Staying with cascades: How to avoid sitting with a trees that has no potential.

Here is a tree that I have been busy with for almost five years now. Its been a struggle as you can see in the photo above. When I bought this tree I did not have the slightest idea how to work with Junipers. I just wanted a Juniper as everyone in the bonsai community said that they were the king of bonsai trees and that you needed to have at least one in your collection. I decided to write this blog to address the two major mistakes I made and to help others avoid them.

I would like to urge new bonsai artist out there to keep their collection as small as possible. Rather test multiple techniques on one tree and get comfortable with one species before moving to the next. When in dought ask a bonsai artist in your region for advice. I know nothing gets the blood flowing like working on a new tree and seeing it whipped into shape. I like designing new trees and therefor I wish that someone give me this advice sooner then I would not have been stuck with all these trees in my collection that I am now doing damage control on. What do I mean by this. Well when I got these trees that I have bought on impulse I had no plan for them I just wanted trees to work on. Avoid buying trees just for the sake of buying them. Here are a few questions that you need to ask yourself before buying a tree:

  1. Does the tree have any potential as one of the five basic bonsai styles?
  2. Does the thunk look interesting?
  3. Is there any movement in the trunk?
  4. Does the thunk taper towards the top?
  5. Does it have a nice root system that flares out from the base in all directions?
  6. Is there enough branches on the tree so that you can create a beautiful tree?
  7. Are the lower branches thicker than the ones higher up?
  8. If the tree meets most of the above mentioned points the next question will be to ask if it is reasonably priced?

Note that by asking these simple questions mentioned above you will certainly not buy trees that will take years to grow into bonsai. If you do not get a tree at the first two or three nurseries please do not let you spirit be damped. These questions are just guidelines. As you get better in choosing trees to design you can later on use any suitable species and design amazing trees from it. Try and get these guidelines to resonate in your mind when ever your looking at a potential tree. You will see it becomes second nature and you will instinctively choose trees that work.

That was me addressing the first issue. The next one is a bit more difficult for me. Its something I have always been struggling with and that is to throw any trees that do not work and that have no future. Now I know that sounds cruel but if a tree does not work or does not seem like you can get it to a better level of development. Pass on the tree to someone else or if its really bad just throw it away as this will save you time, money and a lot of headaches. I know of many bonsai artist that sit with trees that they have had for years and that trees will never be ready for show or even be called a bonsai but because it has sentimental value they will keep on trying. I’m not saying its wrong but if you can avoid it please do.

Here is a Juniper that I have that had no potential but I still keep on trying to get it to be a bonsai.

As you can see in the photo below I removed a bit of the trunk just so that I could bend it further down to be used as a cascade tree.
Here you can see that it started to heal.

There is the two angles that I am playing with for the next time I will be repotting this tree. I like the second option as you can see a bit more of the deadwood and has a better flow to the tree.
Option one
Option two

If I use option two I will remove the lower branch as it points straight down. Even if I decide to keep it and bend it slightly up it still feels to far from the rest of the tree. I will be keeping this tree even though I know it will take me a while before I get the tree in shape. Its one of those catch twenty two situations. I like this tree and it has given me a lot of joy and experience. I tested a lot of techniques on this tree in the past and I must say its still here.

Thank you for reading this blog. Hope I help you in making the right choice when choosing a tree to work on.


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