Wiring a Juniper Bonsai

Step-by-Step

  1. Place the tree at eye-level and choose the front view. Prune off heavy branches near the base. Thin out the upper branches. Treat any stubs left on the lower part of the trunk to create jins.
  2. Cut a length of wire, a third longer than the combined lengths of the first two lower branches. Wind this wire around the trunk to anchor it and hold it firmly against the trunk.
  3. Wind the first loop of wire over the top of the lowest branch. Take a turn around the trunk to anchor the wire and then take it over the top of the second branch. Wire the length of each branch.
  4. Here are the first two levels of branches wired into their approximate positions. Later, when you have wired the whole tree, you can refine the shapes of the branches and foliage by secondary wiring and by pruning.
  5. Carry on wiring. Carefully bend the upper branches into place and support them while you wind on the wires. If possible, work on pairs of branches rather than single ones, so that the wire can be anchored to the trunk.
  6. The wiring is almost finished, the longer branches being shaped. Now wire the apex and adjust the branch positions. Groom foliage masses to clarify shapes and take out any dangling foliage.

Potting the Juniper

1 Take the wired tree out of its original pot. Comb out the roots in a radial pattern with a metal root hook. Prune them into a shallow root system that suits the weight of the trunk and fits the bonsai pot.
2 Prepare the new pot with mesh and anchorage wires. Add a layer of potting mixture. Place the tree facing front in the pot. Secure it by twisting anchorage wires over the roots. Top up the pot with soil.

Maintaining the Design

With this species, the wiring remains in place for about a year. It must be checked regularly and wires removed if they start biting into the bark. The bonsai will be rewired regularly every two or three years to accommodate new growth. As the tree grows, numerous refinements will be made to its shape. For instance, it might be necessary to prune out some branches in three to five years to open up the structure.

Driftwood, Jins, and Shari

In nature, a tree often has areas of dead wood. You can achieve a similarly dramatic effect in a bonsai by using such dead wood, or live wood not wanted in the design. A design with extensive dead wood is called a “driftwood” design. The Japanese word shari is used for dead wood that is carved or torn down the trunk. Similarly damaged branches are given the Japanese word jin, which has no English equivalent; it is also a verb (“to jin”), and an adjective (“jinning pliers”).

You can create driftwood, jins or shari by carving the dead wood on a bonsai, and then bleaching and preserving it with lime-sulfur solution. Alternatively, you can use any live branches surplus to your design. Cutting them off completely will scar the tree, but you can achieve an impressively aged effect by stripping them of bark, and then carving or tearing them to make the bonsai look as if it has been naturally damaged by thick snow or by strong winds.

Making the Jins on the Juniper

  1. The lower branches were pruned to leave stubs. Score a ring in the bark around the base of the stub and close to the trunk with a concave branch cutter.
  2. With jinning pliers, grip the bark and crush it, to loosen the bark from the white wood underneath. Grip the crushed bark with the pliers and pull it away from the stub.
  3. To make the jin look more natural, grip the wood with the pliers. Tear it downward to reveal the grain until you are satisfied with the shape of the jin.
  4. With a wire brush (either a manual or, as here, an electrically driven, rotating one), clean up the surface of the exposed wood.
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