Juniper Progress.

This Juniper was lifted in June 2015 and planted in a plastic container. It came from a garden and was planted in a very sandy soil which came away during the lifting process. It was basically bare-rooted at the time which in my mind was not ideal at the time. I did bring some of the soil with me to add to the new mix with the hope that it contained some michoriza. At this stage I also removed some of the long, whippy branches with very little foliage on it to try and balance the foliage to root ratio.

From this point on it was watered and fertilised and received plenty of sun. A few branches died over the next twelve months, but plenty of new growth showed as well. All of this was of the needle type and then reverted to adult growth. The tree was also planted into a Bonsai pot at which time the roots were reduced a bit.

I had to move my trees three in the last six months. First from a colder, wetter part of New Zealand to an almost subtropical climate. The first place was a temporary place while we were shifting our household, then to a rental until we shifted into our own house three months later. Eighteen months after the lifting (January 2018) it was time for its first styling. Deadwood was created on the cut branches and then the wiring started. This took about six hours with not more than two hours done per day. I find it is best to start at the bottom of the tree and then work towards the apex of the tree. I have just used aluminium wire and varies from 1mm thickness to 4mm thickness. Quite a few guy wires were used to pull larger branches down. I use plastic tubing to protect the branches. Due to a few harsh bends, light cracks appeared and these were sealed with cut paste.

Now it is time to let it rest. Water and fertilise, keep an eye on the wire to prevent it from cutting in give it plenty of sun. It could be show ready in about three years. The foliage pads must mature and I have left a bit of new growth on the main branch from where another branch or two can be formed to fill some gaps.

Some of the Jin are too long, but I will leave it as it is for now. It is better to shorten them later. It is not that simple to make deadwood longer later. Lime Sulphur will also be applied later after some carving, burning and light sanding.

I like to study my trees from the top as I used to style very flat trees in the past. Probably because I look at too many trees in photos. A top view shows you the depth of the tree.

I like to look at my trees from the top as I used to style very flat trees. Probably because I look at too many trees in photographs and this made my designs look very two dimensional and flat. From the top, it is easy to see the depth. You can do the same by looking at the tree from the side, but from the top you can also look for branches and foliage pads shadowing the ones below them.

Mycorrhizal fungus – Root friends


The white threads are Michorrizal fungi.

Mycorrhizal fungi occurs naturally in soil. They form a close symbiotic relationship with plant roots. They are called mycorrhizae ,from the Greek “mukés”, meaning fungus, and “rhiza,” meaning roots. Mycorrhizae are considered to be in a mutualistic relationship because both organisms benefit. The fungus receives the products of photosynthesis from the plant and is therefore does not need to find its own sources of energy. At the same time the fungus grows out into the soil and retrieves nutrients, especially phosphorus and nitrogen, and passes these back to the plant. It is usually seen as a network a very thin, white threads spread throughout the soil in close contact with roots.


The root on the right has the fungus in close contact to enhance the absorptive area of the root. This means more nutrients and water can be absorbed than the root on the left.

However, in most soils that have been disturbed by residential construction, or intensive cropping practices with applications of fertilizers containing pesticides and other chemical products, the mycorrhizae content has considerably diminished, and has become insufficient to significantly enhance plant growth. Numerous experiments have shown that plants without mycorrhizae cannot cope as well with low mineral levels as those that have mycorrhizae.


In a Bonsai pot, the soil is a very controlled environment. The Bonsai artist determines what goes into the soil, what it consists of and how much water is given.

When mycorrhizal fungi colonize the plant’s root system, they create a network that increases the plant’s capacity to absorb more water and nutrients such as phosphorus, copper and zinc. This process in turn enhances growth and favors rapid development of roots and plants. Where this fungus is present in soil, a much faster establishment rate of new roots is observed as well as a reduced water need of up to 30%. The reason for this is that the micorrhizae ensures a much larger surface area is available for the absorption of water and nutrients. The plants are healthier and grow faster.

There is also evidence that these fungi can also improve the structure of the soil. The threads grow through the growing medium and aggregates the soil. This allows for more air to move through the soil as well as enhancing drainage.

Back to Bonsai cultivation. As mentioned before, the soil in a Bonsai pot can be very sterile as it could consist of particles that do not necessarily contain living organisms or lots of organic matter. These could include valuable soil bacteria (nitrogen fixing bacteria) as well as michorrizal fungus. In the absence of these, it is important that the Bonsai artist allows for modsc_1936re (more frequent) fertilization to take place. Michorrizal fungus spores can be bought (I have not seen it in New Zealand yet), but a much less expensive way to inoculate your Bonsai soil with the spores is to use a bit of the original soil in the Bonsai pot at planting time. I find that this is especially important when I plant Pines and other conifers.

In summary: Most plants in nature live in a relationship with Micorrhizal fungi. Both organisms benefit from this relationship. Most Bonsai soils will not contain this fungus and by adding the fungus to Bonsai soil, the plant will establish faster, take up more nutrients and will need less water. Something to think about when it comes to transplanting time.