A little over a month ago, the Susquehanna Bonsai Club had the honor of receiving an excellent demo/lecture from 2 extremely well-known bonsai professionals. From the UK, Peter Warren teamed up with Minoru Akiyama from Japan and gave our club a great show.
Minoru Akiyama apprenticed for six years under bonsai master Kunio Kobayashi at Shunka-en bonsai nursery. At age 29, Minoru was the youngest person ever to win the Prime Minister’s award at the Sakafu-ten bonsai exhibition, the highest accolade for a professional bonsai artist. He won this award again in 2011, both times using junipers collected by his father, a renowned yamadori collector. He has won many other awards at Sakafu-ten and won the top prize at Koju-ten, the professional Satsuki Azalea exhibition.
Peter Warren did a 5 year apprenticeship under bonsai master Kunio Kobayashi at Shunka-en as well. It was during this time Peter met Minoru and they became good friends while both were apprentices. Peter has a wealth of bonsai knowledge and travels the world giving bonsai demos/lectures to bonsai clubs.
Minoru was the Senior apprentice (Senpai) while Peter was the Junior apprentice (Kohari).
For our club demo, an established root-over-rock shimpaku juniper was chosen for them to work on. Majority of the hands on work to the tree was done by Minoru while Peter did all the translating and assisting when needed. Also while Minoru was working on the tree and Peter had some free time, Peter gave the club some great info on care, styling and techniques for working with junipers. All and all it was a great club meeting! After the photo gallery is more detail about the demo/lecture provided from our club’s newsletter editor Ross Adams.
Please enjoy the photo gallery of the event 🙂
(click on first image to enlarge photo and scroll thru gallery)
Trees with a less than ideal nebari are generally used for root-over rock plantings. It is important to find a good rock to put the tree on since the image and feel of the tree will be influenced by the rock. A deciduous tree can be placed on a rock with soft curves, but if you are working with a conifer, you want a mountainous image of the stone. Stones like trees have a front and back. Since junipers grow in a severe environment, look for a stone with a severe mountainous image.
The Root-Over-Rock Juniperus chinensis ‘Shimpaku’ has tight foliage and many branches. It suggests a cascade, semi-cascade, or windswept style. Semi-cascade and windswept are similar but made by different forces. Semi-cascade and cascade have the image of clinging on a rock and being pushed down by rocks and snow, whereas windswept is created by winds blowing and forcing the branches to survive on the leeward side of the tree. One of the difficulties of changing the angle of a Root-Over-Rock style of tree is how deep is the rock in the pot? If the rock is shallow, it can sometimes be corrected by creating a stable base for the rock with cement if it will be concealed at ground level at the chosen angle.
Peter and Minoru decided to create an image of a plant growing in a severe environment, the tree grew up and then got hit with winds that bent it over. Deadwood will be created and the main line of the composition will be determined. To create deadwood, look for branches that are straight and have no character and cut the stub long and use a cutting and tearing technique to simulate how a tree loses branches in nature being careful not to damage tissue below the branch. There are three branches all looking about the same for the main line. Remove the thicker branch, the two remaining branches are thinner and will improve the taper of the top. Leave more foliage on the branches until they are placed and then remove excess. The tips are left uncut, they will continue to grow and the tree will recover more quickly.
In a month or two the longer shoots can be cut back. Look at the balance of the whole tree as well as the individual branch you are shaping. Re-pot next year if the tree is growing well. When a tree loses foliage, it thinks it is going to die and sends out juvenile foliage. Juvenile foliage has more surface area and synthesizes more and is soft and breathes more easily. Cutting too many roots, pruning back too hard, or taking off too many growth shoots all can cause the growth of juvenile foliage.
Junipers grow rapidly. Light green tips indicate growing tips, inside the tree needles are waiting in reserve and the tips are darker green, while failing areas turn brown. Clean out the dead and dying foliage from inside the tree to bring in air and light and encourage back budding. Clean off the base of the branches and prune back the terminal growth cut back the growing tip to encourage the secondary branches of the cluster to grow. Cleaning everything out from the crotch is bad and leaving everything is bad, rather encourage adventitious buds to grow so we can cut off “leggie” branches. Select one juvenile growth to replace “leggie” branches. Rather than cutting off a long shoot, wire the branch and bend it on two planes, bend it up, right, down, left. A pad should look like an upturned hand with fingers extended up creating depth and more movement to the pad. A long shoot can develop a nice pad in one year using this technique. Don’t tie shoots in knots or a pig tail. Prune off all branches that are on the inside of curves. Secondary branches grow on the outside of the curves. It is best to wire and style trees in the fall when the growth is hardened off. The branches are more supple in the spring, but more care is required in the spring to prevent damage to the bark.
Once we get tight growth and the strength of the areas are relatively equal, maintain the fan shape of the branches. Look for strong areas to cut back by removing the strong central growing tip of bundles and allowing plenty of green tips to grow. It is no longer standard practice to pinch all growing tips which actually causes the tree to go in shock.
Disease problems with junipers include spider mites, scale, and tip blight (more a problem on the West coast). Preventive spraying of pesticides is good if you are having problems. Spray from the inside out and repeat in a week or follow label directions. Mites mature and are laying eggs in a week. Spider mites like dry conditions spray from a hose will help dislodge mites. We are close to the mountains and have to consider contamination from the wild. Fungal issues are caused by humans not sterilizing hands and tools, rain or spray late in the day, and cedar apple rust from crabapple and rose family and hawthorn, and tip blight. Junipers will not transmit rust to each other but Prunus and Malus are alternate hosts for rust.
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