Watch Training Video as Expert Restyling a Juniper Bonsai

In this video I take a customers Juniper Tree and remove the wire and reshape the tree.

This is my first year of trying to be “logical” when it comes to not fearing my decision to cut thicker branches. I have in the past, cut larger branches thinking I am ruining the tree by taking away such older growth, but am learning that in many cases, the overall impression can be improved by not being selfish. Learning to envision an apex is still quite hard for me, when styling. I find myself always completely blown away by “organic” or “abstract” stylings, where vision is needed more. I have a VERY boring tendency to style, or TRY to style in very boring equilateral, upright styles. Seeing a possibility BEYOND the obvious, is what I wish I could develop myself. Great work on this…very impressive

Video Transcript β–Ό

so i have here one of the projects which customers bring to me because they don’t know what to do with it he has had this tree for more than 20 years and this is what i would call a typical amateurs tree they’re hobbyists they do things with it and he probably bought uh a garden center or nursery tree this variety is probably gray owl i’m not absolutely sure but it looks like grail juniper’s challenge is great not ideal for making bonsai but nevertheless it can be made into bonsai i’m not sure if he did it on a class 20 years ago or not but here it is most people would say that it is a reasonable looking bonsai and what he asked me to do was just trim the ends he hadn’t even done that he said to trim the ends and tidy it up again but looking at this tree carefully there is so much potential that it would be a shame just to snip the ends and let them have it back all the trees on the nursery with a red tag belong to a customer i won’t show you his name in case he wants his privacy but i’ll take his name off and have a close look at what he’s done because again this is typical of what customers do they just put the odd piece of wire one piece of wire here one piece of wire here so not all the branches are wired only some branches are wide and that’s it he hasn’t done any more than that so the first thing i would do with the tree like this is to take all the wires off i take them off because not only is the wiring not very good it is going to distract me i’m going to work from scratch so i won’t waste time showing you how i’m going to take the wire off but i’m going to take every bit of wire off can you see all these wires i’m going to take them all off and then i will start from scratch so here you are josh is de-wiring the tree as a rule d wiring is quite a useful exercise because when you diy tree you can understand how the tree was created but it doesn’t apply to this case because this is bad wiring the customer i hope you won’t mind me telling him that this is bad wiring it’s just haphazard one piece of wire here another piece of wire there it’s not consistent the whole tree should have been wired properly so it’s giving it some shape although in some instances the wire don’t seem to be doing much of a job it’s not holding branches in place so if you were to d-wire a tree that’s badly wired i don’t think you’ll learn anything from it it may be a bad example now the reason why i’m sitting back is because this tree although it has been wired with a certain style and the front has been chosen this tree has endless possibilities has absolutely endless possibilities so when it was made the choice may not have been bad but because it has now grown for the last 20 years there are so many other possibilities to this tree now my first impression is that this tree is far too large the branches and because it’s very tall the trunk doesn’t look so thick when compared with the rest of the tree the tree looks a pretty thin tree if we were to reduce the size of the tree the thickness of the branches will emphasize the thickness of the trunk and by reducing the scale of the tree the trunk will look bigger very often if you stand back you can get a better overall impression of what the tree looks like and what the tree should be it’s like anything even in life if you are too close to something you don’t get an overall view you need to stand back to get a better impression of what the overall situation is and this is very true about bonsai as well so sitting back here i get a very good what we call almost a bird’s eye view and i’m analyzing the tree to see what are the possibilities for this tree and as i’ve always said to every problem there is more than one solution and this is exactly the case in point i’m going to look at the tree critically from every possible direction and then we will analyze it i’m sure the customer won’t mind because there are so many uh better ways of creating this bonsai so although this tree has been wired we are treating it more or less like raw material that means it is back to square one and we are going to recreate the tree from scratch so i bet as you’re looking at this tree you’re saying to yourself i would cut this i would cut that i would do this to the tree i would do that to the tree so let’s see if your guess is going to be the solution that i find not that what i do is the ideal solution or your solution remember i said that to every problem there are several solutions more than one solution it’s only one possibility you may have your own ways of doing it and it may well turn out to be very good but this is the way i would uh explore and create the tree but i will go through all the options with you once the wire has come off the tree so let me explain to you what i have in mind now that we’ve taken the wires off it doesn’t look such a mess and it’s not so confusing there’s some little dead branches i’m not too worried about it like these that he’s created one or two gins let me show you he’s let this branch grow for some reason if you look at it it’s shooting that way it should really come out this way so it’s hiding the trunk so it’s going the wrong way he must have pruned the main chute and let a side shoot grow but the main thing should be there now let’s look at all these options i keep referring to as i said every tree has more than one solution so the first solution if you didn’t want to make such a big tree a lot of people don’t like big trees so if you wanted a small tree you could have literally an 8 inch high tree like 25 centimeter tall with a thick trunk like so like that so this is the apex a nice curve there with a gin top and some branches and you can have just a short tree over there so that’s one solution but i think that would be too drastic he would want his money back because i’m cutting the tree to a quarter of the height that he had so i think he wants a tall tree so although i would really love to do that i don’t think he would be very happy having all this gin would be dramatic but if he was here and he gave me the permission i might well do that but let’s not go uh too crazy let’s see a more sensible solution for him so the other solution obviously let’s try and pop the tree up see what other that’s quite a nice angle for the tree it’s still leaning and i can see that there’s an apex here which is very nice i have always said that when you make bonsai i always choose branches which are thin rather than thick because thick branches don’t provide as much contrast with the trunk than a thin branch would if you have thin branches it makes the trunk look thick whereas if you have thick branches it makes the trunk look thin so thick branches are better used as gins so these are the branches you should use thin branches now that is one solution like that what are the solution this this also got very nice what i’m looking for every time is the trunk line if you have a nice curvy trunk line then that makes the tree look interesting so this is an interesting trunk line but if i use that there isn’t much we could use by way of branches to support the beautiful trunk line there because most of the branches are here because the branches are here this is really the back of the tree this okay this thick branch if one wanted to you could make it to the apex of a short tree can you see you can make that as the apex of a short tree so that’s another possibility a bit bizarre but i don’t think it would be my choice so i still come back to the solution where i’m going to plant the tree at this angle with this as a possible front and just shorten the branches so if we do that i think this is not going to take much time it’s not that i always say that we’re racing against anything now this thick branch is in the way it’s causing a lot of distraction so i’m going to cut it off i’ll cut it off first because i’m going to make gin with it i’ll cut that off now to make a gin i don’t want a long gin i just want a short gin so i’m going to cut a sloping cut away from the trunk and then snap it and then we pull it back on itself i still remember back in 1976 when john marker came to the uk he taught everyone how to make ginger and this is the standard way he taught to make junior make a sloping cut away from the trunk and then rip it like so so that thick branch has gone in order to be able to curl it junipers are the favorite for making driftwood junipers use not so much points so that i’ve got a very nice effect over there so got rid of one thick branch now there’s a very thick ugly branch at the back but if i were to make gin with that one doesn’t really see any of it so i’ll keep it for now in case i want to use it as a background but i’ve got a back branch there the rest seems simple really there’s not much more to talk about so there you are just by removing that one thick branch now mind you i want to use this branch here if i can although i still think it’s a distraction this little branch here let’s see let’s let’s do some wiring i’m going to wire these wire some of these so it’s just wiring so i’m going to i’ll leave this for now this could serve as a sacrificial if you wanted to and i’m just going to wire these so let’s begin by doing some wiring and we need some pretty thick wires some wiring has already been done to this tree so i don’t think we need to do much more so i’ve got a situation where i have three branches let me explain to you what i’m thinking so that i’m thinking a lot and you can follow my train of thought so these three branches i’m going to wire together because this one is thicker than these two i’m going to put a double piece of wire on this one that means i’ll wire this and this and then again this and this so this is how i exercise the two branch principle i’ve got to use the right grade of y i don’t want to waste y which is unnecessarily thick i think this should work see the wiring he did has had some effect because this little kink here was achieved by the original wire so i’m going to do it again but i’m going to reconfigure it so then i do another one so again i keep thinking is this wire adequate and we have to change the grade so again i’m going to change the grade of that one [Applause] in former days of club demonstrations this was the thing that people did in the clubs and they watched the demonstration at the meetings but now with the digital technology you can watch it all over the world how great is that so this variety as i said is probably gray owl the chinese juniper is a very very big uh species of tree there’s so many different varieties san jose is also a chinese juniper juniper chinensis san jose now when you come to these little snags here on a branch it’s always advisable to take them off because it makes the wiring difficult so wherever you get snags that little branches take off unless you want to use it as a gin feature but generally speaking keep the branch clean makes the wiring easier wiring is a very personal thing different people have different styles but generally speaking there’s good wiring and bad wiring okay now let’s see if the thing pulls i’m now going to arrange the branches so that the pads are in the right position now this branch at the back i’m going to bring it like a false branch to this side because there’s nothing here and of course this as i said is the sacrificial i’m not sure what to do with it i may keep it for knob in case the customer wants to do something this is where i have to respect the customers intentions and preferences i know that he may not be that experienced but he may want to experiment with different things himself that’s why i’m always very conscious of not imposing my thoughts and my will too much on the person i’ll do what i feel is adequate for him but then he can take the tree forward after all its history i’m going to just tighten the tree it’s too floppy and loose you know if it’s too floppy and loose it doesn’t look nice you want it tight so this one i might well keep as i say it could be used like this let’s get to that when we arrive at that situation i’ll leave that little gin he created it he should keep it a lot of these branches are i think usable now i’ve got to okay this is usable because there’s nothing here but here there is quite a lot there is this branch is this branch so if i were to eliminate this i still got this as a back branch so i don’t think i really need this one yeah so i think i will get rid of this one so this is a major if you look at it from the front now if you look at it up front this this branch we’re talking of there’s far too much there so let’s get rid of it i can use it as a small gin if i want to okay i’m going to make the cut underneath because i’m going to rip it from the top like so see the lovely tear see where you get nicely beautiful tearing effect so that is that gym done so now the thick branch got rid of and i’ve got a nice gin there so already it’s looking much more tidy see just removing these little bits actually looking tight you know that one and that one now let’s do a little more wiring i’m going to leave this till the very end let’s see what happens at the end okay so now this is a pretty thick branch i can wire this and this and if need be i will put another piece of wire now let’s put a fairly stout piece of wire to do this one i think this should do i always guess the length of wire i need it’s usually a very good guess i usually know what will be sufficient so that y will go to the end there so let me just anchor it and this goes here oh junipers do back bud that short branch at the back that we haven’t decided what to do with it is an example of how you get back budding from old wood so do be patient sometimes you think you won’t get back budding look at this one look at this shoot is from very old wood that’s a new new branch new shoot completely now let’s carry on wiring this bit so as i said this almost like raw material is starting from scratch again very often if it is your own tree it’s not so easy to see the solution because you’ve got it set in your mind that you wanted the tree to be in a certain way you always need a fresh view that means another person’s view to give you another perspective as i say that is very true i don’t like to keep emphasizing that these life stories or these life lessons apply to what you do in your hobby as well you can always do a little zigzag to the branch to shorten it of course respect the species you got to know the species some species are very prone and liable to snapping so if you know your species then you’re lucky but sometimes people don’t understand this variety of the species and they take liberties or they go too crazy and they will damage or crack the branch i want to bring this closer so i’m going to put another piece of wire on that so let’s do it again i won’t take that wire off so this is where i could have used a thicker piece of wire but no matter i will put a double piece of wire perfectly acceptable so what i do is i anchor the wire first once i got an anchor i then take it to the other branch don’t try and complete the complete wiring on one branch without anchoring you’ll find it very difficult to do once you get an anchor then it’s much easier to proceed you notice that this gentleman who owns this tree use different color that sometimes looks odd try and stick to the same color wire and one of the other secrets i can reveal is that if you want butt back just feed heavily when i say feed heavily we are now into end of july early august so the sum is almost finished but i can still feed so i’m going to put maybe not very high nitrogen fertilizer but nevertheless i’ll still use fertilizer this variety of juniper which i think is gray owl has very floppy shoots and not as compact and as tight as the kisu so but it’s still possible to use it so let’s see what results we get i know i could thin that thick branch but no matter i can still use it as it is and they say there’s going to be a back branch so we’re not going to see it so let’s return to the front again it looks different already i think you must agree a lot of these young shoots i’m going to leave just in case they go into more usable branches they could be used at a later date so this is where sometimes you have to look to the future to see what the future potential of that tree is so i don’t want to foreclose any future options and possibilities it’s different if you were wiring the tree to put on a show so you want an instant look but if you are looking to the future then you have to see what the future potential will be that’s not the best solutions it’s strange how just the height of the turntable has made a big difference a load turntable i couldn’t see into the tree so all these little things matter and you all have your own preferences and there’s usually a very good reason why you have all these different heights of turntable you must admit that the tree looks different already and this is before refining these ends of the shoots there’s lots more to do so we’ve got so far so i’ll tell you what i’m going to do because this is going to take quite a long time you see all these individual little shoots like that they’re all going to be wide all these pairs because they’re floppy and hanging downwards i’m going to wire them separately i don’t want to waste too much of the television or the video time doing it but these are what i’m going to wear all these little individual shoots are going to be paired and wired so that we can have an arrangement of flat pads so we’ll stop videoing for a while while we finish the detail wiring right today is sunday and while i was doing this tree uh one of our youtube fans josh from essex has been here and he’s been watching me do this so what did you think of what i was doing just be frank and tell me what is it good rubbish or indifferent or whatever just tell us what you think yeah that was really really really good um what struck you most i think how just elevating the tree uh putting it on an angle and it completely changed the tree completely changed the tree okay um and then yeah just a quick adjustment of the lower branches and you could pretty much see where the picture was going with the rest of it but we did take some stuff off you know yeah see how much we took off uh yeah the unwanted branches and of course that back branch which is thick i’ve left it because it provides depth over there if i took it off it wouldn’t be quite right so i’m now just going to tighten the whole tree and this becomes a very respectable tree you know in japan you would have to pay quite a bit of money for this you know let it grow some more after all it’s only just been wide once it gets fuller can imagine all these pads getting thick and green if the customer knows how to look after it i’m going to put it at that angle for him uh and we’ll see what this tree looks like okay right so after about hour and a half’s work we’ve got so far we’ve re the tree and the only thing that i wasn’t sure about was this normally i would take it off but i think if i encourage the customer to keep it it could become a branch for the future and it also could also act as a sacrificial to help the tree taken a little more at the base for the time being so there is no rush to take it off i don’t think so so i will just wire that a little bit let me just get an appropriate uh bit of wire and because i don’t have a nearby branch i’m just hooking it to a root and i’m going to wire it out because i don’t want it to hide the trunk and then we will try a temporary pot again i will always emphasize that we’re putting it in a temporary pot because this tree has quite a long way to go and the customer can do what they like with it so i’m just doing like an open coil just to guide this branch in this direction so i can see the trunk now let’s take it out of this pot and try some pots the pot in which it is growing is in fact a mica pot okay so this is the state of the tree this angle is still not quite right so let’s so as i said this only the temporary part i’m not going to put it because come the spring we can pot it up in a slightly smaller pot but at that sort of angle in fact i may put it back in his pot and then ask him to bring it back in the spring to re-pot so this is the tree that we’ve redone for him and i hope the film editor will show the before and after so all we’ve taken off are these two branches these two branches the thick branch at the top and one little bit at the back so that wasn’t a lot so once this develops and i’ll teach them how to prune back so with junipers you just go into the wood and take the growing tips out just take the growing tips out and by doing that you’ll get back budding like here in a back bud but if you neglect it all the growth goes to the ends and you get this very floppy type of effect so there you go that was this project done so this is the side view this is the back view the advantage of this tree is that it had some movements so all we’ve done is to emphasize the movement of the tree much more so hopefully you have enjoyed this project so the design again is conical with branches spread evenly through the trunk of the tree and there you go i think it’s much better than it was before [Music] foreign

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