Road to the Cup – Part 2
If you’re not grafting on junipers that you have in development then you’re likely not making really great bonsai, it’s that simple. While trees grown from cuttings can become really good in time, much of the juniper trunk stock that exists either from old landscape plants, wild trees or nursery-grown stock is not of sufficient quality to style without grafting. Even high quality juniper stock can sometimes benefit from grafting to improve taper, reposition branching or shorten lifelines.
Grafting often takes on the air of an elite activity that only a few can use and even fewer can master. Despite this unfortunate reputation, it is a technique like any other that can be used to further your design goals. If you never try to learn how to graft your own plants then you’ll certainly never learn. Take a piece of material that has little promise and practice by placing a dozen or more grafts on it in various places. Observe which take and consider the reasons.
What grafting does so efficiently is allow for the placement of the foliage of your choice onto the plant in the position of your choice. Grafting also allows for roots to be added at any location along the lifeline to make a juniper shorter or to remove problematic root formations. Because grafting is such a versatile tool it can accomplish the transformation of mediocre material into great, or rangy material into compact given the right placement and design decisions.
Grafting techniques are well-documented, see the links at the bottom of this article for some further reading.
Selecting positions for grafts is not always as clear cut and rote an exercise as the act of actually placing them on the tree. To select a graft point, orientation and type you need to be thinking about the design goals for the tree that you are trying to improve.
The tree that I’m taking to The Artisans Cup was created using two carefully placed scion grafts. At the time a third graft was added but it ultimately failed to survive. Additionally, I did a couple other practice grafts that did take but were later removed with a branch of the tree that was not usable for the design. Once you’ve got your grafts positioned and alive on the tree you’ve got some waiting to do….making good trees takes time.
Some further reading on juniper grafts: