Pom Pom San Jose Project

doctorater

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POM POM SAN JOSE JUNIPER PROJECT

Recently I managed to pick up a pom pom style San Jose Juniper from the clearance table at a big box home improvement store. I think it's going to be a fun project tree and will give me opportunity to work on some skills; air-layering, juniper care, long-term project planning, etc.

The tree as a whole seems reasonably healthy though it's fairly root bound and a lot of internal foliage died back from lack of light and inconsistent watering.

I forgot to take a picture of it before I thinned out the foliage. Sorry about that. If you're curious, it looked like this...

Pom Pom.jpg

This is a painstaking virtual recreation of this tree as it appeared when I brought it home, I hope you all appreciate the effort that went into it.

There was no obvious, immediate path to shape this material into a bonsai. That was apparent before I bought it, but the attraction of the old bark on the thick base as well as on most of the main branches made it worth it.

Another interesting feature; is it a tree or is it the watcher in the water from "The Lord of the Rings?"

Tree or Watcher.JPG

After some thinning and clean up it looks like this...

San Jose Pom Pom thinned and numbered.jpg

A pleasant discovery I made during clean up was that each of the six main branches has an existing secondary branch structure already suitable for bonsai and most branches have maturing bark and at least a small amount of movement in the trunk line. Air-layering these branches could mean up to six new bonsai.

Here are photos of each of the six possible trunks taken from the underside the tree...

Trunk 1.jpg


Trunk 2.jpg



Trunk 3.jpg


Trunk 4.jpg


Trunk 5.jpg


Trunk 6.jpg



Trunks 1 and 2 come off a protruding section of the base and could potentially make a nice twin-trunk if I can get that knob layered off effectively...


Trunk 1 and 2 (twin).jpg

I am not experienced with air-layering and have only a little experience with raising junipers as bonsai so I thought I'd reach out for tips and advice as well as any other thoughts members of the community might have on the project as a whole.

AIR-LAYERING
Any particular recommendations on a the best method for air-layering San Jose Juniper? I've know people use various growing mediums for layering; sphagnum (chopped?), regular bonsai soil, Napa 8822, gummy bears, stray cats, neighbor's children, etc. Any experience-based recommendations? Also, how many of these branches can I safely layer at once?

HOW TO USE THE BASE
Besides just air-layering branches, I'd also love to be able to do something with that big barky base. Any chance I'll get new growth from the base that can make it suitable for a bonsai project? What's the best approach to encourage back-budding on the base (as well as lower on the branches)? How will that effort affect timing of air-layering? Any other ideas on how to use the base?

Any thoughts or comments are welcome.
 

R0b

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Do those trunk still bend and if so how much? My first idea was to turn it into a multi trunk design.
 

doctorater

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Do those trunk still bend and if so how much? My first idea was to turn it into a multi trunk design.
The trunks are all pretty stiff. Bending them would involve more than some wire. Creating arcs would be doable, but sharper bends would likely involve surgery and for that I'd seek the input of those who've successfully done it. I wish I lived closer to a good club. Nearest I know of is two and a half hours from me.
 
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sorce

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You've done so well. From having the mind to give "hard"(the pompom) material a shot, to taking good pictures to get assistance. If you know right now you don't have to do anything for at least 4 years, and lose nothing, you will not be able to fail with this material.

Step one, in the four year thought process then, for me...is..

Considering these trunks that don't start from the base.Capture+_2020-07-29-10-58-30.png
4 is thinner and seemingly longer than 5 which has excellent proportions. Seemingly...let's assume seemingly for everything.

6 is larger than 2, so 2 shouldn't have "birthed" 6.

So encorporating those into a "use all", also traditional design will be difficult or impossible. They don't "make sense".

So those would be my first considerations for removal vis airlayer, since yes, all that branching is pretty frickin dope.

You also can't cut off 5 and use 4, or cut 2 and use 6, cuz that jagged turn goes against the rest of the flowing movement.

That is of course, if you intend to use as much as you can for one clump style tree.

I believe with even pretty basic tactics, you will be able to bring at least 1 2 and 3 together as a triple trunk, and remove the rest.

It will probably need a little more work to bring 5 in, but that will give you some depth.

Have a good study on forest rules and apply them everywhere possible.

Use of everything isn't off the table either. It just seems a waste of your energy, energy better spent layering appropriate trunks off.

Nice.

Sorce
 

doctorater

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If you know right now you don't have to do anything for at least 4 years, and lose nothing, you will not be able to fail with this material.
Now wait just a doggone minute! If I don't do anything for four years that means I will have a pom pom juniper in my back yard for four years - what would the neighbors think! You say I would lose nothing, but I counter with "What about my reputation. Where do I go to get that back?!!!" 😉

In seriousness, your comment is great. Very thoughtful. You see things in those photos that I didn't think was going to come through in the photos. Your idea for a first step, layering 4 and 6, was exactly what I was thinking at this point for mostly the same reasons.

As far as a 'use of everything' design, even if all those branches were fully flexible I couldn't see any possible design that would use them all, three max, and none of those possible designs involved trunks 4 or 6.

Trunk 6 could potentially be divided with roots directly off the main base, it goes off to the right in this picture...

Big Thick Base.jpg

... however, that leaves too much long, straight trunk below the first branch and there's also an old whorl creating reverse taper about halfway from the base to the first branch (plainly visible in the overhead shot). I think it makes sense to air-layer at that swelling to take advantage of it for nebari and to make the trunk length more proportionate. Maybe the remaining stump will bud out later or can be jinned.

Trunk 4 would also benefit from layering about halfway to the first branch, it also has a bit of reverse taper (but not that visible in the photos) and far, far too much straight length below where the branching begins.

I expect that I will layer 4 and 6 in the Spring.

That leaves trunks 1, 2, 3, and 5 on the base. However, I'm an odd numbers only between three and eleven kind of guy. Even numbers make my teeth vibrate. So at least one of those four will have to go. If I know by Spring which one that is, I'll probably layer it with 4 and 6 or I'll wait until after separating 4 and 6. Then take my time making decisions about what remains. I'll see how the rest can fit together in a single composition or I'll start layering off the rest of the branches.

That's my plan now. Of course I could change my mind based on comments here and may well change my mind several other times between now and Spring, but come layering time, it's knife to the bark, baby!


Steve
 

sorce

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I knew "you had this" before. I really didn't think the feeling could be more reaffirmed. Untill now!

Cheers!

Sorce
 

doctorater

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This is really a perfect project for improving my bonsai mindset. When I get a piece of material I want to thin it, scan it, plan it, trim it, jin it, wire it, shape it, repot it and have a bonsai when I'm done.

This is bad and it must stop.

This project simply can't be done that way. There is no way to start on it in the morning and have bonsai by the afternoon. It forces me to slow down and work the steps and the material has enough potential to make it worth doing so.
 

TomB

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Any chance I'll get new growth from the base that can make it suitable for a bonsai
The only way to do that would be by grafting. I had a San Jose for 15 years and never saw a single back bud.
Foliage needs careful management. Follow the pruning advice for scale junipers (Shimpaku types), not needle junipers. This variety works best in larger sizes.
 

doctorater

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The only way to do that would be by grafting. I had a San Jose for 15 years and never saw a single back bud.
Foliage needs careful management. Follow the pruning advice for scale junipers (Shimpaku types), not needle junipers. This variety works best in larger sizes.
That is really useful information. Thanks, TomB.
 

Forsoothe!

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I'm surprised that nobody has suggested chopping everything and making a potato with needles. What am I missing? This is not bonsai, or pre-bonsai, or malsai, or even wannabe bonsai. It may very well be the Anti-Bonsai. I'm surprised that God has not struck it dead with a lighting bolt. Maybe he's waiting for the OP to commit one more mortal sin.

Could it be air layered six ways from Sunday? Yes, then the OP would have spent a year growing $2 trees that would need to be babied for another couple years. That would be a waste of time for someone who was going to be in prison for two or three years. The net of which would be possession of 6 sticks with needles. Time is worth something. This tree is worth 5 minutes, tops.
 

doctorater

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The only way to do that would be by grafting. I had a San Jose for 15 years and never saw a single back bud.
Foliage needs careful management. Follow the pruning advice for scale junipers (Shimpaku types), not needle junipers. This variety works best in larger sizes.
I'll have to keep the grafting idea in mind as I move this project forward in the next couple of years, sounds like a good way to make use of the base whether or not I keep any of the existing branches on it. I could even consider grafting in a different juniper variety.

When you say "follow the pruning advice for scale junipers" I assume you are referring to tip pinching procedures for ramification rather than larger scale branch pruning?
 

doctorater

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Blah blah blah POTATO blah blah!
Oh, look, Forsooth is here talking about potatoes. A fun coincidence since I live in Idaho (home of "Famous Potatoes!") and I just happened to read his famous anti-potato rant/thread yesterday (well, one of them anyway, who knows how many how many he's started, it appears to be a re-occurring infection, like a mental herpes chancre where every time he scratches it, it just itches more). I was amused at the opening statement since I'm not a potato-sai fan either, but then I kept reading and realized he wasn't just trying to have a bit of fun, but was actually more interested in being a douche. What can I say, this is the internet after all.
 

TomB

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I'll have to keep the grafting idea in mind as I move this project forward in the next couple of years, sounds like a good way to make use of the base whether or not I keep any of the existing branches on it. I could even consider grafting in a different juniper variety.

When you say "follow the pruning advice for scale junipers" I assume you are referring to tip pinching procedures for ramification rather than larger scale branch pruning?
As in, don't pinch it, scissor-cut back to the base of shoots, otherwise you'll end up with a horrible mess. I did. Look up Michael Hagedorn's advice on juniper maintenance, and follow that - it made a big difference for me. The real point is that while this tree looks like it has 'needles', it's not a 'needle juniper' it's a scale variety with mainly immature foliage. You'll also have to decide whether to keep the foliage immature (spiky) or let it develop into mature scale foliage - which on this variety is coarse, straggly, not uniform, and will revert to juvenile whenever stressed in any way.


EDIT: Incidentally, on your styling dilemma: You were originally attracted to the base so I'd think about retaining that. Post 6 is a nice image that makes me wonder about a slanting twin-trunk design, using the two trunks that go off to the right in that picture. The trunks would be tall, with most of the foliage closer to the top, like a mature conifer. Other trunks would be removed and thrown away (air layering just wastes a year unless you see trees you actually want in the sections to be removed), with the remnants carved into small, subtle, deadwood features at a future date. Caveat is that I've not studied your tree, and to be honest nobody can really give good advice without the tree there in front of them. This is just going on my general impression.

FYI this was mine (now sold) - always a good idea to see someone's trees before deciding whether they are worth listening to. This is quite a small tree (about a foot tall); on a larger one like yours you should be able to get the foliage looking better.

DSC_2186.jpeg
 
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Kadebe

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Nice tree.
When I saw this shari and lowest jin, my first thought went to...

skispringen136-resimage_v-variantBig1xN_w-1920.jpg
But very nice tree 👍
 

Forsoothe!

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Everybody starts out in bonsai approximately the same way. We acquire a plant, sit down at the table, clip here and there, stare at the tree and say to ourselves, "What now?" We can't see the forest through the trees. Those of us that had the luxury of attending demos or better yet workshops get a boost to the next level by somebody looking over our shoulder and walking us through the process of looking at the individual parts that will make up a whole tree. That's important, but there's another aspect which is even more important: a tree was supplied by someone who actually knew how to shop for a good candidate. A good candidate!

One of the most difficult aspects of bonsai is, "where do we spend the time we have to devote to the art?" We all start in the same place, knowing nothing but wanting to have and to work on miniature trees. We discover that anything woody can be bonsai. Wow! Great, we all have favorite species. What we don't actually understand is that it is only superficially correct and it takes awhile to understand all species can be bonsai, some better and easier than others, but all individual plants will NOT be bonsai, some are just too unlike anything we want. The lesson that this OP is going to understand, come Hell or high water, is that you have to be able to walk through rows and rows of plants looking for particular features that contribute to bonsai while ignoring the thousands of trees that have counter-productive features. You John Naka would pick up a bad tree and try to make a bonsai out of it? The more experienced you get at selection, the better your trees will get. Eventually, you don't go to nursery looking for species, you go looking for anything with good bones. You see an interesting canopy and immediately look under her skirt. You want some kind of foliage, but you understand that you need to start with the nebari that's there, and the first three branches are absolutely the guts of a really good tree and either they're there, or you have to grow them for years to get what you need and want. Do you want to spend your precious time doing something,
 

Forsoothe!

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Post #16, Continued

-growing from scratch, or is it better for you to learn how to search a field for that one tree that is better than the other thousand? What's your time worth? What do you see ten years from now looking at the tree in your hands? Ten years from now, will you say, "I'm glad I took the time to work on this tree". ?

Some will say you can get good practice air-layering the six spokes here. And you will have six sticks when you're done. Or, you could get the same experience doing air-layers on good branches of good trees and have something other than sticks when you're done. What's your time worth?
 

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@doctorater

I see youre fairly new to the forum and to bonsai.
Welcome to the hobby and to the forum.

You probably arent going to like what I have to tell you about this tree, but I happen to agree with @Forsoothe! that this tree is not great material and probably not worth the time and effort to try and get something decent out of it.
I however will try to be more diplomatic than his first post and try to explain why its not great material and that while it could provide a great learning opportunity, it wont make a good bonsai.

I have walked past by 100s of these in my travels around tree nurseries looking for material and when I was new to the hobby was very tempted to buy them just as you did.

The biggest problem with these is the octopus configuration, trunks going out at all directions so left as is, its just a topiary, and cant make a convincing bonsai at all.
fI think that you have also come to that conclusion.

The second problem is that they mostly have rather straight trunks with all the foliage quite a distance away from the roots and as somone said, they dont seem to back bud at all.
Lastly the angle that each trunk comes off the root base is too extreme to make even a convincing informal upright and they dont bend so a cascade is out of the question as well.

I honestly dont know how easily San Jose air layer as I have never tried it myself but if you want to experiment, you could give it a try.
That said, lets assume that they do air layer well and look at each branch to discuss how if each one might be worth air layering.

Trunk 1
Has a little bit of movement from the angle pictured, but the branching above leaves a lot to be desired. There is a very large thick branch up near the top which would have to eventually be dealt with. Possible candidate.

Trunk 2
Very straight near the bottom with a bit of reverse taper wehre the branches start. Could try to do the air layer about halfway up the straight portion to make a better possible candidate.

Trunk 3
Very straight in the middle of the branch, reverse taper below. Lots of branches but the straight section would make it kinda meh.

Trunk 4
Very little taper throughout the branch. Interesting movement halfway. Might try the air layer just bleow the first branch. Area below the first branch very straight and not interesting at all so not worth keeping.

Trunk 5
IMO this is the best branch. It has nice movement near the bottom, relatively low branches. I would try this air layer where the edge of the pot is if you can.

Trunk 6
Also not a bad trunk except for the reverse taper where the branches start. I would air layer this about 3-4 inches below the branches.

Your proposed 2 trunk with #1 and #2
This configuration creates a 'Y' and would not be a very compelling 2 trunk. If you cant bend them to try and reduce that effect, its probably not worht it.
We usually try to avoid trees and branch configurations that form a 'Y' because they just dont look good at all.

IMO the best trunks in order are 5, 6, 1, 4 IF the tree can be air layered.

My advice is to try doing air layers on the less desirable trunks first (2, 3) to see if it will work.
You will learn something along the way.
Any way you go, this is a long term project to get anything decent. Whether its worth it or not, I dont know. For me it wouldnt be.
Dont get too invested in the tree because the chances of getting a decent tree out of this is slim.
Work on trying to find better material that has a better chance of developing into something nice.
Good luck
 
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