On April 24, 2018, our monthly general meeting and demonstration featured Club Sensei Kathy Shaner. Kathy demonstrated on a Prostrata juniper (Juniperus horizontalis) (also known as a creeping juniper).
She started the demo with the question everyone of us should ask ourselves before working on a tree, and that is “What is interesting about this tree?” Kathy then described the movement of the trunk and potential flow or direction of the foliage. The trunk was somewhat narrow with a slight taper towards the top of the tree. The direction was clear and the foliage would be styled to flow in the that direction. This, of course, meant some of the foliage at the top would have to be removed as it appeared to flow in two and opposite directions. Kathy said the juniper lend itself to the bunjin or literati style of bonsai.
By nature, this style of tree can be located in dense forests where competition is restricting and the tree can only struggle to survive by growing upward and taller than the other trees. The trunk is bent and without branches due to the sun reaching only the very top of the tree. The style of bonsai is to demonstrate its struggle to survive.
Kathy pointed out that the demo tree had too much foliage and it covered the trunk and obstructed the view of the trunk’s movement. She would remove the lower foliage and branches. When cutting the branches, she left only small stubs for jins. She described jins as deadwood and cautioned about making jins too long. When dead branches occur in nature they can be long at first, but eventually in time the deadwood breaks off. So, short jins show age.
She moved quickly to cut off and eliminate the foliage and branches at the top of the tree that were in the opposite flow or direction of the trunk. She wasn’t concerned about selecting a front view until this point where sufficient unwanted foliage and branches were eliminated and the trunk was fully exposed to the viewer. In selecting the front view, Kathy turned the tree around several times to view the complete trunk and its movement. There were some exposed roots at the base of the trunk and Kathy said these roots can be worked on a later time. She was interested in finding a front view where the movement of the trunk was most interesting.
Kathy having decided on the front view of the tree proceeded on wiring the first branch and other major branches. She explained that her wiring was loose so that as the tree grew the wire would not cut into the bark. Wiring too tight would require removing the wire before the branches had time to set in place. She would next have to bend the branches slightly upward at first and then down. Placing movement side to side in the branches gave it more interest. Kathy would make small, slight bends first. She said to massage the branch in order to make it more flexible and less of a chance of breaking under the stress of bending. Kathy cautioned about wire spacing and suggested wiring not in close or tight wraps but rather elongated wraps for better control. Note that some bonsai books suggest wiring in 45-degree wraps around the branch, but this and tighter wraps only acts like a spring. It is better to elongate to 55 to 60-degree wraps.
A major branch cracked during the bending process. Kathy used Parafilm product to wrap the slightly broken branch. Parafilm® M film for lab, floral, produce and nursery applications and Floratape® stem wrap for florists. The Parafilm tape will seal in moisture and help the healing process.
Kathy created some jins on branches removed from the top of the tree and again stated that the jins should be short and not long and dangling deadwood. Jins shouldn’t be rounded off and pointed but rather broken off for the appearance of age.
She cut the terminal tips of the foliage to green up close in to the trunk. This would cause back budding near the interior of the foliage.
The demonstration tree was transformed into a bunjin or literati style bonsai. The movement of the trunk was clearly in view and the foliage was mostly at the top and flowing in the same direction as the trunk.
Kathy said shari or deadwood feature could eventually be carved narrowly along the trunk to give the juniper even more age appearance. She suggested an oval or round bonsai pot for the styled tree. The bunjin or literati styled bonsai should give the viewer the feeling of being off balance and on the verge of tipping over.
A raffle for the demonstration tree was taken and longtime member Ivan Lukrich won the tree.