Monday, 30 July 2012

A not so common Juniper

This Juniper Communis was collected 7 years ago from the Swiss Alps, about 50 yards from the Italian border. It has now been patiently established and repotted twice into steadily smaller pots by Steve Tolley, and following the move to this pot two years ago the tree has started pushing new growth and buds this summer.

I have been after a good common juniper for about 10 years now but have always been wary as so many have been collected and died in the past, so for me this tree was such a great find........and all because I was a car park attendant !!!!

The story goes like this - I was a helper at the Magical Accents show near Bristol and was doing my car parking rota. I had sent some pictures of potential trees for the BOB show 2013 to Steve and had enquired about a few trees that were sale on his web site, so spotting him walking across the car park I introduced myself and asked about a suitable material tree to take to my workshop with Ryan Neil at Willowbog in January 2013. We knew it had to be a good tree.......the pride of England is at stake here ! :-), it had to be an interesting tree, and more importantly I wanted material that would get the most from the workshop - so juniper & plenty of deadwood scored highly as a man who spent 6 years working in Kimura's garden would have so much experience with both.....

A few pictures were sent through - a great twin trunk itiogawa and the communis - and this week I dropped in to collect the tree

Straight out of the car - 1 meter wide, about the same top to bottom. and probably been on the mountain 300-500 years. Just having material this old and rare on the bench is exciting. The older needles are dropping as they do mid summer so I cleaned out the dead twigs and yellow / brown needles - while doing this many new buds were seen all along the older branches.

I cleaned out the tree a bit and removed some moss and really spongy bark that was holding a lot of water and keeping the wood damp. Then a foliar feed was mixed up and applied (aqualabs powdered fish emulsion and kelp concentrates), followed by a pot drench feed (chempak high nitrogen) and the strongest terminal buds were pinched off the send strength to the inner shoots.


A few simple angles were explored with wooden blocks to get a feel for the potential tree hiding in the material - I often do this, take a few pictures then spend a day or two flicking through various books and exhibition albums - normally you can find trees with similar trunk lines, angles, proportions etc and can get a feel for the material and get a few clues what finished images will look right, and which ones will look wrong.

As this tree will just be fed and encouraged to grow more shoots until the workshop I may do a few photoshop play abouts to virtually create possible trees. This was a first attempt using a fairly upright design -
but i am drawn to a 45 degree trunkline too, this is such a cool tree as the options are many, and it has the potential to become something amazing......... 

Over the first week I've pinched all the strong tips out and continued feeding. Then some huge ants were spotted in the trunk carrying eggs about so they were pressure washed out and the hollow trunk dusted with ant powder - this will kill off all the creatures living in the wood, and it was while doing this a fantastic spiralling hollow was found going up the center, this will be opened up with carving at the workshop to add depth and interest I think. Within 6 days of pinching the tips new buds are appearing on older wood.
I have found a picture from kimuras garden of a rigida taken by Owen Reich and 'borrowed' here from his facebook album - hope you don't mind :-) but I see it as inspiration for this material.


  1. 45 degree trunkline is much better. Don't go for fairly upright style, it'll be a typical boring stuff you can see everywhere..

  2. no, the tree wont be upright - the angle it is planted at or up to 45 deg looks the best.(You dont see 300-500 year old upright junipers everywhere though, so not really 'typical and boring', in fact I can count on one hand the number I have seen - for real that is, close up and touchy feely......)