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Juniperus procumbens var. sonarè...a long work

Mauro Stemberger, Italy; and Enrico Savini , Italy
Photos: Progetto Futuro Bonsai School
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Having the opportunity to restructure such an important material doesn't definitely happen very often. So, when you approach a similar plant, besides considering the emotional factor, you must be conscious that your actions will affect the development of the plant in the years to come.

This variety of juniper (Juniperus Procumbens var. SonarŤ - "hai-byakushin"), endemic species of Kyushu and Bonin islands, reaches in nature considering dimensions (up to 12 metres), with big trunks, characterized by pronounced lymphatic veins and parts of dead wood. This wood, because of his relative "softness", tends often to be consumed (worn out), mainly if not exposed to incoming solar radiation, that preserves its consistency as the years roll by.

This notable imported exemplar, with 20 years cultivation at least behind him, arrived in Italy in 2003.

The plant showed the typical aspect of a "hidden masterpiece", branches that had grown freely until reaching a considerable foliage mass and parts of dry wood that needed to be restored as well as finished off in the right way. Moreover it required a repotting, because its radical apparatus was so compacted that it came out a pair of centimetres from the height of the pot.

The tree, still in Japan

It was therefore evident that there hadn't been provided the adequate cares for many years and that, consequently, its beauty had been secreted in time, just waiting the right moment to emerge again, even boominger than before.

Front view and back view of the plant; after one year acclimatization in Italy, the imposing juniper is ready for the finishing; pictures show how much the dry parts need aimed at interventions, so to give the suggestion of a more aggressive visual impact and to demarcate better the lymphatic veins, operating on the many lymph shrinkage on the trunk.

The plant, after having been put at rest for one year, so that it could get over the "jet lag" (or simpler, the stress originating from the long journey), has been prepared for autumn works with some thinning out pruning, to permit the branches to have copious light, so to reinforce and react ideally to the wiring operations, thus every single small twig should be placed to its proper location.

As October 2004 came by, we had to bring, and not without a huge effort, the juniper into our laboratory, to proceed to the complete "remise en forme" of the exemplar.

Front view and back view of the plant; after one year acclimatization in Italy, the imposing juniper is ready for the finishing; pictures show how much the dry parts need aimed at interventions, so to give the suggestion of a more aggressive visual impact and to demarcate better the lymphatic veins, operating on the many lymph shrinkage on the trunk.

Front view and back view of the plant; after one year acclimatization in Italy, the imposing juniper is ready for the finishing; pictures show how much the dry parts need aimed at interventions, so to give the suggestion of a more aggressive visual impact and to demarcate better the lymphatic veins, operating on the many lymph shrinkage on the trunk.

Front view and back view of the plant; after one year acclimatization in Italy, the imposing juniper is ready for the finishing; pictures show how much the dry parts need aimed at interventions, so to give the suggestion of a more aggressive visual impact and to demarcate better the lymphatic veins, operating on the many lymph shrinkage on the trunk.

Front view and back view of the plant; after one year acclimatization in Italy, the imposing juniper is ready for the finishing; pictures show how much the dry parts need aimed at interventions, so to give the suggestion of a more aggressive visual impact and to demarcate better the lymphatic veins, operating on the many lymph shrinkage on the trunk.

The first operation we effected, was the total fixing up of dry parts, that, as said, should be restored in some zones (Iím referring here to the frontal part, mostly the zone in contact to the soil, that means more exposed to dangers coming from rotting process and to weed attack), whilst other parts had to be improved by means of high-speed milling cutters first, a meticulous and patient hand work afterwards, carried out by using different kinds of gouges, so to let the dead wood look as much natural as possible. This purpose could be obtained even better with the use of fire, employing a micro-solder to burn the scraps left after working and give the desired natural look, following atmospheric agents slow consuming of the dead parts faithfully.

Picture-sequence illustrates some steps of the whole work on dry wood. Many zones have been lightened by means of high-speed milling cutters; after opening two splits in the trunk, we wondered they revealed a natural hollow of the trunk itself; every shari has then been refined using gouges and fire; the operation ended with the application of jin liquid, to which we jointed titanium oxide, in order to avoid the formation of a non-natural patina (thatís why powder oxides are to be preferred to tempera colours).

Picture-sequence illustrates some steps of the whole work on dry wood. Many zones have been lightened by means of high-speed milling cutters; after opening two splits in the trunk, we wondered they revealed a natural hollow of the trunk itself; every shari has then been refined using gouges and fire; the operation ended with the application of jin liquid, to which we jointed titanium oxide, in order to avoid the formation of a non-natural patina (thatís why powder oxides are to be preferred to tempera colours).

Picture-sequence illustrates some steps of the whole work on dry wood. Many zones have been lightened by means of high-speed milling cutters; after opening two splits in the trunk, we wondered they revealed a natural hollow of the trunk itself; every shari has then been refined using gouges and fire; the operation ended with the application of jin liquid, to which we jointed titanium oxide, in order to avoid the formation of a non-natural patina (thatís why powder oxides are to be preferred to tempera colours).

Picture-sequence illustrates some steps of the whole work on dry wood. Many zones have been lightened by means of high-speed milling cutters; after opening two splits in the trunk, we wondered they revealed a natural hollow of the trunk itself; every shari has then been refined using gouges and fire; the operation ended with the application of jin liquid, to which we jointed titanium oxide, in order to avoid the formation of a non-natural patina (thatís why powder oxides are to be preferred to tempera colours).

As we finished the work on dead wood, that took us about two whole days, we proceeded first of all to a lightening of the foliage and then to its wiring, a work that went on for four days (and at "four hands"), because we had to position the wire in an elegant and refined way, considering that the plant had to be shown in the following spring at the annual U.B.I. exhibition, taking place in Arco di Trento.

After a quite drastic pruning intervention of the superfluous ramification and the elimination of the lowest left hand branch, we started wiring the foliage branches, arising from the lowest branch on the right and going on up to the apex. Some 0,8 wide tie-rods have permitted us to avoid the use of the wire on primary branches; every single plank has been distributed this way not only to seem aesthetically nicer because of the spacing, but even to receive air and light in abundance, so to facilitate an accurate cultivation and a balanced and gradual thickening of the branches themselves.

After a quite drastic pruning intervention of the superfluous ramification and the elimination of the lowest left hand branch, we started wiring the foliage branches, arising from the lowest branch on the right and going on up to the apex. Some 0,8 wide tie-rods have permitted us to avoid the use of the wire on primary branches; every single plank has been distributed this way not only to seem aesthetically nicer because of the spacing, but even to receive air and light in abundance, so to facilitate an accurate cultivation and a balanced and gradual thickening of the branches themselves.

It is worthy to underline that we preferred not to use considerable widths of wire on primary branches, choosing inspite of those some tie-rods, wisely positioned, in order to not attract attention at the end of the work.

After the wiring phase, we started to structure each single ramification, beginning from the lowest branch, which was even the thickest one and needed to be "broken" into more plank, so that we could give to the foliage the encircling movement, according to the frontal vein, with its important junction among the dry parts (picture 13-14).

After a quite drastic pruning intervention of the superfluous ramification and the elimination of the lowest left hand branch, we started wiring the foliage branches, arising from the lowest branch on the right and going on up to the apex. Some 0,8 wide tie-rods have permitted us to avoid the use of the wire on primary branches; every single plank has been distributed this way not only to seem aesthetically nicer because of the spacing, but even to receive air and light in abundance, so to facilitate an accurate cultivation and a balanced and gradual thickening of the branches themselves.

This picture, taken from below, shows the structure of a plank after wiring; itís quite evident that the 80% of the vegetation has been wired, while we avoided to wire not yet ligneous or semi-ligneous twigs; this is very essential for conifers; itís a small, apparently insignificant, yet important particular, thus the wiring of not yet mature shoots, often executed for esthetical purposes, causes a terrible stress to the plant; the correct positioning of a secondary or tertiary branch, on the contrary, permits the plant to react more vigorously. We will, than, operate by pinching to obtain the best definition of every leaf-plank.

Continuing advancing towards the apex, each twig, each plank has been positioned, in view of and taking into account the final design of the finished plant.

The apex, at last, was closed using the whole body of the tertiary ramification that composed it, but needed to be positioned. At the end of the work, the juniper was 90 centimetres high and it could have the deserved winter rest, to explode again in the following spring and be ready for the national exposition.

After the deserved rest, the plant has answered with big strength to the spring awakening- exhibited at the U.B.I. Congress in Arco di Trento at the beginning of March 2005, it has gained a meaningful Mention of Merit as Dai-bonsai, to great joy of the undersigned and of the whole School.

This tree has this way had the honour to compete with other beautiful plants, obtaining a meaningful Mention of Merit at the U.B.I convention and being selected, furthermore, for the renowned Gingko Bonsai Award in Belgium.

After two months (and hundreds of pinching, almost day after day), the plant, exposed in Lainate, shows a visible maturity, sign of a quality work, operated both on the structuring front as well as on the cultivating one, and has been selected for the by the time renowned Gingko Bonsai Award 2005

Special thanks to Enrico Savini, a great professional man and a dear friend of mine, thanks whom Iíve been able to front such a complex working and who is teaching me really a lot, with patience and professionalism.

I have a final thought at heart. . . "people often use to think, with a little bit of superficiality, that an importation plant can be shown at an exhibition "the day after its arrival". . .. . . itís not always like that. . ... I believe this plant is the clear proof of the contrary."

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