|2008 John Naka Design Award|
American Bonsai Society
2008 John Naka Design Award
By Seiji Shiba
In March of 2007, I entered the 2007 American Bonsai Society John Naka Design Award with a California Juniper, Juniperus californica, named ‘Infinity’ by the photographer, John Edwards, because it resembled the symbol Infinity (Figure 1). I was pleased to be informed that it was the 2nd place winner. With this encouragement, the following year, I entered a photo of another California Juniper, Juniperus californica, named ‘Dancing Girl’ (Figure 2) and was elated to learn that it was the winner of the 2008 American Bonsai Society John Naka Design Award and was asked to write an article for the ABS Journal.
In January of 1999, I had the pleasure of joining the legendary Mr. California Juniper, Harry Hirao, on a dig for California Junipers in the Palmdale area. The site was next to an established subdivision of houses and on the other side bulldozers were leveling another area for a subdivision. This juniper (Dancing Girl) was in a clump of three. After digging up the clump and separating it into 3, the roots were sprayed, moist sphagnum moss was applied on the roots and wrapped in plastic for the trip home. Once home, they were hydrated overnight in a tub of water with a tablespoon of Super Thrive added. Washed agricultural pumice was used in the recovery container, watered thoroughly and put in a semi-shady area of the yard. Thereafter, I misted the foliage daily several times until I saw new growth buds emerging. The misting was reduced and eventual regular watering was all that was needed.
This California Juniper responded vigorously and was transplanted from its recovery container into a bonsai pot. In March 2002, the original soil was carefully removed and the tree was planted in a mix of akadama and hyuga (both imported from Japan). The Juniper continued to grow and in September of 2002 the initial styling was begun (Figure3).
Prior to the studio photo, I carved and reduced the diameter of the deadwood at the level of the coyote’s head like jin to expose it for a better view. Carving was minimal. It is almost impossible to replicate what Mother Nature does to deadwood.
California Junipers, a shrub, grow from Baja California northward through the Mojave Desert, western Arizona, Nevada, and Northern California. Some scattered stands are found in the Mount Hamilton range east of San Jose, California. The foliage is scale leafed in opposite pairs. Juvenile foliage (Figure 4) is sharp, awl shaped and occurs when the tree is stressed which can occur through severe pinching and pruning. Inconspicuous flowers begin to form on female plants in late summer and the bluish white berries begin to show up around May and turn purplish the following year and fall or are eaten by birds.
The male plants begin to develop pollen heads on the tips of each bud and begin to appear in June and by early winter swell to 1/8’ (Figure 5). By December, the mere touch releases clouds of pollen and those allergic are driven indoors. To minimize the formation of male pollen heads, prune and pinch from April through September. Keep the junipers in a vegetative state (Figure 6) and try to avoid it going into the reproductive stage (Figure 5). California Junipers have both male and female plants and occasionally some plants exhibit hermaphrodite tendencies by forming both berries and male pollen heads (Figure 7).
California Junipers could have anywhere from 50 to 100 annular rings per inch. Inasmuch as most of the old collected material is of the lowest growing branch that the base could be, in fact, the radius rather than the diameter. Therefore, some California Juniper wood could be thousands of years old. Because many are collected from the base with dead wood on the side facing the main tree, the nebari is one sided. Some beautifully arched fins have been collected.
Both of the California Juniper bonsai in this article were selected for the United States First National Exhibition in Rochester, New York, on October 11 & 12, 2008.