How to Restore And Design An Old Chinese Juniper Bonsai

Restoring an old Juniper Bonsai

Learn how to restore and design a Juniper Bonsai (Juniperus chinensis). In this video we show you how to prune and wire a Juniper bonsai of about 20-25 years old. The tree has two trunks which we incorporate in its design.

This is a Chinese juniper that I have had in my collection for the last 15 years. And in this video I will show how to bring this Bonsai back in shape. After pruning and wiring, this was the result. [After] The Juniper is about 20 to 25 years old I styled it 15 years ago, and maybe another 12 years ago and after that I more or less forgot about it. So what happened is that the tree grew out of proportion. Long shoots everywhere, the tops are quite heavy. So it’s in need for some reshaping. There’s two problems that I’d like to solve right away: The two tops are more or less the same height and ideally I’d like it to be a little bit more triangular so this top will have to be reduced in size. What I could do is remove all this and use this branch as the new apex. So that’s one. And the other thing is the tree is a little bit boring right now. Even if we would set it back in shape and clean it, it would look much better but still it’s a bit too standard. So I’m thinking about removing this branch which will really open up this area. And then using the back branch right now, and bring it a little bit more to the front which will just make the design a bit more open, and a bit more interesting. It’s late fall right now, so it’s a very good time to do this kind of work on a Juniper The juniper is already slowing down its growth so if you do any pruning you won’t really harm the tree. But you can only do that on healthy trees, and this definitely is a healthy tree. All the growth is very strong, so it’s ready for styling today. The tools we use include wire, a wire cutter and a twig shear. When pruning larger branches, we’ll use a concave cutter. All these are available at specialized bonsai nurseries or on our website. If you’re just starting out though, feel free to use any standard pruning shears instead. Let’s begin by removing this main branch. I’ll leave a stump here, which I can make a jin and then we can see if we keep that jin or not. The second step that I wanted to make is reducing the height of this top. So I’ll use this branch as the new top and I can make a jin from this section. So instead of removing the entire old top, I’m just removing the foliage. The next step is pruning. This is a creative process, not bound by strict rules but the following guidelines will help you get started: Ideally we want our first branches positioned at about 1/3 the height of the trunk. Prune branches positioned lower on the trunk. We also remove branches that cross the trunk line especially those blocking our view on the front of the tree. We also prune heavy upward growth. Finally, we remove dangling growth, to prepare for wiring. Deciding on the design of a bonsai isn’t always easy especially when a tree is as full and overgrown as this plant. Try to apply the pruning guidelines we just mentioned to your own trees. And if you are interested to learn more about these techniques consider enrolling in one of our online bonsai courses. Here, expert teachers explain the relevant techniques and you can ask them questions. For a free lesson, go to: This tree is dense, and we are pruning a lot of branches. Classic bonsai design usually starts with a main branch on the back of the tree followed by branches on the sides of the tree. This pattern then continues up until the apex of the tree with branches higher on the trunk gradually reducing in length and size. The front is the most open part of the tree as you want to be able to see the trunk. We remove the bark from the branch which makes the tree look a bit older. The bark of the apex that we reduced in size will also be removed, which is called a Jin. Ok, finished pruning and cleaning up the tree. Almost half of the foliage is now gone and all the branches now have a bit more structure. So the next step is wiring, at least all the bigger branches and we’ll see if we do a little bit more detail wiring as well. One thing that you can notice if you rotate the tree and see it from the side is that it’s leaning a little bit backwards so we’re thinking of changing the angle a little bit more towards this. And also not making the front exactly here. A little bit more like here. So that would make – the tree will be more or less like this. But first, let’s start wiring. Next we wire the main branches starting with the lower branches and slowly working our way up to the apex. Try to wire two branches with one piece of wire. Between these two branches make sure to wrap the wire at least once around the trunk for stability. We aim to apply the wire at an angle of 45 degrees. The wire should be thick enough to hold the branch in the desired shape once we bend it. A rule of thumb is to use a wire of about 1/3 to 1/2 the thickness of the branch you are wiring. Alright, we are at around 2/3 of the wiring done. Like I said, we’re changing the angle a little bit more to tilt this towards the viewer. Like that. And by wiring, there’s also a few more branches that I feel should go. One important branch that I’m about to remove is this one. It’s very thick and heavy, and growing exactly towards you. Quite frankly, it’s just not a very nice branch. So this is the first one. Again I’m leaving a stump that we can use to make a jin out of or maybe remove it after all. Moving up the tree, there’s a few branches here, and definitely around here as well and we need to make a selection. With this branch I think I will keep this one to form a back branch. But this branch over here, that has to go as well. It’s growing towards the third trunk so I’m taking that one out as well. Alright. And then there’s one more, you might have already seen it here. It’s a very thick section, and straight, and then suddenly there’s this [twigs out] Not a very good looking branch, so this one is also going out. I think for now that helps. And we continue the wiring set this branch in position, but we are almost done. Once you finish wiring the branches you can start shaping them moving your way up the trunk towards the apex of the tree. Alright, all done. Wired, pruned, changed the angle and the tree really made a big step today. So what will happen next? It’s fall right now so that means that the tree will slow down for winter and then in the next early spring it will start growing and probably grow very strong because we took away a lot of the foliage. So from the moment that the tree starts to grow again I will keep pruning the outer sides, and especially the top side as well just to bring that backbudding back in the tree and so that becomes more dense on the inside. But the tree, it’s looking much better than it did a few hours ago so I’m very pleased with this. Make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you can see the progress of this tree over time. Keep a close eye on the branches as the wires might create ugly marks on the branches as they grow thicker. Usually wires need to be removed in about 3-4 months’ time. Learn how to create your own bonsai trees by enrolling in one of our online bonsai courses. We explain techniques like pruning, wiring and repotting and you can ask questions to the teachers. For the curriculums and free lessons, go to:

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