The juniper in this article is a Juniperus Chinensis var. Itoigawa which I saw for the first time in 2003 in my friend Roberto Raspanti’s garden.
After a few years in the collection of another dear friend, Marcelo Michelotti (who did the first shaping), it made its way into my garden in 2007.
The vegetation of Itoigawa is distinguished by its bright green colour and small, strong scales. It is a variety that can provide a definition and detail of the pads other varieties cannot.
In 2008, after a year of preparation, the first shaping took place.
In particular, a large part of the vegetation on the right side was eliminated, thus obtaining two results: the freeing of some trunk movements that were hidden and the formation of a bonsai with a leftward movement. From a balanced foliage we pass to a foliage that is clearly shifted to the left side,
The first branch is pushed further towards the front using a metal rod.
Back, right and left side respectively
The bark of the juniper is normally cleaned with brushes in order to highlight the red/orange colour of the living parts in clear contrast to the white colour of the dry areas. It is precisely this chromatic contrast that becomes interesting, especially if we add the bright green colour of this essence.
This is how the colour of live and dry wood normally looks like.
After the positioning of the moss, cleaning the bark and maturing and defining the foliage, the plant was ready to be taken to its first exhibition: La Giareda in Reggio Emilia.
A few days later it participated in the IBS_BCI exhibition in Saint Vincent and the following year in the UBI 2009 congress in Salerno.
By an unfortunate coincidence, during a regional exhibition, a whirlwind caused some panels to fall, which in turn hit the juniper, causing the vase to break and some minor damage. Friends present at the event took care to promptly repot it in the first available container.
In 2010, I took the opportunity to thin out the vegetation and repot the plant. The substrate was composed almost entirely of akadama, which was showing the first signs of compacting, especially in the centre. I therefore decided to remove the old soil and also proceed to an appropriate selection of the roots. The substrate I used was a mixture 50% akadama and pumice.
In the summer of 2011, after a period of free growth, I became aware of the drying out of a vein. With a gouge I set about uncovering the withdrawal of sap that had now taken place, confirmed by the dry wood already present under the bark. When using these tools, we must move lightly so as not to leave any traces of the tool’s passage. The wood must be “peeled” rather than flayed. It takes time and patience but the result is much more natural.
The difference in colour will disappear over time and with the application of the jin liquid.
The tree at the end of the cleaning also shows a possibility that I had not seen before: a change of front.
In fact, on what used to be the back you can find the basis for a complete new take on juniper.
The following year, in 2012, it was time to realise what I had glimpsed a few months earlier.
The first branch is shortened, the inclination and the front are changed. That low branch that crosses and touches the trunk at the front will be the “cross and delight” of this plant.
The result after working.
In 2014 I proceed to a second shaping, reconfirming the choice of the change of front. Note the red colouring of the vegetation typical of the winter period.
From 2015 onwards, the plant had a moment of suffering due to a fungal disease probably of a root nature.
Obviously, in addition to the use of an appropriate fungicide, repotting was essential: eliminating weak roots and replacing the soil.
The use of products such as humic acids, mycorrhizae, algae or other products cannot be considered decisive or decisive, but they help the plant’s recovery by supporting it above all in moments of difficulty. Once the main cause of the problem has been eliminated (by repotting and fungicide), these kinds of products offer the best conditions for a solid vegetative recovery. Not necessary but recommended
In 2018, the juniper was completely over its difficult period. In these years, my only focus was on recovering vigour. In these situations I prefer to let the vegetation grow freely, pruning only the most vigorous parts in order to facilitate the recovery of the weaker ones. I am not in the habit of pushing the plant to vegetate through the massive use of fertilisers, but I prefer to support its development by offering the best conditions for a “sustainable” growth of the plant. From my point of view it is a mistake to consider fertiliser as the universal cure for a plant’s ills.
The elimination of a few excessively long branches has highlighted some details that have made me re-evaluate the possibility of returning to the old front. I will think about it!!!
In 2018 the tree:
The secret to good success is always planning.
So far the goal has been total recovery of health. To do this it was necessary to let the weaker parts (in this case the lower branches) grow freely and to prune the more vigorous parts (the upper part).
If I remove the too strong parts (the tips of the branches) from the vigorous areas, the result is to “curb” the vigour of these areas (not decrease it, but simply not increase it!).
It is true that a vigorous zone, if not restrained, will become even more vigorous. This is why strong areas must be “contained” by pruning. Weak areas, on the other hand, must grow freely without being restrained in order to regain their lost vigour.
This objective should be pursued until the plant is “balanced”, i.e. when vigour tends to be evenly distributed throughout the branches and there are no longer any weak or strong areas.
The photos of the first years of 2020 show just how well this has been achieved. As can be seen, the low branches have been allowed to grow freely and are long and vigorous.
From here on our focus will change to preparing for the next stage of cultivation.
From now through to autumn my focus will be exclusively on cultivation and pruning: I will prune the tips to increase the density of the vegetation and stabilise the vigour, keep the plant clean and fertilise with an organic one with limited nitrogen content. That is all!
In October 2020 the situation is right for finally shaping. It has been over 5 years since I have been wiring this plant, and now the time has come.
I am never in a hurry to shape a plant. You prepare it properly and only when it is ready do you work on it. Bonsai is also knowing how to wait!
As anticipated, after careful analysis, I finally decide to restructure the juniper following the old front.
The sashi-eda becomes a branch which, ten years ago, was small but which has swollen and developed sufficiently to be used as a reference branch.
The higher position does not allow me to place it close to the trunk as in the past. This makes me decide to position it with a distinct exit to the left. This will be fundamental for the final character of the bonsai. The branch stretches out to the left, giving the whole assembly a dynamism towards this direction. At this point the positioning of the taller branches is a consequence of this choice.
They are positioned in turn, leaving different spacing between them and able to show details otherwise hidden by the vegetation.
I must say that I am very satisfied with the final result, also thanks to a variety of juniper which, more than others, allows us to define shapes and profiles with precision.
The final result:
The back, right side and left side respectively.
And finally a photo together