswept from that if i can just bring a bag this bag trick is very very useful i’ve shown it to you before but you will appreciate it when i show it to you now see i’ve now isolated this tree so this can form a separate tree so this bend is quite interesting so you could get an interesting tree from that might even be possible to bend that and could even get a sort of literary from that because of the interesting bend so this would form one tree let me just put another bag just to make it even more clear so what i want to emphasize really is that although bonsai is a form of gardening it is much more than that it is a very cerebral activity where there’s a lot of analysis goes into it so that is what i can separate out and this is going to be one tree which is not bad it’s quite interesting in fact quite interesting so that makes the problem less complicated if you have too much complication you remove part of it the rest becomes slightly simpler do not agree so that is the way i’m thinking okay so that is one option but as i said because it’s quite a drastic operation you can’t have recourse to using it for anything else but if i kept it what can i do with it is so complicated there and this part at the bottom is very very complicated it’s an absolute tangle you talk of it being an octopus there’s like two octopuses in there so since this is not my tree i always respect the owner’s choices i know i can only guide you so far so you got to tell me whether to separate it and then decide on this do one thing at a time what do you think i think we should separate separated okay because this is looking very pretty actually just this part okay so i’ve taken it out of the pot and i’ve just got a little axe and i’m going to try and split it let’s see what is the best position to work without blocking your view oopsie sometimes just by stamping it and tearing it apart i think i may use an old saw just stay there to initiate the cut [Music] so a lot of people ask me why i don’t use new saws i think using a new saw is a bit dangerous because it will blunt it so got to do it slowly i think i may have to cut the soil again so you can come and see what i’m doing over [Music] here reminds me of solomon you know you remember the lady who brought uh the twins or something and wanted to cut it in half and separate it must be like that cutting it in two there you are with a bit of patience as possible there you go two trees for the price of one how interesting is that and plenty root plenty root so there you are this is more manageable simpler so this is one tree one project uh this is not that difficult in fact i’m going to let shomo decide what to do so that he can practice his thought process i won’t tell him what to do you will have to come up with some ideas simple now now let’s look at this one because this is going to be easier to analyze now that i’ve got that debris out of the way i’ll just put it in a supporting pot so that it stands up now that we’ve separated the tree as i said that first part is more manageable then let’s analyze this one it’s all about analysis analysis so you can see why bonsai is such an interesting thing and if you have an analytical mind it makes it easier you’ve got to think out the process so let me just look at it from every possible side remember what i said every tree has more than one solution every problem has more than one solution you can’t just say that there is only one possibility this has got many many possibilities so the trunk base is quite interesting we could make it into a very short tree dumpy tree see these branches will regenerate this can be grown upright see i can see a very interesting curvy bit there so that looks very interesting if i can use that for some purpose the base of the trunk there because it’s thick that also is very interesting all that is probably useless if you look in there let’s go closer now look in there the question is how to get the best out of it even this curly bit is quite interesting this curly bit is quite interesting complete tangle of branches can you see anything i’m thinking get rid of many of the small ones and keep the big it was a shame though because some of the curly bits are quite interesting i know what you mean the other thing which i’m thinking is that if you want to create a cascade but then again then a couple of those will have to go the ones which are wired and all because yeah those are nothing they will definitely go they will all have to get it and then he will be much cleaner very tricky one so okay i’m still looking at that trunk there because that is beautiful it’s quite a thick trunk i don’t want to waste it and hide it any point hiding that right it’s too complicated all this seems to be pretty i wouldn’t say redundant but i don’t think we need it somehow okay this is very interesting so i will keep that this is not very interesting so i’m going to make a gin out of that so let me just show you what i do to make a gin so to make a gin i’m going to tear the wood too short here so i make a partial cut do you want to do it okay so we make a sloping cut yes halfway and then we tear the wood there but we don’t need such a long branch otherwise it becomes difficult to tear let me just shorten that branch a bit usually with workshops if you’re here to learn you need to practice it otherwise if you don’t practice it then you will never learn okay so wear a glove so that you don’t cut your okay okay so we cut a sloping cut halfway and then we tear there to get a tab okay that is about enough you’re pulling it downwards so you’re ripping it okay maybe cut a little more otherwise you may not have enough here cut little deeper remember it’s cutting on the pull stroke okay now now that should be enough now you pull it maybe take it on the floor it’s easier to do it that way put it on the floor no no no don’t take it and put it on the ground easier easier to handle it’s a bit awkward like that i can see you struggling okay light flat and now you’re going to just tear it away stamp stamp with your foot on the trunk yeah over there and just rip it downwards rip it downwards like that see like that like that like that yeah okay so that’s it that’s how we get a tear okay put it back there so we’re trying to simplify the problem at every stage so now we got rid of one you see that that’s the effect you get from tearing you see how nice that is huh so that’s how we produce the ginger so you learned something there okay so we got rid of that so i will now analyze the next step so we could still end up with a windswept this way or a semi cascade because these are quite nice yeah which side looking that way but i want to show the gins you see it’s possible don’t worry anything is possible as we say we keep an open mind keep an open mind the trouble is i can’t see enough of the trunk there so i know you like this windswept i’ll try and get the winds out of you it’s not a style that many people tackle because it’s difficult okay we do another gin now if we do a gin here like that partly cut over there and we rip it again somewhere here sloping cut you need to go about halfway when you’re halfway stop and then we will pull it don’t cut it right through now stop now stop now we’re going to rip it forward you can do it on the ground if you wish yeah very good beautiful beautiful that’s how you do it see if that’s how jensen did huh you’ve mastered it very good okay now you see it’s becoming even more uh sort of resolve we resolve something see now it’s more easy to visualize what we are trying to do before it was very complicated okay we take a break if you can just unwind those things you want because it’s a bit confusing so i’ve spent the past half hour just thinking of all the different options the options are complicated and confused because we have these long branches this long branch this long branch at the back and this long branch at the back because it’s curvy has some interest this is sweeping that side that has some interest this little top here is curvy that has some interest so i was thinking if you make a windswept uh make everything go that way just gin most of the branches and that would be one solution the other solution because of those curvy branches we could make it like a semi cascade going down like that but gin this that is possible with a little head there not that convincing because this is springing up again so chemist semi cascade wouldn’t work see these branches are very straight over there long this also this back branch here that’s very long here and then it curves like this one this goes straight and then it curves so they’re all not very interesting things so in considering all the options we got to look at it from all different sides if i made a tree like that like a multi-trunk tree that is also possible you know hope that branches will grow again so just shorten the branches and let all the small shoots grow and get a triangular tree that is possible also with a big base but you don’t want the tree bigger than this so a lot of these have to be cut off and you hope that new branches will spring again i still think that the beauty is in the trunk here this is a very interesting trunk and i don’t want to waste it the concentration should be around there so this is causing real real problem for me see this is interesting but it curves here but it’s too far away from that curve there it may be more interesting so it’s too long a branch to do anything with it so what are the other options we’ve got to look at all the different options there are about six or seven options uh one possible option would be all right if we put it upright like this i’m just thinking what we can do with that see this curvy little branch here this is very cute like that it’s already made curve there this could make the head of a tree these could be used and i still want to concentrate on the trunk there in fact we could look at it from this side or that side but these for me are too long too long much too long i bet you viewers are trying to analyze what i’m trying to analyze what are the different options but as i said difficulty indeed but although these big branches there look interesting i think somehow they won’t fit into the scheme of things so if we were to shorten those or eliminate it again this is where this famous bag trick although i can visualize it in my mind there’s always a case for using this back trick if you use the back trick you will start to see the options emerging so if i use that as the apex and wire these branches to this side i could get like a triangular shape like so and then gin the rest that could be interesting so like a semi windswept with lots of gin and still have some green to make it interesting enough uh pity i was going to use these i don’t think somehow they would fit into the design and it could look nice on the other side as well so we’ve got some very very major decision to make that means those big branches at the back these two branches will have to be shortened to make ginger this one and this one shortened to make gin so because this is not my tree i’ve got to ask the owner what he wants to do i’ve made a suggestion but the choice is is that means this we’re going to maybe make a bit longer in here cut it there rip it in the front because that is probably going to be the front it although it doesn’t matter which front it is maybe pull it this way and shorten this gin to about there what do you think oh it could look nice ah it will look nice you take quick decision okay right i’ll let you do the gin let me just shorten the branch and make it easier to pull just hold the camera for a while we’re going to shorten it okay you’re filming i’m going to shorten so it makes it easier to pull what a shame got rid of that and this one we are going to maybe shorten there and then you can still make the cut to pull it less is more okay so we’ve reduced it a bit you’re beginning to see it the more debris you get out of the way you begin to see the solution so i suggest if you make a cut somewhere here you can either do with secateurs if you wish you don’t always have to use the saw make a partial cut like that sloping away in all my books i explain it so you make a partial cut like so let me do this one then you can do the other one so once you’ve done that and then with the gin pliers or any other tool to grip it we will tear the wood away so having made the cut we’re going to stir too much so it’s just to facilitate the tear oh god harder than i think it was maybe i’ll make it shorter than more leverage foreign that’s what we want to be able to tear the wood and this one if i make a cut there then you can have a go tearing the wood through you can go have a go at pulling that see if it breaks yeah good turn it away yeah pull it as far as it’ll go that’s it perfect perfect perfect perfect that’s the effect you get from tearing the order so that’s how you make it so we hold the camera i’ll just show you again for the benefit of those who are new then you reduce the tip to make it more of a point i’m using a root cutter or you can use bronze splitter as well so that’s how we make the jins and then because this is a live branch the bark will come away very easily it will come away very easily so we can refine these in a moment even this one do it bit by bit don’t do it in one fell swoop just do bit by bit to tear away maybe like a 10 millimeter thick and then we remove the box from there see now it’s beginning to look like a bottom side straight away just by removing those thick branches so as we say sometimes you’re very greedy you want to keep everything it doesn’t always work like that these we keep because we can make genuine those as well even like that it becomes begins to look interesting begins to look very interesting a lot of possibilities and even these we are going to gin this one so join it up to there i’ll just stir that this very useful tool to have see that so you just remove all the bulk you’re beginning to see something i think we don’t need this either let’s even use your tension with little kitchen knife also you can use quite good pen knife kitchen knife see all these little bits of your gin looks very dramatic so that would be gender this whole thing from here all that is gender and i’ll give it to you to take home and you can generate that also so the gins have been scraped we still need to make some adjustments to it they’re just roughly peeled back but we haven’t refined the gins i think i want to create some basic shape to the bonsai so i can see where i’m going so i will just wire the branches and we will take it from there until we wire the branches and put them in place we won’t get an idea as to what it would look like so if only you could fast forward the six months i guarantee you it would look quite different because the foliage would have grown more but till then we will just have to visualize what it looks like and then the central portion i’m going to give more twist to it so i’m going to give a double coil of wire there’s quite a lot of wire being used this is where if you use copper wire it’s a harder wire stronger wire but difficult to handle i don’t like using copper wire because i think most of our viewers will find it exceedingly difficult to handle copper so i don’t want to confuse people so here we are we’ve potted it in this temporary plastic training pot and it reminds me of a big needle juniper that i had so it’s got a nice shape with plenty gins and considering what it started off life as so this is only one half of the tree there is the other half to come and i will just turn it around to show you in this case most of the gins are on this side you must be asking why is it on this side it is on this side although we can’t see it full frontal having them at the back doesn’t make it look so uh obtrusive jumping out at your face as it was so it and adds a bit of interest you know there’s perspective in the gins there so all we now need to do is refine the gins a little more and when it’s dried we can put lime sulfur and i bet you anything in six months time when it gets more foliage it will look a delightful tree so i hope the owner is pleased with it and we will show you the other tree [Music] you

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