To remove 20+ years of growth or not?

Japonicus

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This is my oldest bonsai, duly named Alpha, surviving my "holocaust"
when I burned most of my trees up in a cold frame years ago.
The few that survived were small enough to go on the ground, rather than what makeshift bench I made
on top of the plastic bottom which held some rain runoff, countering the transpiration.
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On the slant, the juniper is 23" tall, the apex is actually 17" above the pot though, and a spread of 27" overall.

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I would sever at the red twisty as a safe cut jinning down to somewhere above the keeper branch, adjusting later.

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This would give the juniper a "FLAT TOP" apex.

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I know it doesn't look like much for 20+ years, and would have been much more impressive had I grown it out properly
but have only up-potted with a few of the repots, keeping it on the small side girth-wise.
It resides in a mica pot still, which will change next year.

In the next post I will put 2 of these pictures side x side in thumbnail format for toggling sake
for a before/after prospect. It's not easy this decision, but since I didn't grow it out...is a chop and a flat top a good idea or not?
 

Japonicus

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Also here is a couple of thumbnails which help to toggle between the 2 pics.
DSC_3289.JPG DSC_3284.JPG


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These 2 pictures are the oldest I can find, from 2002.
Alpha is the 1st on the left and at least 4 or 5 years old then.
I do not recall if I began keeping bonsai before 1999 or not, but pretty sure that's when I got these...'97-98.
 

Japonicus

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I do not recall if I began keeping bonsai before 1999 or not, but pretty sure that's when I got these...'97-98.
Well that sounded stupid. Somewhere around then........:confused: The taller Sargent juniper to the left of the wind chime
was a nursery stock. At least the deck was in good shape back then :p Now it's full of copper wire and bonsai soil particles.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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My initial reaction was against cutting it. But now, looking again, I think I would be tempted to cut it down.

Before you do it though, could you wrap the trunk in raffia and heavy wire and twist the trunk clockwise making it a bit more upright? It may give the trunk movement since it lacks taper, and then really reduce the size of the foliage pads, and break each of those big pads up into several smaller pads. If that isn’t an option, then yes, I’d cut it down.
 

Adair M

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The issue is the relatively thin trunk paired with the wide (long) branches.

If it had a heavy trunk, the foliage would be ok...

So, my inclination would be to shorten and thin the foliage. I also agree with BVF about straightening it up. It would give it more of a literati tree form.

Procumbens naturally tend to grow out wide, like yours is doing. Unfortunately, this habit makes them look like a bush, rather than a tree. Setting it more upright, and wiring as BVF suggested, would set it on a path towards a more tree like form.

Thinning and dividing the pads will also prevent it from becoming a “poodle cut” tree. (Which procumbens can also fall into easily.)
 

Japonicus

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My initial reaction was against cutting it. But now, looking again, I think I would be tempted to cut it down.
I know, me too ☺
I put that red twisty on there a month ago or so. Pulled the tree in for a cleaning underneath the branches
and revisited the idea a bit more seriously, so thought I'd throw it out here to get some input 1st.
Before you do it though, could you wrap the trunk in raffia and heavy wire and twist the trunk clockwise making it a bit more upright? It may give the trunk movement since it lacks taper, and then really reduce the size of the foliage pads, and break each of those big pads up into several smaller pads. If that isn’t an option, then yes, I’d cut it down.
Yes breaking the pads up...as I began cleaning and removing a couple unnecessary and problematic branches
I could see a couple of the larger pads will be broken up horizontally as well as vertically, because as I clean
I'm saying to myself (you see no wire on this juniper) "I will be coming back in here to wire, and if I follow my lead
this is how it should go then". Then I come back and thin more after a short recovery time, a couple feedings move on to another project
then by the third thinning I'm ready to wire.

As to the raffia and twisting, could you give me some pointers on this Brian? I understand what you're saying
and I will allow the soil to dry before such an attempt should I do this 1st just to see where it takes me
but the pointers I could use, are in the line of moistening the area the raffia is on (I also have self amalging tape I'm more comfortable with)
each day for a few days prior to bending. I've heard of this technique, but it seems to me that would cause the bark and cambium
layer to slip. Can't remember who suggested this in another thread, and ya know I really don't remember if it was a conifer or not.
I'm one to break the trunk here I guarantee you, so is this not an, all in one go of it I presume? Never bent old wood successfully.
 

Japonicus

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I vote cut it! You could always airlayer that part if you want, and name it Beta. 😎
Beta LOL 😃 The thought of layering it crossed and went right through my mind before.
I don't know if it's a - I have enough procumbens don't need any more thing,
a - I don't want to fool with it or what, I really don't know, but you've made me consider it again. Thanks.
 

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The issue is the relatively thin trunk paired with the wide (long) branches.

If it had a heavy trunk, the foliage would be ok...

So, my inclination would be to shorten and thin the foliage. I also agree with BVF about straightening it up. It would give it more of a literati tree form.

Procumbens naturally tend to grow out wide, like yours is doing. Unfortunately, this habit makes them look like a bush, rather than a tree. Setting it more upright, and wiring as BVF suggested, would set it on a path towards a more tree like form.

Thinning and dividing the pads will also prevent it from becoming a “poodle cut” tree. (Which procumbens can also fall into easily.)
Hi Adair. As typical you're right, so everything is normal.

Poodle cut- if I break the pads up more, why would this not accentuate a poodle-ing topiary effect
versus singularly thinning out each pad? In my reply to Brian, there are a couple pads to slice horizontally and wire lower half down.
I do have a couple of pads that are melded together that appear to be lost form over the years, but I never employed the form which is there for the taking.
There's a couple of absolutely stupid wayward branches I've built the current form on which now I know
should have been addressed like way back when I took the earlier pictures. I should have put movement into then trunk too.
Back then, I was more about the taller bigger form I could achieve from a stick in a pot, pinching much much more than pruning
directing growth by pinching more than any other technique. This has brought me to a point where to wire the branches out properly
will take several seasons for me to accomplish, because the current form was achieved mostly by pinching, resulting in more and more
upwards growing thicker pads. It's something you could tackle in a short timeframe I'm sure, but me, I'm redoing, countering years
of ignorance, and Rome wasn't built in a day.

How much of the trunk I wander @Brian Van Fleet are you suggesting to apply raffia to and twist clockwise?
In my mind I'm seeing the current front becoming spread all around the tree, but unsure how many degrees of rotation
you are eluding to. I said I understood what you meant. Perhaps I should pick your brain on that before I assume I hear you.
In my 1st reply, I was thinking just the top portion that would be removed would be twisted, but that does not straighten anything.
If I were to twist the entire trunk, that's an entirely different story, and one that could for me, end the life of the project below
the intended sever point. I would rather wimp out and chop than to try to put movement in the entire trunk.
My confidence level is lacking in that respect obviously. Can't practice on this one 🔰
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Best to do those big bends in the fall. Do a little research, I think Mirai has a video on applying raffia. I would wrap the whole trunk, with the biggest bends happening on the section of trunk where your twist tie is located. Yes, it’s done in one “go”, then protected through the winter. Procumbens tent to split at the union between trunk and branch, so you just need to be careful in those areas, otherwise, it should not be too tough to bend.
 

Adair M

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This is not the right time of year to be attempting to twist the trunk. Twisting is how you delaminate the bark off the heartwood! Wait until late fall/winter to do that.

Yes, you have thick pads. On procumbens, especially if you pinch, you build balls of solid masses of foliage. So, don’t pinch. Let it grow out, then cut back. Keep each pad smaller and separated from the others. Smaller pads adds to the illusion of size. That is, having multiple small pads makes the tree look bigger than having a few large pads.
 

Japonicus

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Best to do those big bends in the fall. Do a little research, I think Mirai has a video on applying raffia. I would wrap the whole trunk, with the biggest bends happening on the section of trunk where your twist tie is located. Yes, it’s done in one “go”, then protected through the winter. Procumbens tent to split at the union between trunk and branch, so you just need to be careful in those areas, otherwise, it should not be too tough to bend.
Yep wrong time of year for big bends and the such.
I just remember one of our members mentioning a technique of dampening the area to be bent, (after proper raffia application)
and that helps with making the wood more supple. I really had never heard of that till maybe a month or so ago. No idea what thread, sorry.

Now, as to the actual twisting Brian...how many degrees of twisting like 120º? I know its hard to say from a photo
and not in your own hands.
Also clockwise, looking from the top down in my hands tends to make the top half all the more...bent, less straight.
On the other hand, counterclockwise seems to lend to a straighter trunk.
Thanks I know I have good eyes on this between you and Adair. I had hoped you might chime in on this.
 

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This is not the right time of year to be attempting to twist the trunk. Twisting is how you delaminate the bark off the heartwood! Wait until late fall/winter to do that.

Yes, you have thick pads. On procumbens, especially if you pinch, you build balls of solid masses of foliage. So, don’t pinch. Let it grow out, then cut back. Keep each pad smaller and separated from the others. Smaller pads adds to the illusion of size. That is, having multiple small pads makes the tree look bigger than having a few large pads.
Indeed it is a bad time to do heavy bends and twisting, thanks. So I have found that out, pinching = thicker, more vertical pads. Ug
...BUT! I typically do not get a lot of brown tips after pinching.

Adair I've been meaning to tag you in my JWP thread (about removing the pollen cones...not). Just something for you to mull over till I get around to some current pictures.
My goodness!!!!!! What a mess having not candle pinched this year. I hate it!! Very poor results very long neck where the pollen cones were with no needles.
I allowed them to naturally fall off as always but did not candle pinch.
I'll catch up to you in that thread one day this week.
 

Adair M

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Indeed it is a bad time to do heavy bends and twisting, thanks. So I have found that out, pinching = thicker, more vertical pads. Ug
...BUT! I typically do not get a lot of brown tips after pinching.

Adair I've been meaning to tag you in my JWP thread (about removing the pollen cones...not). Just something for you to mull over till I get around to some current pictures.
My goodness!!!!!! What a mess having not candle pinched this year. I hate it!! Very poor results very long neck where the pollen cones were with no needles.
I allowed them to naturally fall off as always but did not candle pinch.
I'll catch up to you in that thread one day this week.
Dampening probably has little effect.

In Japan, some nurseries use “plastic rope” instead of raffia. It’s a vinyl black tape with no sticky kind of stuff. It doesn’t stretch. The purpose of raffia or the rope is to prevent the bark and cambium from separating from the heartwood. And help prevent snapping.

So, once the black rope is applied, it makes it waterproof so no dampening can occur.
 

Japonicus

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Probably 90 degrees, twisting and moving the apex until it ends up over the base.
I see, thanks :) 90º sounds simple enough. I was afraid you may've been thinking about
somewhere in the range of 120-360º Numbers fit in my head to help me understand
a little more of how your gears were turning. I would be more comfortable with a 90
going into a repot next Spring, but still may surprise myself and cut it back.
What's another year? I will wait till a good hard freeze or two and give it a twist.

Here's one last question, please bear with me...
lose the slant through planting angle when repotting, keeping that in mind when I do twist
or arc the apex over the current base? Really that's important to know before I commence to plan.

Adair referred to literati style, but most images I see have barren trunks for a good ways unlike what I have.
So I suppose a combination of styles will be my result.
 

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Without the tree in front of me, it’s hard to say how much I’d change the planting angle, but by the look in the first photo, standing it upright will only make the trunk look thinner and duller. I based the 90* bend on keeping the present planting angle.
 

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