Juniper Procumbens Progression Article

Over a period of 7 years I have worked on refining a large Juniperus procumbens Into a somewhat smaller but more impressive bonsai. Here are a series of photos and a story of how this tree was crated.

In 2013 this Juniperus procumbens was purchased as part of a plan to decorate the family garden, and while it was impressive the tree needed some refinement to really stand out. In 2013 I hadn't yet realised my dream of being a bonsai professional, and was still largely a novice. I had made some mistakes in imagining the future of the tree, however what you are about to see is that this did not matter. 

In the cold months of 2015 I set off with Bjorn Bjorholm to visit the great nurseries of Japan, where I had the opportunity to visit Taisho-En, where I met my soon-to-be Oyakata; Nobuichi Urushibata. It was only day later I was booked into a workshop with with Nobuichi's son Taiga Urushibata. Whislt Taiga and I discussed the future outcomes of the tree, we landed on a great design and worked on reducing the height of the tree. It was during this workshop I discussed my plans to study under his father and Taiga have me the encouragement to plan my trip. The tree was styled and repotted to produce this.


The time at Taisho-En was life changing, not only for my bonsai skills, but as the first time I have lived in another country, and learned so much about life, and the life I wanted to live. When I got back from Japan I felt like my whole bonsai collection needed an audit and so I carefully went through each tree and decided to move on trees or wire them. During the time I was away the Juniper had grown out somewhat and was in need of a careful application of wire. The tree was once again repotted into its final pot and was settling in well. 

It was time to style the tree, and it had been learned that in many cases when you style a tree which is still in development it is necessary to take a step back before being able to take some leaps forward. So this tree's foliage was reduced to the bare necessities and detail wired. This tree still had a long future of development ahead so I was not at all concerned by the sparseness of the tree following the wiring. 

Autumn of 2018, I went to study once again at Taisho-En, in Shizuoka, Japan, and when I returned I was eager to apply my training again to this tree as well as many of my other trees. In October 2018 I had this tree professionally photographed, the shape had filled out and some minor touch ups on the wire had been performed. This tree was really starting to settle into its pot and feel like it belonged in the pot. The shape was forming and I was beginning to capitalise on the skills I had learned from Japan.

After a year of growing, and selective touch ups, this tree was again photographed towards the end of 2019. The direction has really come to light, and some key aspects I wish to discuss for this final photo. Firstly taper was one issue I had to address; this was achieved through the thinning of the shari and jin towards the top of the tree. I paid more attention to the top and worked out some natural lines till the tree appeared to taper at the top. Secondly is movement; because this tree's trunk has relatively little movement I decided to gently layer the foliage pads inform of the trunk to break up the composition and to frame the movement points of the trunk. This visual dynamic helps exaggerate the movement within the trunk and create a sense of supposition for the viewer. This tree is now due for a desiring and will be subsequently rewired later in 2020. The shari was extended down the entire trunk and onto a dead nebari root which extends little over the surface of the soil. 


I look forward to posting updates on this tree, Thankyou for reading.


Matt Ball



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