New Here, Questions about a Juniper

EPM

Yamadori
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I'm new to bonsai and new to this site. I've been purchasing nursery stock plants as pre-bonsai locally but have been having a hard time finding anything suitable or of significant enough size to do anything with. I'm being patient and trying to grow out some of these plants. Recently I found a clearance plant at home depot that I decided had a trunk that was big enough to attempt some work on it and start the process of creating a shohin sized bonsai. This plant is a juniperus x pfitzeriana 'Fruitlandii' variety. Compared to a procumbens the foliage seems stringy and less compact. The trunk is probably almost 1 inch in diameter and it's growing in a #5 nursery container (roughly 4 gallons true volume). I don't know if this variety of juniper is suitable for bonsai but given the cheap price and the size of the trunk I'm going to give it a shot. I'm treating it as a test plant and a way to practice techniques. If it dies it's no big loss, it's more about the process at this point. However, if I can create something attractive out of it, then that would be great.

My original intent with the tree was to create an informal upright, and use about 5-6 total branches including the ones at the very top of the plant. After considering it for a while I abandoned that plan because the plant would have been too tall (nearly 12 inches) and out of proportion with the trunk size. At that point I reevaluated and decided instead to make a shorter tree (ideally 6 inches, no more than 8) and use some of the remnants of the thicker branches at the top to form some jin that will be the apex of the tree. The trunk as some decent curvature and seems ok as an informal upright. Currently there are 4 main branches left on the tree. Now with the background out of the way, here are my questions/dilemmas:

1) Any feedback on my plan and where I should take it from here would be appreciated. Realize that this is my first major undertaking in bonsai. I have some experience with pruning apple trees, however, so I'm not completely flying blind. I also realize that what I might have done to the plant is completely ridiculous. Some alternatives I've considered are: removing more branches and leaving just 1 or 2 to wire and develop and make the jin apex lower or leave the plant alone for a year and see what kind of growth/back budding occurs possibly giving me more options as far as branches are concerned.

2) I have tried hard to follow the bonsai "rules" or guidelines (per this article https://www.evergreengardenworks.com/rules.htm and I also have a copy of Naka's Bonsai Techniques) particularly when choosing branches. However, I feel like the branches are too thick and too long and don't know what to do with them. If I cut them they will be like stubs sticking out, rather than nice tapered branches. There is also the problem of lack of foliage closer to the trunk.

3) With apple trees I know and understand how they react to pruning. With junipers however, I have no clue, and despite searching the internet for pruning advice I've come up short. Usually the juniper material you find revolves around pinching growth, which is more relevant for the refinement stage. I'm interested more in crude pruning/shaping and how much back budding occurs, and how the plant will react when you cut a brach at a particular location. I guess I just don't have a good understanding of the growth habit of this plant yet and I'm looking for some pointers.

4) In addition to the branches seeming too thick, it also seems like the angle that they depart the trunk is not desirable in some cases and this would seem impossible to change with wiring alone, or maybe impossible altogether even with some advanced techniques I'm not familiar with. So what do you do in that case? One could tilt the pot to try to mitigate a single branch, but then you might make another worse. I realize you have to make the best out of the cards you are dealt, especially when it comes to big box store nursery stock, but want to see if I'm missing anything.

I appreciate any advice, help, or feedback. My apologies for the long post. I've been thinking about a lot of things and they all seem important and relevant to this post. I look forward to hearing what you have to say. Thanks!

EPM

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bonsaichile

Chumono
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It is a nice tree. If it were mine, I would leave it alone until next spring. Junipers are great first trees (they have been for me, at least!) but I have lost a couple due to too much pruning. Junipers need their foliage, particularly their growing tips, otherwise they are severely weakened. So for now, call it a year :) Water it, full sun, and fertilizer for the rest of the summer.
About pruning those branches shorter, you can do it next year. Just keep in mind that they might not back bud on "naked" wood, so always leave green. It seems like you have some branchlets closer to the trunk. When the time comes, cut back to them and let one become the new leader. That way, you will compact the tree and create taper in the branches.
 

EPM

Yamadori
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EPM

Yamadori
Messages
89
Reaction score
42
Location
NE Ohio
USDA Zone
6
It is a nice tree. If it were mine, I would leave it alone until next spring. Junipers are great first trees (they have been for me, at least!) but I have lost a couple due to too much pruning. Junipers need their foliage, particularly their growing tips, otherwise they are severely weakened. So for now, call it a year :) Water it, full sun, and fertilizer for the rest of the summer.
About pruning those branches shorter, you can do it next year. Just keep in mind that they might not back bud on "naked" wood, so always leave green. It seems like you have some branchlets closer to the trunk. When the time comes, cut back to them and let one become the new leader. That way, you will compact the tree and create taper in the branches.
Thank you for the reply! This is the direction I'm leaning and in any case it's probably the path that guarantees least harm to the tree. Do you recommend any work on the jin at the top this year, or just leave it be? Thanks again
 

bonsaichile

Chumono
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If you are going to jin those stumps, do it sooner rather than later. It is easier to peel off the bark when the branch is still fresh. But other than that, let the tree recover. Health always trumps looks!
 

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