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The final chapter of my second book 'Bonsai Inspirations 2' details the styling of a large San Jose Juniper bonsai that I styled during the Autumn of 2011. Originally a semi-cascade bonsai, the planting position of the tree was altered to an upright position, the deadwood reworked and the foliage wired and laid-out.
As a first styling, it was something of a disappointment not to be able to push the tree further in terms of refinement. However, the health, and indeed the survival, of the tree was of utmost importance and as a result, the foliage was not refined as aggressively as I would have liked and some awkward surface roots were left to be addressed in the future.
After finishing the styling of the Juniper bonsai in late Autumn 2011, the tree was returned to its owner and was eventually sold on to another bonsai enthusiast.
Just a year later, and to my great pleasure, I was contacted by the new owner of the tree who asked me to refine the tree again. The tree had been left to grow freely for the year which as a result had become terribly out of shape. However, all this free growth had also greatly invigorated it and I knew immediately that I would be able to push the development of the bonsai much further.
I feel the image above is a great example of why it is wrong for some enthusiasts to hold the belief that acquiring ready-styled bonsai is an easy route to owning a good-quality bonsai collection. Whatever the pedigree of material an enthusiast collects, be it in the form of 'finished' bonsai or raw material, if a bonsai is not regularly maintained, the bonsai can rapidly become unruly and unrefined. A well-presented bonsai is always the result of skilled and meticulous care, however the tree was acquired.
With the density of the foliage having greatly increased over the previous year, I began the restyling by removing some now-redundant branches that had been used previously to help bulk up the foliage mass. A low branch was removed from behind the trunk as was the foliage from a dropping branch at the top of the trunk (this was partially retained to be turned into jin)
At the same time as working on the foliage mass of the tree, I also worked on some ugly surface roots. During the initial styling of the bonsai I had decided that it is was too risky to remove or jin these roots as the tree might be too reliant on them at that time. However, with a year having passed I was able to firmly establish that the roots were barely supporting the tree, if at all, and I was able to work on them.
(As described in detail in 'Bonsai Inspirations 2') I thinned out the foliage mass prior to wiring the branches by removing all runts and hotheads to create small sprays of foliage which could then be wired.
Partway through the time-consuming process of wiring and laying-out the foliage
The foliage mass of the Juniper bonsai, seen from above, after the styling was completed; each and every bundle of foliage wired and carefully placed.
The deadwood at the base of the tree, including the newly jinned surface roots, freshly whitened with lime-sulphur