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Bonsai Progression Series: The Juniper Project

Bonsai Progression Series: The Juniper Project, Bimer Bonsai Club by Averil Stanley

The material in question was a large advanced Juniperus squamata prostrata (Flaky Juniper; Himalayan Juniper).  The plant is native to the Himalayas and China and its cultivation is worldwide.   It originated from Bonsai South Nursery in Sydney.   It was propagated from a cutting and ground grown for a time to develop a thicker trunk.    It has prospered in full sun, daily watering and frequent fertilising.  The tree displayed abundant healthy foliage growth.

The aim of the Juniper Project is to allow interaction into the initial styling options for the tree by all our members at the monthly meetings and to bring the tree along to further monthly meetings to discuss the progress of the tree and its horticultural requirements and its progressive development as a Bonsai.

The tree, still in its black plastic pot, stood 90cm from base to apex, and despite its natural growth being prostrate, was in an upright position and planted in the centre of the pot.    An ideal situation.

Sometimes the characteristics of the material before us suggests the styling; and at other times the Bonsai artist has already a design in mind and imposes this onto the tree before him. 

The characteristics of the tree were discussed.

The Base

Working with chopsticks the surface soil was removed which revealed a beautiful radiating root system, equally placed around the trunk.   The side under the lean of the trunk had developed short compressed roots – but there were no overly large roots to be considered in the design.

The Trunk

The lowest part slanted immediately from the base, rising gracefully and sinuously in beautiful gentle curves until it reached the top.

The trunk revealed it was intact with no dead veins.

The styling options for the tree were evaluated; and while there were many different arrangements discussed, the final choice came down to just 2.

  1. Classic Informal Upright
  2. Classic Slanting Style.
  3. Use the entire tree to create a tall and elegant literati.

Option 3 was discussed and discarded because the curves in the trunk were too curved, too ‘pretty’ and regularly spaced.

The Branches

The stock tree was abundant with branches; and some branches were either removed or shortened to be used for deadwood later if required.

The placement of the ‘character’ branch emanated from roughly at the halfway mark of the height of the tree.   It not only occurred on the outside of the curve, it also contained many secondary and tertiary branches – which had been pre-wired to save time – allowing us to focus more on the styling options and placement of branches and foliage pads. 


Such a large and impressive tree demands careful and thoughtful consideration of styling choices, branch selection, branch placement, and jins etc, that it is not possible to create more than an initial styling in the time allowed for at the July meeting.

It was emphasised that this styling was ‘structural pruning and styling’ where the initial design for the tree is done; Stage 2 “Foliage Development” allows for the development of foliage on the remaining branches, consistent with the chosen style; and finally Stage 3 “Refinement” where the artist uses sound horticultural practice to ensure that foliage is consistent in balance and needle length throughout the Bonsai.   This will be the focus for the Juniper Project in the future.

The plant will be allowed to recover from the stress of wiring and bending

The tree will remain in its black plastic container.

New shoots should develop within the next few weeks and these shoots will not be pinched to allow it to put all its energy into recovery and new foliage will be allowed to harden.

When the new growth has hardened it will be removed from its plastic container and lightly root pruned (without pruning the foliage) into a temporary bonsai container.

Following root pruning, it will be placed in a warm location providing a little shade and the foliage misted regularly because the roots would not have sufficiently recovered.

After aftercare, the Bonsai will be brought into a full sun situation.

Junipers prefer full sun location.    They are hardy plants and their root zone can withstand high temperatures, as long as an adequate supply of water is maintained.   They (like Pines) love water but should be allowed to be on the dry side between waterings.

2018 at Bimer Show