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#ProgressionThursday - Rocky Mountain Juniper Bonsai

Updated: Aug 7, 2021

Welcome back to another progression! If you missed last week's progression, you can check it out here. This week, a Rocky Mountain Juniper that I bought last fall from Eisei-en. I was attracted to the deadwood and I knew the main branch could be bent, I just didn't know how much. I also loved the antique nanban* pot. The great thing about Bjorn’s garden is there are trees of all sizes and shapes. Refined and rough and trees to fit just about any budget.

Nanban pot - a bonsai container generally associated with rustic and a non-uniform design. Often a good representation of wabi-sabi.

I’ve come to really like medium sized trees. They are not too big that I can’t move them myself, but they are large enough to show well in the garden. This tree was the perfect size for me. This is my first attempt at RMJ and I love the way they smell and the deadwood on this particular tree is amazing. My only concern, so far, is the foliage seems less than stellar.

Here's the tree before work, Fall of 2020

Rocky Mountain Juniper Yamadori
Rocky Mountain Juniper, shortly after purchase

Knowing I needed to do some heavy bending, I prepped some raffia for the bends.

Bonsai Raffia being soaked in water before use
Raffia being soaked in water before use

The raffia about to be applied.

Here is the tree after the bends and restyle. I was very happy with the way it turned out, although afterwards I noticed one considerable mistake. Take a look at the picture below and let me know if you can see it.

After Styling - Fall of 2020

You might have guessed it, but in the middle of tree, look towards the raffia bent branch, you'll see a major crossing branch. In this case, I should have bent the branch the other direction, which would have actually been an easier bend and allowed the crossing branch to take its place. This would have resulted in a simpler design and less congestion in the middle of the tree. I'll have to correct that flaw over time.

With that said, I was happy to let the tree recover into the spring of this year. Fast forward to this summer. The tree has grown very strong and I recently had to cut it back.

Tree back in the shop, Summer 2021

Tree in need of a refresh

There are plenty of back buds, which is always great to see. As I mentioned above, my only concern is the foliage is floppy and coarse. I'm hopeful, over time, that will correct itself. If not, I may look to graft shimpaku foliage onto the tree.

Backbudding on Rocky Mountain Juniper Bonsai
Backbuds, my favorite type of buds

I brought the tree into the workshop for a refresh. For one, I wanted to bring out the shine of the live vein. I took some vegetable oil and applied it.

I also tweaked the wire and cut back in a few places. Here is the tree today.

As you can see, the right side of the tree hasn’t filled in as well as the left. I’ll attempt to place the tree in more advantageous way to get sun and hopefully more growth on that side. The live vein looks much better with the oil applied, don't you think?

I like this tree quite a bit, despite my reservations about the foliage. It’s always one of the favorite trees for visitors to my garden. I hope I can continue to refine the silhouette over the coming years.

Before 2020 - After 2021

So, what do you think? Do you have any experience with Rocky Mountain junipers? How is your foliage? Ever grafted shimpaku to a RMJ? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to subscribe the blog for all sorts of updates and post on trees in my garden. Until next time, Peace, Love Bonsai!

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