Species Specific > North American Juniper Bonsai Discussion

Initial Styling - Another Western Juniper

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On the weekend of February 20th I hosted Peter Tea at my home just outside of Louisville, KY.  Peter is a graduate of Boon Manakitivipart’s Bonsai Intensive program, past winner of the Joshua Roth New Talent competition, and has been working as a bonsai professional since 2010. 

The first day was spent with a small study group, while the 2nd day was spent working on my personal collection.  I was most looking forward to having Peter work on a collected Western Juniper (Juniperus occidentalis) that was purchased at a recent Bay Island Bonsai auction.

Some light carving had already been done to the large dead trunk, and some branches had been arranged to provide ample sunlight to the few young branches since its arrival in Kentucky.  Peter began wiring the larger branches first.

"In a first styling, I make the pads wider.  For a show they should be more full and tighter."

With the larger main branches wired Peter moved onto the secondary and tertiary branches.  Peter is a magnificent wirer.  He applied the wire effortlessly so that it was both effective and beautiful.  While applying the wire he also began arranging the branches.  He then expertly bent the long branches in on themselves to compact the tree and make a tighter overall design.

"Pads that are flat on bottom are more rigid, more masculine.  If they're subtly rounded it's a little more delicate, more feminine."

Peter explained as he went, "later the deadwood will be reduced to remove some of the weight."  He continued, "With large flat surfaces like this deadwood I usually choose a front that isn't straight on, but at an angle to add depth."

He continued to arrange the branches, careful to check every angle, paying particular attention to his chosen front.  "The branch tips towards the front half of the tree should point towards you.  From the back half of the tree they can fan out and back."

Finally, the tree has had its first styling.  The branches have been placed and now the foliage will grow, fill in, and continue to develop.  At the next repotting the new angle will be set and a more appropriate pot chosen.


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