I decided to wait several years before styling this Formosana juniper (commonly known as Taiwanese juniper) grafted with a Juniperus chinensis var. itoigawa.
The juniper came into my collection in 2006 as a prize at the KOKORO-NO BONSAI TEN exhibition in Naples.
It is a tree with a beautiful trunk up to about half of its height, then ending with a very thick cylindrical section. The vegetation is strong and this witness the perfect health condition of the bonsai.
Here is the juniper from the four sides:
The trunk has a nice movement in the first section and the nebari includes a woody appendage that represents what remains of a second plant that no longer exists.
Every tree that enters my garden is properly cultivated and prepared for at least one year before styling.
At the beginning of 2008, in view of a workshop, I carry out the preliminary operations: cleaning the bark and the vegetation, highlighting the dry parts and creating new shari.
The juniper is ready to be worked:
Detail of the dry wood and shari:
The decision is drastic: cut all the upper part in order to lower the plant and eliminate the tubular part of the trunk.
The idea is to create a compact bonsai. So I protect the main branch with rafia and lower it with a guy wire.
The upper trunk is considered too long and tubular. We decide not to eliminate it altogether and after being debarked, is sectioned and bent with fire.
The final result:
Here are the two sides of Taiwanese Juniper: the scale vegetation and the needle vegetation.
The former is the typical vegetation of this cultivar, while the latter is the transformation the vegetation undergoes during stressful events. Once the stress phase has passed, the foliage returns to scales.
This is a situation that occurs on all junipers, but there are varieties that hardly turn to needles and just as easily return to scales (the itoigawa is one of them). Taiwanese juniper, on the other hand, is a variety that turns easily to needle and returns to scale takes some time. In the phase of “return” to scales the vegetation lengthens, losing precious centimeters.
This is the reason why I opted for the grafting technique.
In August 2009 I perform an approach grafiting (although I prefer to do it in March/April). The variety chosen is of course the itoigawa also because of its easy availability on the market.
Instead of using many seedlings, I normally use only one that has some long branches in order to graft in several points and on different branches.
I join the two small branches with grafting elastics, cover everything with insulating tape and seal with the healing agent.
The following year, 2010, I remove the protections uncovering the grafts. It is not yet time to cut the graft from the mother plant.
In 2011 the itoigawa branches are finally separated and left to grow in their new “home”. The branches of the Taiwanese are gradually eliminated.
In January 2013 I seize the opportunity to clean everything, highlighting the withdrawal of sap the plant has made.
Two years later, the grafts have grown and consolidated so much that you can hardly notice the graft points anymore.
Eventually the Juniper is in excellent condition and shows off the bright green typical of itoigawa.
On the original front now there is no more live vein that instead moves gently on the other side.
In August 2015 I decide to start working on the dry wood. I begin by discarding the dry, brown-colored woody bundles with a gouge until I reach the green, moist fibers of the live wood.
Next, I highlight the red color of the log with a brass brush.
With the splitter and the pliers I remove the wood fibers creating cavities and movements in the wood. The work should not be done by pulling and tearing with force but by detaching, loosening and delicately defibrating the fibers, accompanying them as much as possible in their natural movement. I particularly love working with hand tools that give me the ability to carve dry wood with a naturalness that no power tool could achieve.
Finally, I remove the woody appendage on the nebari.
Some details of the work on the dry wood:
Like other bonsai practitioners, I use a burner to sand the wood. The fire does in a few minutes what weathering, fungus and pests do over the years.
In nature, a dry wood begins to decompose from its most exposed and brittle fibers….so does fire, burning away the softer woody parts and leaving the more compact and hard parts.
In the end, it is sufficient to give a blow with a steel or brass brush to remove the residue.
By December 2015 it’s time tobend the first branch by positioning it closer to the vegetation.
Front / Back
The branch has a section of dry wood that I decide to remove so that I can bend the branch as much as possible. The spitter is the ideal tool for this operation: Sinking its teeth into the wood creates a split that leads easily to the removal of the dry.
I then perfect this operation with jin pliers, removing the last excess fibers.
I don’t get to remove all the dry wood, however. I prefer to leave a small sheet to act as a buffer during the bending process.
The secret is to uniform the resilience of the branch . If we remove too much wood in one point, we create a weaker zone. When we are going to bend it will be in this point that all the tension will be unloaded risking to cause dangerous fractures. If instead the branch will be weakened uniformly the energy will be discharged evenly over its entire length.
Definitely this procedure can be difficult. In this case the protections that we are going to make (jute, rubber, wire) will have the purpose both to protect and to make uniformly elastic the branch to bend.
To compact the branch I use a lever that allows me not only to make the bend alone but also to do it in a progressive and delicate way. Working with such a tool I can always control every single movement of the branch.
Once arrived at the right degree of the bend, I secure everything with a guy wire.
A fantastic tool!
The final fold.:the intent was not only to compact but also to create a movement that gives continuity to the trunk.
In March 2017 I finally perform the first real shaping of the foliage.
Front / Back
Left Side / Right Side
Everything is ready!!! The vegetation is strong and vigorous….I’m super excited!…
…And in addition I have two great friends to help me in wiring: Andrea and Gimmi.
The work flows pleasantly and smoothly without ever losing concentration on what to do. Concentration that turns into a serene silence during the shaping.
In order not to stress the plant we have avoided wiring the thinner branches. In this process it is not necessary to obtain a result too defined.
During the shaping I just create the movements, compressions and positioning of the primary and secondary branches. Everything in its own time!
The final result
Front / Back
Left Side / Right Side
Details of trunk and foliage
As always, the branches must be opened up to receive air and light. By doing so, the twigs (even the inner ones) will grow and will be ready for the next shaping.
Group photo: we are definitely satisfied…but a little tired too as it’s now 2 a.m.!