While the theory behind producing Yamadori-style juniper bonsai is simple to explain, the process takes some time, and perhaps most importantly, perseverance. What if the most challenging aspect of bonsai growing is to remember your intentions eight years after you had the original idea? Luckily, the plant is there to remind us of what we already decided.
Here are some examples of trees that I have been working on for a while:
Raft style Kishu, 9 years from a cutting. The structure of the tree is approaching the size that I want, but the size of the trunks is still too small. I’ll allow the tree to grow out each year and add details.
Detail of the base of the raft near the point of the original cutting. The trunk has had bark peeled from the center of the base three times. Small branches were killed at the same time. You can see some rollover of the cambium around the branch stub on the upper left. Although strips of bark were removed in places, I removed only small tear-shapes pieces in some other places. This adds to the character of the trunk without permanently removing bark from large sections.
Detail of some of the smaller trunks of the raft. Some of the bark was peeled in September 2013 and is beginning to callous over while a section at bottom right was peeled a day before this photo was taken. Additional bark will be peeled later this summer. On each trunk the bark peeling will lead to a gentle twist and two separate lifelines. The individual trunks were all wired as the tree grew out and I added twists the first time I wired each section – so when I peel bark it follows the twist that was made a couple years ago.
The base of a yamadori-style juniper, the tree was originally started in 2007 at a workshop with Jim Gremel. The trunk has had three separate rounds of bark peeling. Even after 7 years of vigorous growth the trunk is still only 1.5″ in diameter. The large jin at right was wired when it was young but the bark was peeled all at once – this means that the branch has a circular cross-section. If you forgo the time needed to create the a more complex shape through peeling small sections of bark, carving on larger jin can improve the shape.
A Yamadori-style Itoigawa juniper, age unknown. Parts of the trunk have been peeled but because the tree is being trained to keep the branches small the lifeline swells only minimally. The trunk of the tree could be improved through a few years of vigorous growth.
Small yamadori-style junipers for sale at the Green Club near Ueno park, Tokyo, Japan. Most have twists in the trunk and the deadwood shows signs of carving, but will improve with age.
An older yamadori-style tree, Green Club, Tokyo, Japan. Note the many layers of deadwood that have been created on the trunk. The lifeline that starts on the left twists around the back and the second lifeline starting behind twists to the front. The angle of the trunk creates the appearance of a wider base than the girth of the trunk suggests.