Wtaf do I do with this workshop tree!

Hey y’all! long time listener, first time caller.

I picked up this Itoigawa a few days ago as part of a workshop…but the workshop got canceled =( Still have the tree tho.

So now I have this pretty substantial tree, with which I was hoping to have some expert support in making some initial design choices.

It came to me in a nursery container; it looks like it was probably heeled into a field, in the can. Never seen something so root bound in my life…there are some substantial roots that had escaped out the bottom of the can and were cut when the tree was taken out of the field. Aside from removing dead stuff and a wicked conservative cleaning, all I’ve done is excavate the top 3-ish cm of soil from the top of the container to reveal more of the base of the tree. Unsurprisingly, there were lots of dead fine roots, along with some living fine roots which were removed…maybe like 0.05% of the total root mass lol

So anyway, I’m hoping to maybe crowdsource some basic design choices. I believe the second photo is the best base, and probably also the best front (+/- a few degrees rotated one way or another). The second photo is 180 degrees rotated. The main trunk doesn’t feature particularly dramatic movement as it sits now. The first substantial branch can be visualized in the last photo on the left side of the trunk (above the big stumps)

Big questions:

  • Would yall suggest changing the angle? The front?

  • The big stumps at the base…they are pushing new buds so they are viable. But would they be better as deadwood? Maybe turning those to jin and removing the portion of live vein on the trunk above them?

  • When it comes time to repot, how much of this root mass do you think is appropriate/safe to remove?

I’m mostly just stuck in some analysis paralysis. This tree is offering me more choices than I was planning to make myself, so here I am. I’m down to run with something dramatic design-wise, but I don’t want to take any big horticultural risks as it wasn’t a cheap piece of material.

Zone 5b if it matters. More photos available on request. =)

Is this the kind of thing that is well-suited to the Q+A video thread?

Much love!! <3

1 Like

Is the next Q&A still open?
I think a experts opinion would be your best bet, as the tree has a lot of potential.

I don’t know enough to comment!

Good luck!

1 Like

I believe Ryan’s general advice is to transplant nursery stock first and then worry about styling. You have done a nice job of basic cleanup which will help with recovery from the transplant. It is getting late in the year for a full transplant so perhaps a partial is in order - cut off the bottom couple of inches and loosen the outer portions of the root ball and pot with good soil in a slightly larger pot of the correct depth for the remaining root ball.


That is a stellar tree.

If you’re don’t have horticultural experience, then learn to keep the tree alive at first and foremost.

No big moves in the beginning.

I would definitely get expert advice.

Join your local Bonsai club and look for who has the best trees.

Remember Bonsai is a slow process. That is usually thought of decades in regards to development.

I would do one step per year to start with.

That means you can wire the tree one year.

Develop shari and Jin another year (or the same)

Be careful with aggressive route work or repotting if you don’t have experience.

I usually sit on my trees for close to a year before I do any major moves.

My first goal is to know I can keep the tree healthy first and foremost.

It’s a long-term game and a dead tree is the worst outcome and unfortunately, it happens to even the best growers.

When in doubt, slow down and keep your tree, healthy
No harm will come by letting your tree grow and be healthier.

I would do one session with a teacher for.

  1. repotting.

  2. define your goals with the tree

  3. wire tree

  4. deadwood work

  5. confirm you are on track and tree is healthy.

It’s much more difficult to maintain large healthy trees in small pots.

Large trees are easier to learn on it than small trees so yours is excellent.

I think most people would be jealous of having your juniper.

You got a really good tree.

I don’t know how much you paid for it, but I would say it’s worth several hundred dollars at minimum,


Next Q+A opens in a couple weeks =)

Thanks for the well wishes!

Thanks for the advice @MartyWeiser! Yeah, I moved it into a nursery can that’s about 1cm wider on all sides, and backfilled the extra space with a quality 1:1:1 that is available to me via the local club =) It’s growing pretty vigorously (as are the other junipers we have here), so ofc I won’t be disrupting the roots.

It was watered in the field growing operation via drip. It doesn’t show up great on camera, but in photo 3 you can kinda see that rat’s nest of big structural roots and a darker coloration (they’re still alive) to the roots/soil; that’s the side the drip emitter was on. The other side of the root mass is much finer and lighter in color. Pretty neat to see the long-term effect of irrigating via drip. Also the amount of force it took to remove the emitter was WILD

Thanks for the kind words and advice @Drcuisine! I’ve got a pretty strong horticulture foundation; I was a farmer for a few years, then a fancy ornamental fine gardener for several years after that, and have practiced bonsai for 7ish years (…is this what getting old is). Funny enough tho, I haven’t really incorporated many junipers into my bonsai practice, which is part of the reason I selected this workshop and tree =)

I’m a member of the local club and will be bringing the tree to the next open bench session (end of the month) to get some other eyes and opinions.

I also learned that the professional who was going to lead the workshop will be re-booked later this summer, so I’ll have the opportunity to get that learning experience which is rad.

Thanks again for the appreciation of the tree…I do feel it is a quality piece of material, and the price was more than fair. After a partial refund from the workshop, the tree ended up costing about 300$ out of pocket, which I’m wicked jazzed about. I did purchase a kishu from the same batch of field stock for a similar price; it is not as girthy but has very compelling movement and I think it will present a great opportunity to try a totally different design than this itoigawa to build more experience with the species.

Interesting observation about the roots and the drip emitter. Sounds like best practice would be to use at least 2 emitters or a short section of soaker line.

1 Like

@MartyWeiser I’ve always had good luck with soaker hoses in the ornamental landscape, I think you’re probably on the right track there.

…Although if I’m ever out long enough that I need automatic irrigation I usually just submerge my trees up to the nebari until I get back🙃

I might have missed it but do you know what species of juniper it is?

First sentence in the original post.

Read the thread bottom up, must have missed it :wink:

So I have an Itoyigawa that was grown in a pot at Teleperion nursery. It was grossly root bound and had lots of foliage. Similar to your situation. I tried to loosen the roots with significant force using both bamboo and root hook. Little success, so I cut about two inches of dead roots off the bottom. Soaked the root ball in my pond and loosened the roots and planted into a moderately deep bonsai pot with pumice and lava.

Four years later and the tree is doing well and on its way to thriving. Significant growth with shoots and new buds forming.

In order to get the angle I built a sphagnum wall on the exposed roots to keep the surface roots viable.