Juniper Squamata in Summer

My Juniper Squamata is enjoying the warmer weather at the moment and pushing out a lot of new growth. The roots of this tree were severely pruned last year to get it into this stunning pot by Ian Baillie and I am relieved to say there has been no ill effects on the trees’ vigour.


I will let it grow on throughout the remainder of our summer and redefine the foliage pads later in the year.


Homemade Rock for a Bonsai Landscape

I spent part of last weekend creating the basic structure for my first bonsai landscape. The material used is a substance known as hypertufa, which is a mixture of 1 part sharp sand, 2 parts peat and 1 part cement. This is supported on a sub structure formed from wire mesh.

The wire mesh was shaped into cylinders, which were secured together with bonsai wire.


Some of the cylinders were partly filled with wet newspaper to reduce the weight and create drainage channels in the interior of the structure.


The hypertufa was mixed with water to a fairly stiff consistency and applied in and around  the wire by hand. If you have sensitive skin you should wear gloves when doing this as the cement content can cause irritation.



This is how it looks at the moment. The tall part and the planting pockets give the whole thing the appearance of a phallic lunar landscape but this should change as the work progresses.



I will leave it to fully dry out and then add texture with a power tool and some stone grinding bits. It will later be planted with cotoneaster, small alpine plants and mosses. I am really looking forward to that part.

Getting Decisive with a Juniper

This is another tree that we worked on yesterday, when I visited my friend Gerry. It’s an Itoigawa Juniper. Gerry has had this tree for some time but has been struggling to find the direction to take it forward. We spent about an hour studying the material and considering it’s pros and cons. At the start of our deliberations there was foliage on the lowest jinned branch in the first picture but we quickly agreed that because it was so low on the trunk, it’s contribution to any potential design solution for the tree would be limited.

Any good design for a juniper should include an impressive area of shari and jins and the remaining foliage should be arranged to display these features at their best.

With this in mind we then discussed the contribution that each of the remaining branches would make. The remaining unnecessary foliage was then removed.

The first 2 pictures show the tree at or near the start of our critique.



The result of our initial deliberations can be seen in the next 2 pictures. We have taken the initial steps to creating an interesting area of deadwood.



The newly cut sharis and jins will be allowed to dry for a few weeks, refined a little more and then lime sulphured. At that time we will also give the tree it’s first full wiring. I am looking forward to continuing work on this tree in a few weeks time.

Root Over Rock Chinese Elm in Development

During my weekly meeting with Gerry, we took a close look at a shohin Chinese elm that he had attached to a rock last year. He simply, bare rooted the tree with a water jet, wrapped it’s roots around the rock and tied them in tightly with some wire. He then placed the tree in a five inch plastic pot and filled it up with akadama.

We started by cutting the pot back to look for fine root development


When we could see that there were lots of fibrous roots, we removed the tree from the pot for a closer look.

The rock, which has a depth of about four inches (10cm) has fine roots growing around and below it. The depth of the roots, below the rock is about half an inch (1 to 2cm).


We decided that for the next stage in the tree’s development, it would be advantageous to plant the tree on a deep layer of akadama in an eight inch pond basket to encourage further root development beneath the rock.


With the tree firmly tied into the basket, more akadama was added to temporarily cover the exposed fibrous roots on the side of the rock. These will be removed the next re-potting if there are sufficient new roots beneath the stone.


This is how it is looking at the moment

Side A


Side B


Re-Potting a Tall Scots Pine

I had Gerry in the garden today to get some advice on the potting of one of his large pines. In a normal year it might be considered too late in the season to attempt such a thing; but this year it has been so cold and wet that all of our trees are a bit behind where they should be at this time. As the tree is very healthy and the candles have not yet fully opened, we decided to give it a go.

His plan for the future is to train this tree in the literati style, so he wanted to get the tree out of the large oval pot and into something smaller and round..

This is how it looked at the start of the work.


This is the new pot by Ian Baillie. It’s a little deeper than the old pot and the front to back measurements are the same.


Out of the old pot and it’s just a case of shaping an oval root mass into the round.


We added additional mycorrhizal fungi to the new soil mix


And this is how it looks at the moment. The tree will be kept in the shade for the next few months and the soil will be kept slightly moist until it shows strong signs of recovery.


Some Shohin Cotoneasters in Flower

I thought I would share a few pictures of some cotoneasters in development that are flowering well at the moment and bringing a touch of high summer to my benches

The bench in the following picture sits immediately opposite my kitchen window and always displays whatever is looking good at any particular time





Back to Basics, Working with Raw Material

Now that most of the early season re-potting is over, it leaves me with a little more time to study the collected material which lives at the back of my garden, to carry out some basic maintenance on it and to seek out the potential hidden within it.

The 2 pieces that I am looking at today were collected from my garden last year and featured in a blog post at that time.

The first is a Lonicera Nitida. As the first picture shows, it didn’t have many roots, when collected so it was planted deep in a large plastic pot to grow more.



One year on, we can see that it has put on a considerable amount of top growth


When it was removed from the pot and the old compost based soil washed off, you can see that it has a much stronger root system this year. It can now be further developed in a training pot with a good free draining bonsai soil mix.



This is another possible future planting angle, which shows more of the trunks’ twists and turns. The inverse taper at the point where the foliage emerges can be carved out later.


The second tree is a procumbent juniper. This is a reminder of how it looked last year, when it was removed from the garden



One year later, it is looking strong and healthy but it hasn’t put on much new growth. I won’t attempt to re-pot this one at the moment but I’ll wait another year to allow more root development


When viewed at this angle, the tree might have some future potential as a literati


A little branch selection and wiring to help it on its’ way.


Kifu Itoigawa Juniper Re-Pot

This is the last of my trees to be re-potted this year. It’s my workshop Juniper from last year. Regular followers may remember that this is the tree that I took to the Marc Noelanders workshop last summer.

Here are the before and after pictures from the workshop last year

Itoigawa Juniper Before

Itoigawa Juniper After

And this is how it’s looking at the moment in a rather large Yamaaki pot. I had to remove a few large roots to get it into this pot and a few more will have to be removed in the future to get it into a well proportioned show pot.


I think it is looking great considering that its only a year since it’s first major styling. It promises to be an excellent tree in the future


Root Over Rock Juniper Re-Pot

For the past few seasons my root over rock juniper has been in this blue glazed Chinese pot. It’s not the traditional type of pot for a juniper but I was informed at the time that it was a perfectly acceptable choice for a root over rock composition, where the blue glaze represents the sea around a rocky outcrop. However it has never been a popular choice with other club members so I have been looking for a more traditional alternative for some time.


Recently, I acquired this nice old Chinese unglazed pot, which works well, I think, with my little juniper


It will need another trim, when it has recovered from the re-pot