I’m often asked “How many trees do you think you’ve worked on over the years?” to which the only appropriate response is “I’ve lost count.” There are a few trees, though, that I’ve had the privilege of designing that have stuck in my mind as stand-out examples – perhaps none more than the Juniper featured in this post.
This Juniperus procumbens was purchased by my Oyakata, Fujikawa-san, at an auction several years back, during my apprenticeship in Japan. As soon as the tree was unloaded on the nursery benches, I knew I had to grab the chance to work on it. Luckily, Fujikawa-san was in a good mood that day and agreed to let me have at it.
While both sides of the tree possess fantastic features, after debating back and forth with Fujikawa-san and the other apprentices at Kouka-en, we decided to utilize the front seen below, as the interplay of the live vein and deadwood was of particular interest from this angle.
Aside from the whimsical appearance of the trunkline, what is perhaps most interesting about this tree is that the foliage mass is fed entirely by the single, thin live vein that stretches upward to the highest point and abruptly cascades back down on itself. In other words, the foliage mass is simply dangling at the bottom of that long, skinny branch.
After this particular styling, the tree was quickly purchased by one of our regular Kouka-en clients, who then maintained it for a couple of years at his garden before deciding that the foliage should be changed to Itoigawa Shimpaku via grafting – the process of which is currently underway. Undoubtedly, this bonsai will be beautiful regardless of the foliage type, but I do have to say, I wish that the new owner had opted to keep the original procumbens foliage, as it adds a bit of uniqueness and character to the plant. In any case, I think it’s quite obvious why this tree has remained in the back of my mind after so many years, and I look forward to seeing it again soon.