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Last year while talking with the Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz we began discussing different possible projects. They asked if there was anything bonsai related that could be considered trash that could be turned into a treasure. I explained the thought behind urban yamadori and also explained our club raffles and unwanted plants table. I then volunteered to take something that someone was going to throw away, a plant, it was a large boxwood, and turn it into a treasure

Why am I telling you this? Because every plant we work on small, large, collected from the wild, collected from next door, nursery stock or a bonsai you buy in training deserves a chance at giving someone happiness. You may only keep the tree alive until it transfers to another bonsai enthusiast, but that’s one of the reasons there are auctions and raffle tables. The little tree you are about ready to see was a raffle table tree that I picked up for a dollar. One thing I have tried to practice is to always take pictures of my bonsai’s as soon as I get them. It’s always great to see the journey the tree had from the beginning…not just the end picture.  For fun please stop my Facebook group

This little Juniper probably has everything wrong with it that you can imagine.  Pigeon breast, ugly deadwood, very little taper, very few curves, dead branches and no growth on one side of the tree.  I have always loved a challenge and looked forward to what I could learn on this ugly duckling, maybe others would have thrown this tree away? Will it be a show stopper someday?? I don’t know but I have loved all the little lessens this tree has had to teach. It has allowed me to practice wiring the branches into different locations and helped me try to add a little balance to an otherwise ugly tree.

It was one of the first trees I used cooper wire on.  I cracked one or two of the branches and then applied wound sealant and it recovered fine. It taught me a little about how junipers can heal themselves, and how the wound sealant worked. It allowed me to do a lot of things wrong, learn from my mistakes and seemed to say “is that all you got”! When I took this plant off the raffle table it was buried 6 to 8 inches of just dirt in a black pot of death. It allowed me to practice re-potting, So the first time I removed it from the pot I would remove an inch, still no roots, I kept doing this until I had removed almost all soil and found no roots until I got to the very bottom of the pot. There were just a few fibrous roots. The last time I re-potted the tree it was able to hold itself up with its root ball.

I recently took this tree to Boons workshop and began to fine tune this tree a little more. I practiced making more jins, more shari and learned more about tree health, fertilizing, watering and stabilizing trees before you work on them. I have practiced making dead wood, re-potted, built branch structure, removed branches, made jins, shari, used lime sulfur, wired and remove wire, tried different soils, potted and re-potted, used different bonsai pots, different fertilizers on this tree. The next project for this tree will be to wire out the pads in a few months.

So the next time you see a little ugly duckling don’t see it as a bad thing, see it as a teacher waiting for you to sit down and begin to learn. The pictures are in the following blog!! A picture blog!

Written by Ron Anderson — August 12, 2013