Gnarly Old Juniper(s)

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I'm no juniper expert. However, I found these at a steal of a price and could not resist! I think there is a lot of potential.

Lots of questions.
  1. ID the variety?
  2. Any clue what's going on with the yellowing needles?
  3. what's up with that neon blue fertilizer?
  4. When's the best time to get them into a grow box and good bonsai soil?
All comments or suggestions welcome!

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1. It's a variegated Juniper (unknown specific type).
2. The yellow foliage means it's a variegated plant. That means it will have both green and tan/yellow in the foliage (it looks pretty healthy).
3. That fertilizer is standard for nurseries
4. Spring unless slip potting

Have fun!
 
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1. It's a variegated Juniper (unknown specific type).
2. The yellow foliage means it's a variegated plant. That means it will have both green and tan/yellow in the foliage (it looks pretty healthy).
Oh wow, I didn't even consider that.. I feel like that's not a great quality for bonsai..
 
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Oh wow, I didn't even consider that.. I feel like that's not a great quality for bonsai..
Bonsai in a tradditional Japanese sense...yes, it's not good. As a learning tool, and something you can have fun with and enjoy... it is just fine. $20-30 trees are good fun to learn from, there is nothing wrong with that!!!
 
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I'm bummed out though man - thought i was stealing these- haha. After some research... variegated juniper is ugly as hell! No sure I would even want to put these in as landscaping.

The yellow is so sparse and bizarrely random, it appears more like unhealthy foliage than something showy.. Guess that may be why I've never seen one before..

Of course there is always potential to practice grafting and get rid of the variegation issue all together i suppose..
 
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  • Come Spring and good signs of growth... My first order of business will be root work and getting these in (probably) grow boxes (based on their size alone, i'm thinking the most economical choice) with a good non organic mix.
    • I plan to stick to the convention of removing no more than 1/2 of the original soil. This point is somewhat troublesome for me. Will This not cause a vast difference in wetness of soil mediums; the original soil holding much more water than the new bonsai soil.. How can one water properly to satisfy both mediums? Watering well enough to keep new roots alive in bonsai medium may drown out the old organic stuff..And of course the inverse of that.. hmm?
    • Is it also true that not more than 1/3 to 1/2 the root mass should be removed... or did I make that up?
  • I think now , or soon as things are really dormant, is a reasonable time to do any hard chops / initial rough styling. Am i right?
 

M. Frary

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  • Come Spring and good signs of growth... My first order of business will be root work and getting these in (probably) grow boxes (based on their size alone, i'm thinking the most economical choice) with a good non organic mix.
    • I plan to stick to the convention of removing no more than 1/2 of the original soil. This point is somewhat troublesome for me. Will This not cause a vast difference in wetness of soil mediums; the original soil holding much more water than the new bonsai soil.. How can one water properly to satisfy both mediums? Watering well enough to keep new roots alive in bonsai medium may drown out the old organic stuff..And of course the inverse of that.. hmm?
    • Is it also true that not more than 1/3 to 1/2 the root mass should be removed... or did I make that up?
  • I think now , or soon as things are really dormant, is a reasonable time to do any hard chops / initial rough styling. Am i right?
Spring after it shows signs of growth is good for the rootwork.
I wouldn't cut a thing off until then also. Leaving it sit dormant with no activity to get healing going is a recipe for dieback.
As to how much rootwork depends. Sometimes nursery junipers are left in buckets so long that the roots actually form a solid block that's nigh on impossible to comb out. I saw the bottom half right off. At this point Vance has taught me that at this point you cut from the outer edge of the mass in towards the trunk. I do this 4 times. One cut every 90 degrees around the rootball. I put them in colanders at this point but a grow box works just as well. I then start adding the bonsai substrate of my choice. You can use whatever you use that works well for you. Poke it in all around the roots and work it down into the cuts you made also. Water,pop it back onto the bench and done. I water the foliage everytime I water and everyone I think about it. Not mist. Soaking shower.
Some nursery junipers you find can have just been up potted recently. These will have a core of roots from the last pot but with loose soil with roots that have only just begun to colonize the pot. I remove all of the loose soil from these. Basically barerooting the tree. I will use a hose and wash every piece of dirt. I'll then cut them back as far as needed to get it into my colander. Then follow the steps for adding soil and aftercare just like the other ones.
Now. I don't want you to lose a tree but I will completely bareroot a juniper in the middle of summer. It isnt for the squeamish and some may even say I shouldnt but I havent lost one from it yet.
After all that work you need to let it sit at least a year to recover. They say one insult per year. I insult them like I hate them.
 

Adair M

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Spring after it shows signs of growth is good for the rootwork.
I wouldn't cut a thing off until then also. Leaving it sit dormant with no activity to get healing going is a recipe for dieback.
As to how much rootwork depends. Sometimes nursery junipers are left in buckets so long that the roots actually form a solid block that's nigh on impossible to comb out. I saw the bottom half right off. At this point Vance has taught me that at this point you cut from the outer edge of the mass in towards the trunk. I do this 4 times. One cut every 90 degrees around the rootball. I put them in colanders at this point but a grow box works just as well. I then start adding the bonsai substrate of my choice. You can use whatever you use that works well for you. Poke it in all around the roots and work it down into the cuts you made also. Water,pop it back onto the bench and done. I water the foliage everytime I water and everyone I think about it. Not mist. Soaking shower.
Some nursery junipers you find can have just been up potted recently. These will have a core of roots from the last pot but with loose soil with roots that have only just begun to colonize the pot. I remove all of the loose soil from these. Basically barerooting the tree. I will use a hose and wash every piece of dirt. I'll then cut them back as far as needed to get it into my colander. Then follow the steps for adding soil and aftercare just like the other ones.
Now. I don't want you to lose a tree but I will completely bareroot a juniper in the middle of summer. It isnt for the squeamish and some may even say I shouldnt but I havent lost one from it yet.
After all that work you need to let it sit at least a year to recover. They say one insult per year. I insult them like I hate them.
The method that Mike described is the old “cut pie shaped wedges out”. And it’s ok if you aren’t concerned about managing the rootball since you’re cutting random roots.

The “half bare root” method is more methodical. The idea here is to start off by sawing the rootball in half, just like Mike described, then using a root hook to loosen the circling roots all around the perimeter of the rootball. And cut them off. Now choose one side of the rootball to bare root. I generally choose the side with the weakest roots. Using the root hook, I remove as much soil as possible from one side of the root ball. As gently as possible, getting way up under the trunk. It helps to wash that side with water from time to time. Be careful not to wash soil off the nonbareroot side. Once you have one half bare rooted, then tease out about 1/2 inch of roots from the remaining side. Then pot it with good soil.

Watering...

The side with good bonsai soil will drain very quickly. The side with old soil will take longer to saturate. Water until the old rootball gets throughly watered. Yes, that means excess water will go down the side with the new soil, but it drains quickly. You can’t really over water it. After a couple months the roots will have grown into the new soil. Where people go wrong is they see the water drawing out of the pot, so they stop watering. But that’s just running thru the new soil. Make sure to wet the old side, too.
 

M. Frary

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The method that Mike described is the old “cut pie shaped wedges out
No,no,no,no,no.
Just cut slits. Don't remove anymore roots.
I've gotten regular nursery stock that there is no combing roots out. The one I got from Meehans was nothing but roots. Fused together. It was bad.
How often do you deal with nursery stock Adair? From what I gather you get most of your trees from people who have already been working them towards bonsai.
 

Adair M

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No,no,no,no,no.
Just cut slits. Don't remove anymore roots.
I've gotten regular nursery stock that there is no combing roots out. The one I got from Meehans was nothing but roots. Fused together. It was bad.
How often do you deal with nursery stock Adair? From what I gather you get most of your trees from people who have already been working them towards bonsai.
My personal trees now are usually advanced trees. But, I have also repotted many trees directly from nursery stock. In fact I teach a class on repotting nursery stock! Most people around here do not have access to the advanced trees I have, and use nursery trees. The HBR method is the best way to transition them into bonsai soil that I know of.

You know those 30 year old Procumbens junipers? I’ve done dozens of them.
 

M. Frary

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My personal trees now are usually advanced trees. But, I have also repotted many trees directly from nursery stock. In fact I teach a class on repotting nursery stock! Most people around here do not have access to the advanced trees I have, and use nursery trees. The HBR method is the best way to transition them into bonsai soil that I know of.

You know those 30 year old Procumbens junipers? I’ve done dozens of them.
From what I saw of the ones you gave Vance and me they weren't all that bad. They still had soil in them. Have you ever done a tree whose roots have eaten all of the soil and went round and round and through each other,fusing?
I'm not trying to make your half bare root technique look or seem bad. But sometimes it isn't feasible.
 
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