California juniper surgery

Bonsai Nut

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This thread is about a California juniper I got at the 2007 GSBF Convention. The workshop was with Harry Hirao, and I was honored just to be in his workshop regardless of what tree I ended up with. The tree had been collected a couple years prior, and was healthy but not particularly robust. Here is a shot of what it looked like at the beginning of the workshop, and an "in progress" shot showing the start of the jin and shari work.



 

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After letting the tree gain strength for about a year and a half, the moment of truth had come. It was clear that the tree had no future with its conflicting "slingshot" double trunk lines. I had thought about eliminating a trunk out of hand, but someone suggested cutting it in two, and the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea.

Here it was as of this morning. Much stronger.





Laying out the cut lines. I was going to gouge out a vein first, but the bark was too hard and difficult to work with. I wouldn't have been able to follow it exactly with the saw, anyway.





The cut as completed. I broke the bottom 1/4 in half by hand - hoping the split would run along natural fault lines.



Here are the two pieces.



The final two halves, potted up and ready to rest. I will treat them as freshly collected junipers, though to be honest each half had a lot of fine roots left. I will wait until the end of the summer and start looking at final designs for them in the interim.



 

Attila Soos

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I remember seing you with this tree at the convention.

I would have kept one trunk and create a short jin on the other one, thus preserving the large nebari.
Now, there are two trees, each of them with a deficient nebari.
The sum of the two may not equal the quality of the single tree that could have been created.

I hope I am wrong...
 

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I remember seing you with this tree at the convention.

I would have kept one trunk and create a short jin on the other one, thus preserving the large nebari.
Now, there are two trees, each of them with a deficient nebari.
The sum of the two may not equal the quality of the single tree that could have been created.

I hope I am wrong...
I hope you are wrong too :) Time will tell. I looked at this tree for a year before I made up my mind. I think the nebari will need work regardless of what I do.
 
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Hey BonsaiNut,

I always seperate California Junipers with pretty good success. However, in your case the tree didn't look like a clump of trees that had fused together. When the trees are fused, they literally pull apart and create pretty interesting shari. I think you had a tree with two big branches and cutting it in two creates pretty akward bases. I think now you need to do some carving to create a better transition from the base of tree. Keep us posted on your progress. By the way, I probably dug that tree for Harry - you don't think at 93 he digs his own trees do ya?


Juniperus Californica.
 

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Hey BonsaiNut,

I always seperate California Junipers with pretty good success. However, in your case the tree didn't look like a clump of trees that had fused together. When the trees are fused, they literally pull apart and create pretty interesting shari. I think you had a tree with two big branches and cutting it in two creates pretty akward bases. I think now you need to do some carving to create a better transition from the base of tree. Keep us posted on your progress. By the way, I probably dug that tree for Harry - you don't think at 93 he digs his own trees do ya?


Juniperus Californica.
I assumed he used cheap labor :) Now it's confirmed!

I initially thought of trying to split it with a car jack. However the two trunks are really 90 degrees apart so it would have been very difficult to get the right leverage. The other thing that doesn't come out well in the photos is that most of both trunks is deadwood. I am really working with two ribbons of live bark on each trunk, and all the rest is dead. The live roots are very localized in small bundles beneath the live veins. There is a lot more dead than alive in both trunks.

This tree is funny. Despite all the issues with the nebari and the ugly cut, I still feel soooo much better after splitting them. At least now I can start thinking about paths forward, versus I could never get past the 90 degree split in the original trunk. Even reducing one trunk to a jin, you would have to jin almost back to the trunk because you still would have an issue with the 90 degree split.

Even though both trunks are planted somewhat vertically right now, neither will stay that way. One trunk will definitely be a slant in order to keep the cut completely beneath the soil and bring the live roots to the surface for nebari. The other trunk I am still looking at but it seems to lend itself to an informal upright. In either case I am feeling optimistic :) However time will tell. The photos I took of the cut look really really nasty. I shared them with the hope that the end result will be better than the "in progress" shots :)
 

TheSteve

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The nice thing about roots is they grow. And you'll have little more guidance over them now. Just give them gallons of superthrive and foliar feed twice a day.;)
 
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