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Junipers by Bob Richards

by BERNARD COETZEE

juniper-bonsai-treeSome of the best and most common exotic trees suited to Bonsai come from the genus Juniperus. We have all certainly seen wonder pictures of the famous Sargeant Junipers in Bonsai books. It is surprising and possibly even sad that so few Junipers seem to be in the collections of our members.

Locally some excellent varieties are available, particularly the Juniperus communis and its dozen or so variants. Some are columnar (up to 40 ft in nature) and these lend themselves well to formal upright and sometimes informal upright styles. The many dwarf variants are very satisfying as they are slow growing but assume an aged fully-grown look very quickly.

The 'spreading' type are suitable as cascade, semi-cascade or other informal styles. Both columnar and spreading types make good mame specimens and because results are 'fast' and the trees are evergreen and always neat they make wonderful material for beginners.

juniper-jinThese trees look good with JINS as the bark peels off very easily and all sorts of interesting knobs and bumps are left. The branches are supple throughout the year, making wiring and shaping easy and satisfying. If one is careful the tree can be shaped and grown out of character and yet not look unnatural.

These trees seem to appreciate lots of water and more clay may be added to the soil mix. They are good subjects for rock plantings, bonkei and saikei.

They are disease resistant. Sometimes small white marks on the base of the leaves are mistaken for pests but usually this is a resin exuded by most conifers. They are now and then invaded by mealie- bug but these are relatively easily controlled by spraying with either a contact or systemic insecticide.

Cuttings taken at almost any time of the year produce very nearly 100% rooting results.

The root structure is, of a dense fibrous nature, making initial root pruning relatively easy and with care a Juniper seldom dies when potted even the first time.

juniper-juvenileSome of the variants always retain their juvenile foliage, which is needle-like and perhaps more interesting than the mature foliage.

Apart from Bonsai and decorative purposes these trees are grown for their berries which are used to flavor gin and for the wood which is largely used in pencil manufacture.

juniper-adultThe main species from this genus are listed hereunder, but this does not include variants (hybrids or mutants) of the species:

Juniperus chinensis (about 20 variations), communis (about 12 variations), horizontalis (about 10 variations),  procumbens (about 3 variations), sabina (about 15 variations), virginiana (about 5 variations).

The famous Sargeant Juniper is Juniperus Chinensis Sargentii.

Species Gallery

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Random Bonsai Tip

So much time is spent on striving towards perfection in the foliage area of trees but little contemplation goes into the area around the nebari. Consider planting your tree at different heights in the pot which might enhance the existing taper and roots. If your tree lacks roots use moss mounded in such a way to suggest underlying roots, or you can even use sticks of similar appearance to the wood of the tree as 'fake' roots until you are able to coerce roots to fill the void. Use appropriate gravel to complete the scene.