Saving boring juniper from 1800 Flowers

Jeremycobb

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Hello! I am brand new to bonsai trees, gardening for many years but wanting to work on more potted plants indoors. I would like some ideas: I received a juniper bonsai from my wife for Valentine’s Day, and it’s very basic like you would see in the plant section at a store - it’s simply bent over and the end trimmed. I’d like to begin shaping in to something much more interesting, but since spring is almost here (Michigan) and I won’t be an expert in the next few weeks… what should I start to do to make this guy more interesting?

image.jpg
 

Bnana

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Step one is keeping it alive. A dead tree is not very interesting.
Once it is growing and healthy you can start thinking about styling.

Growing this indoors is not going to work. It needs to be outside, otherwise it will surely die.
 

Jeremycobb

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Step one is keeping it alive. A dead tree is not very interesting.
Once it is growing and healthy you can start thinking about styling.

Growing this indoors is not going to work. It needs to be outside, otherwise it will surely die.
He’s destined for the outdoors full time this year, and he lives out there part time now. We are re doing deck this spring so he’ll have a nice partially shaded space under a pergola. I’ve got plenty of indoor plants that I care for though none are conifers so that’s slightly new to me. I’m not trying to be impatient just wanting to understand what other seasoned professionals would work towards with this type of tree with the bend it already has. It came from a nursery in MS and appears to be very healthy, not over watered or over fertilized, but what shaping has been done seems to clearly be done quickly and on a massive scale.
Using the word “saving” is probably not correct, it’s in good shape, it’s more over trying to “save” the interest in this tree as it continues to grow.
 

ShadyStump

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Hey, I just killed one of these a couple months ago!
Welcome to the nut house.

If you want to make significant changes to the style, you'll want to put it in a much bigger pot and let it grow a couple years so you have more to work with. Otherwise, you really don't have much to start with now.

You mentioned in your post that you're in Michigan, but unless you want to write that into every single post and the still be asked all the time, you should add your location to your profile. It will then appear under your avatar, and be easier for folks to know your situation if you ask for advice on something. You can be as general or specific as you want.
 

Jeremycobb

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This made me think you want it indoors. But good that you plan to keep it outdoors.
Ahh yeah what I meant to say is “I need something to occupy me during the never ending onslaught of customer calls that will require the use of my hands and allow me the 10% of brain function that I need to ‘pay attention’ to the call” - my bad!
Hey, I just killed one of these a couple months ago!
Welcome to the nut house.

If you want to make significant changes to the style, you'll want to put it in a much bigger pot and let it grow a couple years so you have more to work with. Otherwise, you really don't have much to start with now.

You mentioned in your post that you're in Michigan, but unless you want to write that into every single post and the still be asked all the time, you should add your location to your profile. It will then appear under your avatar, and be easier for folks to know your situation if you ask for advice on something. You can be as general or specific as you want.
I think I need to break myself of what I thought bonsai would be about, which is small nudges and gentle changes that will proliferate over time… repotting and getting some growth is absolutely an option. And yes I’ll work on my profile tonight thank you!!
 

ShadyStump

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I think I need to break myself of what I thought bonsai would be about, which is small nudges and gentle changes that will proliferate over time… repotting and getting some growth is absolutely an option. And yes I’ll work on my profile tonight thank you!!
Bonsai can be like that if you want it to be, but it can also be something else if you'd rather. It's very much a hobby for the, "if it's stupid but works," crowd. That said, we do tend to argue allot over what's stupid and what works.

Right now you might be able to use some props, guy wires, or the like to help direct future growth some, even repot it at a different angle; but there really isn't much to work with until it grows out some. Bonsai, as an art, is about the combination of reduction and addition methods. We reduce but cutting, add by growing. The tree, though, decides how the addition happens, not us. We can direct it, and once we've gotten to know the tree we can make pretty decent predictions as to what and where it will add, but it does the adding.

So again, my suggestion is to let this tree do its adding while you get to know each other. If you get bored you can always dig an elm sapling out of your neighbor's yard and experiment on that.
 

Jeremycobb

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Bonsai can be like that if you want it to be, but it can also be something else if you'd rather. It's very much a hobby for the, "if it's stupid but works," crowd. That said, we do tend to argue allot over what's stupid and what works.

Right now you might be able to use some props, guy wires, or the like to help direct future growth some, even repot it at a different angle; but there really isn't much to work with until it grows out some. Bonsai, as an art, is about the combination of reduction and addition methods. We reduce but cutting, add by growing. The tree, though, decides how the addition happens, not us. We can direct it, and once we've gotten to know the tree we can make pretty decent predictions as to what and where it will add, but it does the adding.

So again, my suggestion is to let this tree do its adding while you get to know each other. If you get bored you can always dig an elm sapling out of your neighbor's yard and experiment on that.
If my neighbor could keep a tree alive I might dig one up, but I’ve got $5K of silver maple walking sticks from his yard - he had them planted and over watered them to a rotten root death, so I made them useful again.

Before today I didn’t know bonsai was different things to different people - I will absolutely be experimenting on things I find and take good care of this little juniper while I do it. I like you people, you seem crazy like me.
 

sorce

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you seem crazy like me

Backwards World Theory says if we all don't feel a little crazy by now, we are in fact Sociopaths.

Welcome to Peace!😉

a nice partially shaded space under a pergola.

This might be ok for the transition to outdoor life, but after while, it'll need more sun to remain healthy enough to not attract pests.

That makes it safer to leave it in full sun, even if it dries out a little....

But then you catch hints of that next layer of Crazy, where you become a slave to your watering can until you setup an auto water system so you vacation again.

But I bet you'll choose trees over vacation.
🙂

Sorce
 

Shibui

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I’m not trying to be impatient just wanting to understand what other seasoned professionals would work towards with this type of tree with the bend it already has. It came from a nursery in MS and appears to be very healthy, not over watered or over fertilized, but what shaping has been done seems to clearly be done quickly and on a massive scale.
Spot on about the mass produced. They grow lots as quick as possible in order to sell cheap but still make money.
Unlikely that the top has been bent over. This is J. procumbens, a prostrate form so it naturally bends and grows horizontally but that does not mean we have to have it bent over or horizontal. We have the means to change growth habit.
The soil looks very new so it is likely the tree has only recently been put in this pot. Junipers are slow to adjust and recover after potting or pruning. Trying to wire or shape it now is likely to break of new roots trying to establish and could even kill the tree. It would be best to leave it alone for this season and concentrate on keeping it alive.
Bonsai is a marathon rather than a sprint to finish. Plan on a 5-10 year project for most bonsai.
There's always many possible options to any tree. I can see a few ideas for yours even without any further growth.
The vertical trunk and acute angle bend look a bit odd to me. At next transplant consider tilting the tree to the left so the trunk is not vertical. That simple change of angle may even make the bend look OK. If the bend still looks too sharp you can wire the trunk and bend it a bit straighter. More taper in the trunk would help it look older and more attractive. I'd be considering pruning the upper section around half way and using a side branch to continue the trunk line. Chop, replace and grow is one of the most common ways to refine an add taper to bonsai trunks.
At some stage you can take off all the hairy bits on the lower trunk so it looks less like a bush and more like a tree but let it adjust to the pot and your care first.
 

Potawatomi13

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Aaaaand something else not seen in skim over thread: Juniper needs fully sunny days/not partly shady unless in far south HOT sun belt😊. If can afford feeding of new addiction very good info to be seen with Mirai Live subscription.
 

Jeremycobb

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Backwards World Theory says if we all don't feel a little crazy by now, we are in fact Sociopaths.
We're all on the spectrum somewhere...

But then you catch hints of that next layer of Crazy, where you become a slave to your watering can until you setup an auto water system so you vacation again.
My current auto water method is to put stuff in the middle of the yard and let the sprinklers get 'em

But I bet you'll choose trees over vacation.
I'll just bring them with me :)

Bonsai is a marathon rather than a sprint to finish. Plan on a 5-10 year project for most bonsai.
5-10 years is still waaayyy less than I thought!!!
The soil looks very new so it is likely the tree has only recently been put in this pot. Junipers are slow to adjust and recover after potting or pruning. Trying to wire or shape it now is likely to break of new roots trying to establish and could even kill the tree. It would be best to leave it alone for this season and concentrate on keeping it alive.
If I re-potted it just in to a larger vessel, leave the roots and the soil it's in alone, do you think it would be OK? Or is giving the roots some more room not really necessary since it was just re-potted?
The vertical trunk and acute angle bend look a bit odd to me. At next transplant consider tilting the tree to the left so the trunk is not vertical. That simple change of angle may even make the bend look OK. If the bend still looks too sharp you can wire the trunk and bend it a bit straighter. More taper in the trunk would help it look older and more attractive. I'd be considering pruning the upper section around half way and using a side branch to continue the trunk line. Chop, replace and grow is one of the most common ways to refine an add taper to bonsai trunks.
At some stage you can take off all the hairy bits on the lower trunk so it looks less like a bush and more like a tree but let it adjust to the pot and your care first.
Visualizing what you're saying is pretty much where my thought process went - my guess was they use this kind of juniper and make that bend intentionally so it looks more like a canopy style but without all the time and effort... cleaning up trunk will be my first action but I will go ahead and just leave it to settle for this summer!

Aaaaand something else not seen in skim over thread: Juniper needs fully sunny days/not partly shady unless in far south HOT sun belt😊.
If I put it where I planned it'll still get at least 8 hours of full sun, partial shade for another 3-4... sounds like this isn't enough, so well noted and I'll find him another home!

Thank you all for the thoughts and suggestions, I clearly have an awful lot to learn, and plan to do a good bit of experimenting along the way... but this guy will always be my first and I will treat him with care :) forgive my ill informed questions as I continue to read through and learn!!
 

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