My name is Micke and I live in Finland (Northern Europe). I’m new to the community and quite new to bonsai as well. I would need some help and advice for a Common Juniper (juniperus communis) yamadori I’m going to collect in the spring. I know collected Common Junipers have a bad reputation and are prone to die after collection, but this tree is going to be removed anyway so I might as well try to give it a second chance as a bonsai.
The juniper in question is growing on rock in a shallow bowl of soil, so I should be able to collect it with the majority of the root ball intact and fit it in a reasonably sized training pot without having to disturb the roots much. I’ve already prepared the site by digging a trench around the tree so that it has time to grow more roots closer to the trunk before collection.
The juniper is a twin trunk with one ram rod straight trunk and another with nice soft movement. I’ve been looking at this juniper all summer and I can’t find a design using both trunks, so most likely I will get rid of the straight trunk as it’s the one with less potential. The thing I wonder is when would be the best time to remove the unwanted trunk?
Obviously my main concern is to give the tree the best possible chance of survival. I know junipers have delicate roots and don’t like to have them disturbed. I also know junipers are vein specific when it comes to water and nutrition transportation, but does this extend to the roots? Does the two trunks share roots? If they do, I assume it’s best to leave both trunks and remove the unwanted one once the tree has recovered from the collection and has enough foliage mass to support growth with only one trunk. But, if the two trunks don’t share roots, is there any downside to removing the straight trunk before collection?
So, basically my question is: do I negatively impact the juniper’s recovery if I remove one of the two trunks before collection?
I recommend a book by Nick Lenz (USA) “Bonsai from the Wild” which has a section on common juniper. There is also a lot of discussion about common juniper in Europe (Tony Tickle -UK).
I have collected these trees with mixed results. Collecting in late Summer, growing with live sphagnum moss used as packing material obtained on collecting site, minimize root disturbance during and after collecting, semi shade, no wind, misting, no fertilizer until new growth evident, planting in pumice, plant in tight fitting grow box (check Mirai archive re potting yamadori) all seem as approaches to increase your success rate. It is strange so much care has to be taken for this species as it often acts as a weed with its barbed wire character and their sharp needles that always find a way into your hiking boots.
From one of the Diaspora, my grandmother was born in Lahti. Welcome to Mirai.
I’ve been trying to get my hand on Lenz’s book, but my local library doesn’t have it and the ones I’ve found for sale online have been a bit pricy.
My plan post-collection is pretty much exactly as you described: wooden box with snug fit using pumice and sphagnum around the roots. Keeping the tree shaded and sheltered from wind.
@DavidJ have you chopped unwanted trunks during (or before) collection? Or do you remove unnecessary trunks once the tree has regained its strength and established itself in the training pot?
It would be really interesting to know if different trunks on Juniperus communis share roots or if the roots are “trunk specific” so to say. Because if the roots are separate for each trunk I should be able to cut one trunk without impairing root generation and recovery of the other trunk and its roots.
It is important for the aftercare I said “semi shade”. Morning sun is cooler than hot afternoon sun, so some morning sun is ok but definitely no afternoon sun until you see the tree looking perking and growing. Every tree will react different depending on how much of the root ball you got, its original condition, etc.
Speak with local collectors/bonsai lovers and their experiences. I think that it is possible that European and North American common junipers could be a bit different for example some Europeans avoid akadama but my three CJ are growing in it along with pumice and lava rock quite nicely. I won’t tell my junipers. I will be adding more pumice to the mix in the future.
Now to your question about unwanted trunks. I think the key consideration is if the unwanted trunks make the collect more difficult to get out of the bush and/or provide the ideal after care. If they aren’t a problem, then keep them. They could provide good anchor points to tie the tree in the pot, they might be the only trunks that live, you might change your mind about design. You could shorten unwanted trunks but keep a certain amount of foliage. Remember Ryan says that the strength in junipers comes from the foliage. Error on keeping more. I don’t know if juniper trunks share roots but if I was to guess, they do maybe not all of the roots. Most likely where the trunks are close to each other. Why take a chance. Be patient.
Your local bonsai club might have Nick’s book. Preparing for the job next year is a good strategy. Talk to others. Good luck.
Sorry, my wording wasn’t the best, I did mean semi shade when I wrote shaded. I have a great spot in my garden for recovering trees that gets a bit of morning sun and then really late evening sun, it’s also quite protected from wind. So far, it has worked well for newly potted trees in recovery.
Unfortunately the bonsai scene in Finland is minimal, to put it mildly. But I have connected with a few local enthusiasts, most deem CJ as hopeless but I’m hoping to prove them wrong.
The unwanted trunk won’t make the collection difficult, but it might prove a major pain in the rear for getting the tree in the car as it is quite tall. If I decide to lop it off the straight trunk I will leave a portion of it for a jin and to use as anchor points. Unfortunately all the foliage is really high up on the trunk so it’s not possible to reduce the high much without taking off all the foliage. I have Ryan’s teachings of the strength being in the foliage firmly in my mind and knowing how difficult CJs are to collect successfully I’m going to keep all the foliage I have on the trunk I’m keeping and will do my utmost to get as much roots as I can with minimal disturbance.
You make a great point in that the straight trunk might be the only one to survive and that has crossed my mind. If I decide to keep the straight trunk it will be mainly as a back up in case the other trunk dies. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of the tree, but I have a very hard time seeing the tree as a good twin trunk as the trunks are quite far from one another, they form kind of a U-shape and the straight trunk is thinner but longer with no foliage low on the trunk and there’s virtually no foliage on the other trunk that could be used to fill up the huge negative space between the trunks. But never say never, I might get a Heureca moment for a twin trunk design during the years it takes for the tree to recover.
If I can’t get a definitive answer that the two trunks don’t share roots I will keep them both for now to in order to maximize the chances of survival.
Thank you so much for you insights and the warm welcome to the community!
Micke, if you can’t track down Nick’s chapter on CJ. Shoot me your email address and I’ll get that chapter to you.
@DavidJ thanks for the kind offer! I’ve sent you a PM with my e-mail.
Hey David, I’ve also been on the hunt for information regarding collecting common junipers. Any chance you could send me that chapter as well? I live in neighboring country to Micke in Sweden where the book is impossible to come by unless I pay a fortune. Would be most appreciated.
I’m working on it.
Thanks David. Much appreciated!
Remember also that Ryan has repeatedly said that the common Juniper does not respond well to akadama.
MB1, correct me if I am wrong but I believe Ryan was referring to European growers negative experiences using akadama with common junipers. I have at three common junipers some I collected 14 and 16 years ago that have had akadama as one of the soil components. Please see my earlier comments in this thread.
I’ll absolutely look back. There was some discussion about that today on the Q&A live, but it won’t post again for a few days. I don’t however remember him saying European growers only.
OK. Just heard the recent Q&A LXXI where Ryan said that he doesn’t use akadama but mostly pumice and lava rock for common juniper.
Yeah David I see where you got the European angle on that. About 19:00 min. into the soils class Ryan gets a good laugh from the crowd when he says NEVER, NEVER use akadama on a common juniper, someone in the crowd shares that they had success with akadama and Ryan refers to the European growers that don’t use it. I’ve never done a common juniper so I have much less experience than you. The information was for Micke, who is a beginner, like me. Sorry I jumped on in the wrong place. Just rookie excitement I suppose:)
MB1, nothing to be sorry about. We are all having a common discussion, no pun intended, exchanging questions, information and experiences. Even though I have successfully grown common junipers in Boon’s conifer soil mix of 1 part each of akadama, pumice and lava rock plus a little charcoal and granite, my trees are not old ones. Based on Ryan’s and other European growers, I plan to use more pumice in my mix. I have learned a great deal from Mirai and expect that will continue.
I’m glad that I found this thread. I spotted two CJ growing in a neighbor’s flower bed. They don’t look intentional, so I plan on asking them if I can have them. It’ll be my first ask, so hopefully it goes well. What would be the best time of the year to collect them? I assume winter, so I was going to wait until February to ask for them.
I’m glad that this the thread has help you and hopefully will help more.
Below is a quote from a long article by Walter Pall about collecting yamadori.
In central Europe, the best time for collecting trees is between the end of March and the end of April; in the Alps and northern Europe, the best time may extend into May or even June. For conifers a good time for preparation is the end of the growing period (after the formation of the buds for the next year). But as I have already said, the exact time depends on the type of tree and the climate.
In central Europe, it is between the end of August and the end of September. In the special case of the ordinary Juniper (J. communis) and the Norway Spruce (P. abies) it is better to collect them at the end of Summer since they experience a strong growth of roots in Autumn.
Note that I posted the part of the article where the quote is, not the beginning of the article, it’s in several parts.
So, at least according to Walter your best chance is in the fall and the next best in early spring. To further increase your chances he suggests to do it in stages, first digging a trench to promote root growth closer to the trunk and leave in the ground for another year before collection.
My yamadori is still in the ground, I will try collecting it this fall, if my wife doesn’t force me to remove it earlier to get the new terrace built
Hmm, idk that I’ll be able to do it in stages. It’s not on my property lol.