It’s That Time Of Year Again

It’s a bittersweet time because the weather has started turning cold and doing this chore anywhere but outside is not an option for me.

As I look at how nice and full the JBPs are with all those needles I sort of cringe, but then I think of what they will look like after the plucking and the new wiring and I feel much better about it.

I’ll start this blog with the littler ones and save the bigger ones, the ones that are more refined for next time.

This first one and the few that follow are trees that were given to me as three year old seedlings back in 2009 I believe. Their shape was started by the original owner so I didn’t have much to say about the style that was chosen. All I could do was to try and refine them a little more each year and hope I would get something that would look halfway decent some day.

So here’s tree #1, first the before and then the after.



I wonder how many of you after looking at the first pic are saying are saying to yourself ” I think he should have left it the way it was because now it looks a little skimpy with all that nice foliage gone.” I too liked the fullness of the first pic, but when we get down to tree # 4 you will see why it’s important to not let your eyes decide for you what is right when it comes to JBP maintenence work.

Now tree # 2 looks like it needs some help for sure with all that foliage. The after pic shows a much better looking tree but with still some years of work needed to bring it where I want it to be. You can see that my design plans for this tree is to extend that bottom branch downward to give the tree a flowing motion if that’s the correct word for it, so that the viewers eye will naturally go there rather than at the untapered trunk which is quite a distraction.



This next tree has come a long way as far as I’m concerned. When I took this tree I said to myself, “this tree will never amount to anything”. Well with a lot of care and determination It turned out better than I ever thought it would.



It really looks a lot better in person than I can make it look with even a professional camera. I guess it’s that thing they call 3D. 🙂

Well here’s the last tree for this article and it’s the one I mentioned above about all that nice foliage having to come off. Even this tree is very full with nice small foliage.


But as with the others the foliage had to be greatly reduced for no other reason than to let light into the inner branches to help produce back budding and to give the artist a specimen that loks like a tree and not a bush.


Notice the real nice refinement of the branches on this little guy? You only get this with dedicated work on your JBPs twice a year, in summer and fall. Of course I don’t mean to belittle the fact that a good fertilizing program is also a must because without it you wouldn’t have much to work with since the summer work is wholly dependent on the strength of the tree at that time and that can only happen with a good healthy fertilized tree.

I would just like to add that this tree is now ready for a much more suitable pot, something a bit smaller for sure.

Next time I’ll be showing the work on the mature trees.

See you then.
Thomas J.

Juniper Procumben Series – Formal Displays

Hopefully everyone that has been keeping up with the blog has enjoyed the procumbens series. This weeks installment is the one I have been mentioning about with a gallery of the six junipers in a somewhat formal setting.

But before we get to that, let me update you on the progression of the junipers. All are doing just great. It has been at least two months since the last one was worked on and they are pushing new buds like crazy just like any young procumbens juniper would do at this time of year.

By leaving a good portion of the root and soil when I did the repotting, made sure the health and life of the plant would not be affected to any major degree. I have even begun to do some weak fertilizing by using fish emulsion which has a low concentration of nitrogen. I will also begin to use chelated iron which also has trace minerals to keep the plant from yellowing. Usually a good shot of 20-20-20 fertilizer which also contains trace minerals is enough, but for these young guys now I’ll just keep it low key so as not to push so much new growth for now.

I hope as you look at these pictures you will go back to the beginning of each one to refresh your memory as what each one looked like before I started the work. I hope that this will inspire you to step out of the box and try something challenging rather than just taking it from nursery pot to bonsai pot and leaving it more or less a shrub rather than a tree. Remember this type of juniper has a natural tendency to lay low and spread out so you will have to be creative to make it do otherwise.

Keep in mind also that if you start out with a 1gal juniper as I did, you probably won’t have much to work with, so after your initial styling you’ll probably have to wait a few years to get it looking more like a tree while those young branches turn from a bright green to a dark brown as they harden up.

As with all things in bonsai, patience is the key. Enjoy what you have now always looking to the future. 🙂

So without further delay, let me present to you the six junipers procumbens.

Juniper #1
Juniper #1 – View Part 1
Juniper #2 - View Part 2
Juniper #2 – View Part 2
Juniper #3 - View Part 3
Juniper #3 – View Part 3
Juniper #4 - View Part 4
Juniper #4 – View Part 4
Juniper #5 - View Part #5
Juniper #5 – View Part 5
Juniper #6 - View Part 6
Juniper #6 – View Part 6

Japanese Black Pine: A Few Progressions (Part 2)

In Part One I discussed and showed pictures of JBP that were raised from seed by a friend for a year or two and then I took over with the basic and future styling of these seedlings. I mentioned three basic things that JBP require at their designated times on the calendar throughout the year. As long as these three basic things are done, you should have a JBP with a good future and enjoy watching your work come to fruition.

These next few trees are either at finished stage or close to it. I’ll start off with my first JBP that I purchased back in 2003, without a clue as to what to do with it. I more or less just kept it alive until I decided to take serious the care and maintenance of this species of tree. That finally happened in 2007 when I bought my first and most expensive tree, a finished Japanese Black Pine. Because of that I decided I would need to take a few classes on the care of this tree to make sure I wouldn’t lose the work that someone else had put into it for so many years and gave it the beauty that it had.

So here is my first JBP. Not much to it is there.

Black Pine 1

Well that was ten years ago and as I learned on the big trees I transferred my knowledge to the small ones just the same. This pic shows the tree this fall before doing the needle plucking.

Black Pine 2

Notice now in this next pic how the tree is cleaned up after doing the fall work. The extensive branching is showing making it look like a tree as it should rather than a bush. Notice how small the needles are and how compact also.

Japanese Black Pine 3

This next tree is also one that the same friend who gave me the others from the last article. This one was the largest of the few that he gave me. As with the others, I really had no plan as to what to do with this one either. As you can see from this first pic, it too didn’t have much going for it.


Feeding it good and giving it plenty of water which these trees like, kept it very healthy and gave me much potential with the many new buds it produced after the summer decandeling.

Black Pine Bonsai

The following year finaly gave me some insight as to what direction I should take this tree. I was happy to see what I finally produced.


And this year after the fall work I’m even more happier as the tree is producing a nice branching system. One thing I will have to be careful of though with this tree is that I don’t let it get too full of foliage for the thin trunk that it has. Being kept in a pot now will restrict the size of the trunk and pretty much keep it as it is now. Too much foliage for this size trunk will make it look off balance and not pleasing to the eye.

Black Pine 7

These last two trees are what I would consider my finished JBP trees. When I say finished I mean they are where I would like them to be style wise, but certainly not finished with the normal care and periodic maintenance as with all JBPs. The first pic shows the tree at purchase and You would probably have to agree that even though it looks nice and manicured, it does look a bit weak though. That’s why it is so important to keep JBP fertilized good during the time when it is right to ferilize.

Black Pine Bonsai 8

A few years later with much diligent care and my gosh look at that foliage. A testament of proper care and feeding.

Black Pine Bonsai 9

And then finally the fall work is done and the results are stunning. After doing the needle plucking and giving the tree some good wiring, you should have something that will motivate you to love the world of Japanese Black Pine. Just don’t forget the part about time and patience though. (LOL)

Black Pine 10

This last tree is one of my favorites because I am somewhat partial to cascade bonsai. This first pic shows the tree at purchase. It too looked somewhat weak back then.

Japanese Black Pine 11

But as with the last tree, I gave it my best and it repaid me by showing what it could do for me.

Windswept Black Pine Bonsai

It was a somewhat slow process but I could see that it was a very healthy tree and would have no problem reaching its potential.

Windswept JBP

This years decandeling produced many new buds also and it was finally time to do the fall work.

Alternate View Windswept Black Pine
And here it is now five years after purchase and it’s pretty much gone from being a semi cascade tree to a cascade tree. The foliage and the branching are very healthy and strong, and with that I must again be careful not to let it over take the size of the trunk. I will probably have to thin it out a lot to keep it in proportion with the trunk or I will end up having a JBP bush instead of a tree.

Beautiful Black Pine

Japanese Black Pine: A Few Progressions

One of the things I like about bonsai and I’m sure most enthusiasts do also, is watching them progress throughout the years. Depending upon the species, some might even give more satisfaction than others as you watch your work come to fruition.

As it is with anything that’s of any kind of value, time and patience is the name of the game, and this is especially true in bonsai. Once you’ve cut a few corners in trying to speed up the process and found out that the other way would’ve probably been much better, then you’ll have finally reached that pinnacle of success where the only thing that matters for a wonderful looking bonsai is as I said, time and patience.

So once your at that point then it’s time to maybe try your hand at Japanese Black Pine bonsai. With these trees they dictate the time, and you must have the patience. There are only three main things that have to be done with JBP, and that is repotting, candle pruning, and needle pulling and if need be, branch pruning. These three things have to be done on schedule with no room for exceptions.

In late winter or early spring, depending upon where you live in the U.S. will be the time to repot taking caution of course with the low temps that might come and go at times.

Next will be the decandeling process which is again dependent on where you live. Southern states such as Texas where I live, early to mid July is the time. Northern states will go anywhere from late May to mid June.

The final Item will be needle pulling which will start in late October all the way to mid February if need be.

Okay so let’s look at some progressions for this first part. These first few trees were given to me by someone who started them from seed. They were around two to three yrs. old at the time, and that was in 2009. I don’t think the person who started had a design in mind because of the way they were trained, or should I say untrained.

This first pic shows just exactly what I had to work with. Doesn’t look like much does it? For this reason I decided this one and the following one would be shohin size since the trunk was laying more or less down low and had branches going everywhere, and the next one as you will see, was pretty much the same.

Pic two shows the best I could get out of that tangled mess. Again, it leaves a lot to be desired I know, but you must look down the road a bit and trust your ability to improve on it in time, with the proper training.

This next pic doesn’t show much improvement for one years time, but you can tell it is very healthy and growing like it should.

Finally a little light at the end of the tunnel, as we are now starting to show some improvement with a little branch structure beginning to take shape. This pic was taken last year in 2011.

But now look at it this year just before the fall work has begun. The summers decandeling brought forth many new buds therefore giving me much to choose from for new branch structuring.

And finally the little shohin maybe has a future. It won’t be much but it will be fun to work with and make something out of almost nothing.

This next little guy isn’t much different than the first one. Notice it too had a wild beginning with foliage going everywhere and no design whatsoever. So again I had to do the best I could with what I had, which wasn’t very much.

After contemplating until I could do no more, this is what I ended up with, something that probably anyone else would just toss in the garbage.

So about a year later the tree is progressing good with healthy new candles, but not much going for it in the design deptartment. Also, do you notice the roots protruding out from the collander? Here in Texas where the summers are horrendous with heat for such a long period of time and the fact that JBPs must be in full sun, this guy and a few others were sitting in a shallow tray of water and they just loved it. With the proper soil, this doesn’t hurt the tree one bit. I’m not encouraging others to do this because their different climate zones would probably not need this type of care for their trees.

Here we are now with the fall 2012 work done on this one and as you can see it’s really improving a lot. Not enough to make it a great shohin, something I’m sure it will never be, but something I can look back and say I created with time and patience.

Next time I’ll have a few more progressions, some with finished JBP.

Part Two

Continue Reading – Part 2

Back to Basics – Bonsai Growing Tips

Bonsai trees are sometimes difficult to grow for some people. Often times, someone gets a bonsai tree as a gift from a person who does not really know a lot about them either. While there is nothing wrong with this, it makes it all the more imperative that the person who has received this gift do some research on the plant. With some knowledge about your tree, you can grow a bonsai tree on your own with no problems. That said, Bonsai trees will take a certain amount of work that some other plants will not. Many people who receive these trees as gifts simply put them next to a window to get some sunlight and do not bother with them afterwards, except to water them once a week or so. A bonsai tree in this situation will die quickly. The truth is, when taken care of properly, a bonsai tree can live for hundreds of years or more. Seriously!

The first thing you must do to take care of your bonsai tree is to find out what species it is. This is so important because every species has different needs. Finding out what species your tree is can sometimes be a daunting task because there are hundreds of species of bonsai trees. But finding the general name of the species will suffice because then you will know the type of environment it prefers to live in. After you find out what species your bonsai is, you will more than likely be sitting it outdoors unless it is a species of tropical bonsai, which will need special care. Of course, if you live in a tropical climate, it would be fine to sit your tropical bonsai outdoors. Bonsai trees can usually not survive indoors for a number of reasons such as lack of humidity and light.

The next important step is learning how to water your bonsai properly. Watering your plant properly is crucial to its survival. Unfortunately, this is one of the most difficult parts of bonsai cultivation. Every species will need a different quantity of water. Too much or too little could quickly kill your bonsai tree. Bonsai trees are usually in a smaller pot, which will have a smaller amount of pourous soil. Bonsai should have a rocky or pourous soil by the way. Not the loamy soil gardeners usually prefer. This smaller amount of soil will cause the bonsai tree to dry out quicker or suffer from other temperature fluctuations very easily. Using the right size pot is also important to your plant’s health because the roots of the tree dictate the pot size. Most bonsai trees will have to be watered every morning and evening in the summertime. I’ve heard that watering the plant during summer mornings will adversely affect the tree. I’ve also heard the same thing about watering in the evening. A good rule of thumb is to check a couple times a day if your tree is thirsty. If it is, give it some water. My thinking is that it rains whenever it rains and I don’t see a lot of trees with fungal growth and rot in the wild.

Support: 800-982-1223

Call us Monday Through Friday, 9:30am to 5PM CST