Juniper Procumbens progression... and death 😕

I wanted to share a progression that i thought you may find interesting … as well as it’s unfortunate death - which I believe I know why (am open to input) and therefore learned something important that I wanted to share with any other aspiring hobbyists early on the path, hopefully you enjoy!

Comments will be below each photo in the progression.

3/2016: My very first Juniper! Nursery stock Juniper Procumbens (“Green Mound Juniper” as I knew it back then). Typical nursery stock appearance and presentation.

Results after the class with my local folks - they did their best to help me don’t blame them I did my best!!

8/2016: my attempt to style and wire it on my own. I know these photos aren’t beautiful - that’s the point … this is all ‘pre-Mirai’

I’ll fast forward to recent past … ie ‘post-Mirai’:

3/2017: Very happy with the work at this point and feel I am learning something from Mirai and it’s hopefully starting to come through in my trees - I’ll be ready for Kokofu in the Fall!!

12/2017: “Bonus” photo - I live in HOUSTON, TEXAS; this is unheard of; needless to say I woke up at 5am and took a bunch of pictures of the garden before heading to work and it melted

5/2018: appearance prior to the working that killed it; very healthy and vigorous and only other work (not imaged) was a mild pruning in the spring prior to bud push

5/2018: Late spring = live vein reduction time! In addition to watching the stream again I also discussed this tree with Ryan via 1-on-1 to get some pointers and this is the result of that work. I did a 50% reduction; I thoroughly enjoyed this session. Stylistically I was very happy with the results and excited to be moving this tree’s design forward!!

After-care: I expected a reduction in water uptake and transpiration so I moved it from my full sun automatic watering garden location to my morning sun / afternoon shade hand-watering section.

I missed watering it one day (hence why I use an automatic system; day job, busy, etc) … if nothing else this demonstrates how important water balance is and how delicate the post-op care needs to be for something as severe as reducing 50% of the vascular highways that move water up the trunk; at this point I moved it into my garage with partial sun and no wind and continued to hand-water it.

I missed another day watering and that was the nail in the coffin.

Post-mortem Discussion and what I learned:

  1. I do believe I could have kept this tree alive if I could have watered appropriately - the photos don’t express this well, but the tree literally took a visible quantum leap toward death after each missed watering and I do believe this is the proximate cause of death.

  2. I made a technical error which made the tree weaker than I thought: I did 50% live vein reduction accurately (even measured it out and was very careful), but, if you look carefully at the photo, you will see a relatively large (crappy-looking) ‘jin’ on the back (on the viewer’s left in the photo) about 1/3-1/2 way up the trunk - this effectively reduced my live vein down beyond 50% and probably left about 15-20% functioning live vein … I feel this set me up for failure, horticulturally, given my limitations on resources and time to provide 24/7 ‘ICU’ level care to my trees.

This tree was my first Juniper and the closest I’ve gotten to a reasonably well-styled, believable ‘Bonsai,’ on its way to refinement; I was extremely disappointed with its loss and am I glad I learned something; hopefully you all do as well.

Silver-lining post-script:
Like all good cheesy movies, I leave you with a ‘cheap’ but satisfying narrative post script: my tree has been resurrected! Yes! He has a twin brother!!! see below…

My supportive wife did not catch the Bonsai bug like I did - so I have taken over her tree that was started at the same time - live on, Grasshopper!


Great story @DrC
I think when we start we all want to have great trees and we want to “do” bonsai. Problem is, to get great trees we end up killing some along the way- price of an education.
I heard that success in any horticultural endever depends upon 3 things-

  1. Understand the needs and requirements of the plant.
  2. Understand your limitations and capabilities.
  3. Provide the plant with what it requires at the right time.
    Looks like you went on quite a journey with your juniper. Hope the next one takes you to some interesting places as well.

Well-said … and im definitely learning #2 - doesn’t matter if Ryan can do it and teach these hardcore techniques if I can’t personally nurse the tree through the recovery process.

Frankly much of this year has been learning how to hold back given my limitations on time and ability from a horticultural recovery standpoint (eg I don’t have a greenhouse and I can’t hand water a tree at the exact minute during the day when it needs it … i’ve got a day job!) … need to learn how to move my trees forward without creating stress i can’t get them to live through


PS and this is not at all a ‘knock’ against Ryan - he explicitly says this in the streams


Thanks for the story with pictures. Looks like you are progressing! Also looks like you were a bit aggressive with the live vein reduction. Is late spring the time for this work? Isn’t this after the spring push when all the water is moving through the tree supporting all the new fresh growth? To suddenly remove that much water carrying capacity (50%) might have been too much.
Also recall there is a root to branch vascular connection. Junipers can realign the vascular connections fairly easily, but if you disconnected half of the roots all at once, it makes it harder.
Around here (Northern California) we remove a strip of bark, maybe only 25% or less of the diameter and usually not all the way down to the roots. In another year you can widen that strip and add more contour to the shari.
If we didn’t make mistakes and look at them, we wouldn’t get better. And now you have a second chance! Lets see it in a year or two. Thanks for sharing.


Yeah I think it’s region specific as far as best timing for that - I believe I hit it right though as it peeled off very easily

One of the key lessons I learned is to match the aggressiveness of my operations w my horticultural resources and skills.


This was a really great post for me! As a budding Bonsai nerd (get it?), it’s very educational to see the fails as much as the successes.


Great story DrC and sorry about the first tree! Great looking resurrection though!

Probably wouldn’t have helped the sick one but one trick I’ve been taught is to add shredded pine bark to my Akadama/pumice mix for my junipers. I’m a medic so, like you, being able to water more than twice/day or EXACTLY when needed is next to impossible. The pine bark helps hold a little extra moisture throughout the day during summer.

Now I live in the south of England so not exactly crazy summers but still get to 30+*C on a regular basis.

Sometimes you can save a tree that has had a major root or foliage reduction by putting them in a humidity chamber. I use an old aquarium that has an adjustable glass lid. There is two inches of gravel in the bottom and the whole thing is in a greenhouse. The high humidity inside has revived quite a few trees that threatened to go south. It is great for cuttings also.

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I don’t think you should blame any one actions for the death of this tree. I think you may have just done to much to quickly. It looks like you repoted and styled in the same year two years in a row plus the heavy live vein reduction. Seams a bit aggressive but good practice and maybe a good learning experience.