Juniper Project Phase 3

It was back along at the beginning of February when I discovered this Juniper hidden as foundaway in the potting up area of an old nursery, a tale that has been told earlier  in the saga of this tree’s discovery  . Use this Link for  .Phase 1
Things have gone on at quite a pace now, the previous phases being  via these  further two links-

Phase 2  when with Adrian, a friend from Taunton and Somerset Bonsai Club, dramatic pruning was undertaken

Phase 2 continued when I carried on myself styling what remained.

Originally the trunk and nebari area was a total mess, weeds,  damaged branches and disorder, now after the last two sessions it is very different and is waiting for the stumps to be attended to. Size guide- the first pot was 24 inches diameter the new one is about 21″

                    Feb  2017                                                                        Mid March 2017

My worry is that a number of bonsai folk have said that I have gone on too far and too fast,admittedly after the second session I went at it a bit enthusiastically myself intending only to clean it up a little and of course hours latter I found that I had got carried away  and  done far more than I had intended. Mind you at my age an actuary would have probably told me to get on with it.
So it was with my  heart in my mouth I awaited Adrian’s observations when he returned again to help me this month on May 9th.

Bonsai workers

Apart from Adrian’s many more bonsai years experience behind him than me I had just had a cataract operation a few days before following a Macular Hole op last year and had the nurse’s instruction ringing in my ears. ‘No gardening Mr Cooper, no dirty hands by your eye and no dust and  flying bits near your face for some time.’ so that was my excuse for calling in the cavalry and taking up an observers post instead.
The tree is still so heavy it needed both of us to get it up onto a stand where Ade examined the foliage and told me to stop worrying it was putting on healthy growth and besides it had been in a very large pot for years and we had only taken it down 2 inches this year with only modest root pruning.

Ade’s first task was peeling back the bark on the very wide stump with jinning pliers and then hollowing out what remained with a Dremel power tool using various heads as he went along striving towards the natural broken branch appearance that I had in mind, at least I contributed some thoughts on that.

This left us with a rather hairy and fluffy stump which  Ade then cleaned up with a small blowtorch and a  wire brush. (Below)

7.brushing down

A bit more burning and rubbing down and we had the Jin that I had been looking for.

8.Large jin

Now  with a few cups of coffee already behinds us it was time for something else, a stroll round the corner to The Ashcott Inn  about 100 yards away and avail ourselves  of the pensioners  Tuesday special for my wife Sue, Ade and I. It seems they are bringing that offer to an end soon and having Tapas Tuesdays instead , shame.
Revitalised we got back to work and Adrian then set about a Shari on the trunk on what may well be the rear of the tree.

11.The trunk shari

After some of the smaller Jins were then done it was decided to let it rest now to put on some more growth. I am feeding it with High Nitrogen fertiliser ,spraying the needles daily and watering but not too generously as needed. The following two photos of the tree as it is today have been doctored  on the computer (paint net- free software) in order to eliminate a very confusing background. 

Whole treeleft

Good one.jpg2

My very  grateful thanks to Adrian for all his help with this project and making it possible to get to this stage, for doing most of the work and giving me the confidence to at least do some myself, thanks Ade.

Note.         Jin:     Japanese word for dead wood where a branch has broken off.
                  Shari: Deadwood torn down the trunk of a tree.

This Blog is very much intended as my own record of the progress of my trees throughout the year, should you find it interesting do keep an eye on this site and remember as today has proved that one of the best ways to learn the art of bonsai is to join a club and benefit from the experience of others who have walked the path before you.

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Blooming Beautiful Wisteria

wisteria 3

Last year I was luck enough to acquire this beautiful Wisteria  from a fellow member of Taunton and Somerset Bonsai Club who I think had returned from an auction with a car full of purchases and felt that he should whittle down the rest of his collection a little.

August 2016                                                                                   April 2017

For the past week or so Sue and I have been looking out of our window watching the trees progress and in fact there are still a few racemes to fully open but after yesterdays hail I wanted to make sure that I had a good record. This has set quite a standard to follow next year though.

Wisteria on wall

Isn’t this a wonderful time of year for bonsai, every day something new to see and something to attend to. 

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Juniper Project Phase 2 Cont’d.

Juniper a nd neighbours FB

Now left to my own devices without Taunton and Somerset Bonsai Club mate Adrian to give me advice I  carried on tidying the tree up,removing hundreds of dead needles one by one,dead and small damaged branches.


Juniper as discovered

Then I started started preliminary wiring and trying to get straight in my mind what I was doing, or at least trying to do.

Removed much  upward and downward growing foliage and tried to create shapes that would allow light through to the growth beneath. At least I am beginning to see what I think may be the front now which is a help. Rather concerned about the very top which is very weak with a small split in the tip of the trunk which may hamper growth there.  May have to chose between the next two alternatives

A                                                                                                                    B

A.   Has the weak top which if it grows OK gives it a bit of height,which I quite like.

B.   Is a computer Paint possibility  to wonder what it would look like with a lower top.

Do let me know what you think 

Next  there are the Jins to work on and to carry on saving for a large pot one day .

I  notice in my photos that some needle areas seem to have been knocked a little out of place whilst taking the pictures
and as I said, preliminary wiring, I realise it needs tidying up somewhat,just needed to see the wood for the needles.

Previous posting of this project are 

Juniper Project Phase 1  February 16th -The discovery of the tree and getting it home.

Juniper Project Phase 2  March 18th  – Getting down to serious work.


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Springtime Blossom


Just had to share this photo of this Crab Apple that my dear Wife Sue gave me for my Birthday back in December. At times I was really worried at how fast it was progressing and wondered if the supplier, All Things Bonsai near Sheffield, had kept it in a tunnel, they assured me that they hadn’t. 

   Jan 3rd                                                         Feb 2nd

As it showed flower buds so early I did take it in to the garage on a few nights when frosts were predicted but as you can see it all turned out well. So very pleased we have it, Crab Apple was on my list of trees that I was after and as it can be seen from our kitchen window we are both able to enjoy it many times a day. Thanks Sue.

Note- despite being packed very well the carriers managed to break the pot some how. All Things Bonsai replaced it withing 48 hours. Having an EBusiness myself I know these things happen however well one guards against it, what matters is how well one rectifies the mishap, well done All Things B.

Crab Apple March 27th 2017

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Juniper Project Phase 2


It is a month now since I brought this tree home from the nursery where I discovered it, (see earlier Phase 1 posting) and I have had a while to think about it and round up some help as well. Adrian one of the most experienced members of Taunton and Somerset Bonsai Club had kindly offered to come and give me the benefit of his bonsai years.

I had already tidied it up, removed the smaller dead wood and old needles which took a lot Ade startslonger than I had expected.

First of all Ade burrowed around to see if there was any interesting root system just under the soil. To the left of the trunk (above) there were only very fine roots but just under the surface there was a very large root on the right directly  beneath the heavy long branch. 

Ade  pointed out that that long branch competed with the trunk as to thickness and divided ones attention when looking at the tree as a whole. I had thought this myself but was rather nervous of removing such a major feature and such a large amount of my new acquisition.One could see how weak and limp the foliage at the end of the long branch was and in fact how damaged one of it’s minor branches was, so off it came.

ade cut 1 BLOG

This major surgery was soon followed by some more amputations though at times I think I was more nervous than the patient.

ade cut 4 BLOGade cut 5 BLOG

Where branches had been removed
I have left stubs to work on later and Jin

One branch was also wired up to give
some height to what was now left.
The tree will now be left for quite a while to recover from todays work and with some High Nitrogen fertiliser soon and a summer ahead I look forward to it’s progress this year.

We then took a couple of photos with a white board behind to make images where the structure of the tree rather than the drama of the day  would be easier to see.

As we were now up to our ankles  in off cuts and I was suffering from tree owners nervous exhaustion it was time to pop round to the pub only a hundred yards away, eat,drink,talk trees and then put the world to rights over  bacon,cranberry and brie sandwichs and chips.

Getting back home Adrian advised and helped on some of my other trees and got his Dremell out to clean one up.  All in all a very worth while few hours,  thanks Ade.

My next task was to try and create computer visuals from the above photos which include some of the next phase of work to do.

And the amazing thing is that throughout this exercise I had been wondering what my dear Wife Sue would say as she had been looking out at the tree for a month now and I was preparing for comments such as ‘Bonsai Massacre’  and ‘What on Earth have you done?’
so when she said ‘That looks better you can see it’s going to be a bonsai now.’

Thank you Ade and thank you Sue

This Blog is very much intended as my own record of the progress of my trees throughout the year, should you find it interesting do keep an eye on this site and remember as today has proved one of the best ways to learn the art of bonsai is to join a club and benefit from the experience of others who have walked the path before you.



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Springtime at Last


Prunus Incisa ‘Paean’
Purchased as a spindly nursery tree about four foot high February last year,cut down to about 9 inches, in training pot until n ow.

One of the  magic moments of nature is the Spring as buds starts to emerge and signs of life return to our trees and it is time to set about re-potting most of them.When the roots go round and round in the pot and start pushing the tree up now is the time to take them out,comb out the roots aiming to arrange them radially out from the trunk and trim them 1487803455499back. With a tree that  has been in a deeper training pot the depth of the root area should try to be reduced as well in order  to fit it into a shallower bonsai pot .

This Hawthorn has lots of root growth to tease out and reduce.

Last year I also purchased some bare rooted Larches which as they were intended for woodland trees had thick tap roots.They were first planted into deep flower pots the roots being cut back later and planted in a deepish oval bonsai pot without great care as to their arrangement rather a care about their survival.

Now it is time to place them more carefully into a shallower pot with more thought as to the composition of the arrangement.LarchgrroupMarch 17

Lornicera feb2017Among other trees that have had the spring time re-potting routine are the following. A nice little Lonicera Pileata purchased in May 2014 from Kaizen  about 6″ high. A Hawthorn which I salvage from my daughter and her partner’s garden in Wiltshire, it was about four foot high and I also cut that down to about 9 inches and trained up a new   leader.Last summer it’s leaves were so Hawthorn 10march 17small it looked pretty good.



A Cotoneaster which has grown from a seedling found in 1993.Cottoneaster feb 2017

Berberis which was purchased at a garden centre and worked down to about a 7 inch tree.Berberis feb 2017





Among my other smaller trees there are also two Mulberrys which my Wife Sue gave me last year as an extra part of our Golden Wedding Anniversary present. I think she got them from All Things Bonsai near Sheffield.


The main present was my smashing Acer Kashima which will grace this blog site when it’s amazing foliage display starts,

The last tree I got round to in the last few days was this little Semi Cascade Juniper bought from a landscaping nursery in 1982 but neglected during those busy years of my working life.Juniper semi cascade March17


As to the fancy black background photography, well I was sitting in the garage working on a tree and held it up to eye level as the sun poured in the door beside me lighting the tree with the garage interior behind in almost total darkness. I have had to take out the step ladder and the waste bin that was visible in the gloom  but otherwise a handy bonsai photo spot.

Some of the larger trees to do next,watch this blog.

This blog is very much intended as my own record of my progress along the fascinating pathway that is Bonsai. Though I have had some trees since 1985 they were sorely neglected for many years whilst I had a business to run,employees, the landlord, bank manager and the VAT man to support. It is only in recent years that I have been able to give my bonsai the time that they deserve and through joining my local Bonsai Club the
Taunton and Somerset Bonsai Club
that I have had the encouragement to pursue this other form of art more seriously.





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Juniper Project Phase 1


The number of times I have stopped to explore some small out of the way nursery in the hope of finding some potential bonsai treasure. But I suppose like the Princess and the Frog you have to kiss a lot of frogs first.

However a few weeks ago  I remembered a nursery not far away that I had not been to for a few years so perhaps it was time to give it another try. I pottered  around their tree collection, poked around their shrubs and browsed through their tunnels and green houses and then just as I was about to leave I rounded a corner at the back and came across this Juniper Squamata or Himalayan Juniper, which looked as if it had been there forever

Trying hard not to get too carried away with first impressions I got down on my hands and knees for a better  look   (and then had to get up again!) and  took the photos above.
Just to give you an idea of size that tub is almost 30 inches across, Nebari 3inches plus

Being a penny pinching pensioner bonsai collector I had to give it some more thought though and  then went to find the proprietor who told me that it was not their’s but left by the previous owner who had retired two years ago and he had taken it as part exchange from a customer. An interestingly  good  provenance as they might say on the Antiques Roadshow.The following  week I returned to find out the price he wanted  for it,  having meanwhile consulted one of wiser heads in our bonsai club for his expert opinion on my discovery.

Thinking that it would provide me with a Bonsai Project for the next few years that might  be a very worthwhile and satisfying task to keep me occupied further into my dotage I returned and bought it.

Would it even go in the car, well yes it did after Sue the very helpful lady at the nursery  got it out of that larger pot and into a smaller one, of only 21 inches or so, smaller?juniper-1-collectedblog
Got it safely home and then asked a neighbour if he would help lift it out for me, his wife also came over to see what we were up to and wanted to know what on earth my Sue was going to say when I tried to get it into the house.
Some people still think that all bonsai go on windowsills!

Managed to get it through the garage into the juniper-2-colectedblogback where all my trees are and unpotted it  for the second time that day. It was in a pretty heavy peat based compost some more of which I knocked off but only cutting back a couple of heavy roots which were making it hard to get juniper-3-un-pottedbloginto a 21 inch pot.


Settled it in to a mixture of Tesco’s finest dust free cat litter so beloved by Harry Harrington, see his essay on the subject on  his website Bonsai4me , with  the addition of some Pine Bark. Cut away some obviously dead needles and small twigs and branches and watered the pot and sprayed the foliage.
My next task is to take my dear Wife shopping in Taunton tomorrow having used the first fine day for more than a week to get my tree. Then I will set about cleaning it up a bit more, possibly some extra drainage holes in the pot, Jin a few of the broken branch stubs perhaps and give it some High Nitrogen feed soon to give it a boost and then get Ade my helpful friend and brains at the  club over for a session for his advice on it’s long term possibilities and a bite at the pub round the corner afterwards.

          With many thanks to Sue at the Nursery, John my neighbour, Ade for his advice and     encouragement and to my Sue for putting up with me and putting off a trip to M & S.
The car by the way, knows the way to M & S Taunton as our Taunton and Somerset Bonsai Club meets in a building entered via the M and S Car Park.


Do follow this blog for further news on my Juniper Project and other bonsais

    I suppose I had better start saving up for a pot for it one day !

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Craftsman made Bonsai Pots -Update


I took the pots the new selection of pots along to our local club Taunton and Somerset Bonsai Club to give members a first look through and it  seems it is a worthwhile project, encouraging Somerset Potter Anne Whittlesey to turn her hand to bonsai.Quite a few have gone but I have listed the ones I have left and am looking forward to her next firing.

Round Pots slight variations in the Salt Glaze from pot to pot 

Small -Outside diameter 17cm  height 5cm depth 3cm  to nearest cm
 £ 35.00 inc P & P
Only 5 left

Larger Round Glazed
21cm  dia x h 5cm depth 3cm
£40inc P & P
Only 1 left

Oval Glazed with impressed Decoration

Outside Length  20cm Width 17cm H 5cm D 3
£35 inc  P& P
Only 1 left


Oval Glazed

Oval Pot Ref LO1
Outside  Length 24.5cm  Width 17cm  H 5.5 Depth 3.5
£46 inc P & P


Oval Pot Ref LO2
Outside length 24cm Width 17cm  H 5.5 Depth 3.5cm
£46 inc P %&P

If anyone wants to purchase one Email me at and I will send you a PayPal invoice which you may then pay with a PayPal account or follow through the pay by card method without joining PayPal but with the benefit of their secured site.

For the progress of this project follow through my postings via the Bonsai Pots tag.

The potter did do a few unglazed ones but they went straight away I have asked her to do some more.See belowlaerge-unglazed

This is not intended to be a great commercial pot business if I can just get some pots for our club members to buy. Get a few pots for myself out of it over a period of time and encourage a local craftworker  to explore a new niche market as an artist myself I will be happy.Please  appreciate that after all Anne’s hours as a trained professional potter, materials, rent, kiln and power costs she will almost certainly earn less than the minimum working wage per hour.




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More pots from the kiln


Went to see Anne today at her pottery to see the latest collection.One failure in firing but the rest look pretty good . The round ones above came in two sizes.

Small Round Pots    17 cm diameter  5cm high  3 cm deep

Large Round  Pots  21 cm    x 5 cm H  3cm deep

In addition to the ash glaze Anne also made a couple of unglazed ones in response to theglaze-compare comments I took back from last months club meeting, the difference is noticeable in the photo of a pile of pots.(Right)



She also made a couple more oval ones and if you look closely there are two different glazes.

Oval Pots   25cm x 17 cm 5.5cm high 3.5cm deep
and              24cm x 17cm 5.5cm high  3.5cm deep


Close up of unglazed large roundlaerge-unglazed

Hope to have a price list sorted out soon keep in touch anyone interested.

These are quality pots by a craftsman potter who if you cost her hours, material costs, rent and kiln expenses almost certainly does not earn the living wage figure, few artists and craftsmen do.

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New Yamadori acquisitions

Having seen me working on one of my trees one day when I was on duty at the gallery on the Somerset Levels where I exhibit some of my paintings, one of the visitors told me that he had some trees collected from the wild gallery-wpYamadori ) and would I like some.

Well obviously I leapt at his kind offer, at my age as much as I would like to my rheumatic  knees and dodgy ankle ache at just the very thought of traipsing through the nearby woods and marshes.

I then waited for his phone call to say that he would bring the first couple in for me to pick up, which he did within a few days only to find one was so large that I did indeed have difficultly in picking it up. 

simon-pine2The larger tree was a Scots Pine over five foot high with flourishing healthy growth at the top and which should prove to be an interesting project for the next few years. My dear Sue wanted to keep it as a container tree but I could see that it would just go up and up and was not really suited to the confines of our small garden.

I am toying now with various plans, one of which I played with on my lap top with the aid of a photo package (paint net), It would involve reducing the height to just above the second set of branches


Computer rough

and breaking it with a Jin (a bare stripped part of branch or trunk) giving the appearance of a tree broken by the elements, tilting it to one side and encouraging the growth perhaps to one side to give a wind battered image.

My second thought was to ‘phone a friend’ and consult someone with a far wiser bonsai head than mine, so as he is coming round later in the spring to help watch this blog to see what happens.

simon-oak-1The second tree was obviously an Oak but what sort of oak? It is about four foot high and has retained leaves  with deeply cut lobes. Thinking it might be one of two possibles I put it on the British Bonsai Club  Facebook Page and was rapidly informed that my initial thought of Hungarian Oak was wrong and that in fact it was a Turkey Oak.  img2The first one of which was introduced this country in 1664 at Upnor Castle in Kent and is definitely identifiable by the curious hairy terminal buds.

I felt that I could start on this tree without waiting for an expert to hold my hand so I cut it off just above the first few branches,wired one of them up as a new leader and repotted it in a good sized training pot with a good draining mixture. I  used  this opportunity to spread the roots out evenly from the trunk,  not a hard task they were already well placed and should form a good Nebari ( the Root Flare around a tree) in time.

Oaks I am told can sometimes be awkward  as bonsais so I am looking forward to seeing how it progresses with fingers crossed and to a challenging project with the pine, My thanks to Simon for the trees and members of British Bonsai Club Facebook page for putting me right regarding the oak. I just wonder what else might be turning up- watch this space.


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