In bonsai, Junipers are supposed to be all twisty and contorted. That’s the rule. So, I guess we should all just ignore the tree that I’ve been working on for the last few years – it’s too straight for a juniper. Check back next time I post something.
But seriously, where do the rules come from? What makes one tree better than another in bonsai? Is it a convention or is it a fact? Bonsai come in an almost infinite variety of shapes such that there is room for trees that have different feelings. In my last post I restyled a yamadori-style Kishu Chinese juniper. Yamadori-style is commonly taken as a description of how one would duplicate the best qualities of a yamadori juniper in a piece of material that is grown by the bonsai artist. And, for bonsai purposes the consensus is that the crazier the twists and turns in a yamadori juniper the better. But junipers in the wild grow in a lot of different shapes, and many of the straight ones are just as interesting as the twisting ones.
For this juniper, which is nearly a formal upright, the inspiration has to come not from the twisting sinuous Sierra junipers of California’s Sierra Nevada, but instead from the trees that perhaps are only a dozen yards away from those twisting trees and have straight trunks but contain just as much character in the branching. For the last 10 years I’ve been adding details and character to this tree through repeated styling and cutback.
While the initial styling in 2006 had been to my liking, it wasn’t long before the tree started to resemble a redwood tree more than a high mountain tree. Still, it took me a long time to decide to finally style it again like the mountain trees that I love. By October of 2014 despite more than a couple cutbacks and restyles the tree had gained a couple inches in height and had no significant deadwood. It seemed logical to make the tree look more like a bonsai again, less like a bush. I removed the entire top, leaving a bunch of short jin’d branches and reduced the branching to emphasize a windswept look.
After the October 2014 restyle the tree was quite sparse. I set it on the bench again to grow until there was significantly more foliage.
The tree now stands about 10″ tall and captures the feeling of a juniper growing on a windswept rock outcropping. In the future I may allow the top portion of the foliage to form a slightly larger mass to the right, lending more emphasis to the story of a windy habitat. So, does this look like a juniper, or is it too straight?