Bonsai - Raft Planting - Juniper:

Almost always, there will be clusters of like trees together

Commonly a forest bonsai is created from several small plants of the same variety. There is another way to create a group of trees, to resemble what would happen in nature. Rarely do you find an assortment of different trees together in a group. Almost always, there will be clusters of like trees together.

There are several types of trees we could use for this purpose - small maples, cherries, birches, etc. Hold the plant outwards horizontally, and visualize all the branches growing upwards. Rotate it until you can take advantage of as many upward-facing branches as possible. Using copper or anodized aluminum wire, train all branches to an upward-facing position, trying to spread them apart to create a three-dimensional effect. There should be a variety of heights and thickness, stretched out so you can curve them a little to create a believable group of trees, rather than a string in one line.


Scarify and remove small sections of bark from the bare side of the trunk. This part of the trunk will be facing downwards into the soil. By dusting these areas with rooting hormone, you can encourage root development in these spots. These roots will eventually become the trees' main roots, and the existing root can be removed.


Now remove the tree from its pot and carefully comb out the roots, using a root comb or kitchen fork with the tines bent downward at right angles. Any heavy roots are removed - the fine hair roots can support the tree. Choose a shallow pot with enough area to hold the horizontal trunk and its root. Put a piece of fibreglass screening or landscape fabric over the drainage hole in the pot and add one half to one inch of potting mix (good quality potting soil with fine gravel or sharp sand added for drainage) as a base. The roots are spread out to reduce the height of the horizontal root ball as much as possible. Eventually, much of the existing root ball can be removed, as roots grow into the mix where you have scarified the trunk underneath. The tip of the trunk may be removed if it is too long - visualize the existing branches as individual trees, spaced in an elongated group and decide how many would be appropriate. Use wire around the trunk and into the drainage hole, spread out underneath, to stabilize the tree in the pot. Add bonsai mix over the root and trunk, working it in to eliminate air spaces. The wire on the branches will enable you to shape the trees somewhat, but styling is on going for several years. There is a space at the root end of the pot, where there are no branches, where a decorative rock or figurine would be effective to fill the space. Keep it in perspective - the smaller the rock, the larger the trees look in comparison. Moss would look natural under evergreen trees


In such a shallow pot, this type of bonsai will dry out very quickly. It will need to be watered well whenever the mix is dry below the surface, which could easily be every day, or even more often, in hot, dry weather. It is so discouraging to lose a tree in one day, after months or years of care, because it got too dry, but it happens to all of us. In a cool, humid climate, our little forest could remain outdoors whenever the temperature is above freezing. In hot, dry or windy areas, it would need some shelter from the elements, and more frequent checking. In winter, it might need some shelter from too much rain, or covering to insulate it from occasional frosts. If it is a juniper hardy to your colder area, it might benefit from being buried in the ground to the top of the pot, then well covered with a mulch such as dry leaves, straw or vermiculite, then a covering of cloth such as burlap (not plastic). If snow is available, that would be additional insulation.


It is also possible to keep native outdoor trees indoors in the winter if you have a place that is cold but above freezing. A garage or a cold room with these temperatures would be safe. Some enthusiasts have special cold areas in their basements, insulated from the rest of the area and often with a hole or window to let in cold air in the winter. It is even possible, but a little riskier, to keep them on cold windowsills if some material insulates them from warm room temperatures. They need little light when they are dormant, but reasonably high humidity is helpful. If possible, talk to knowledgeable the people at greengate, or, even better, members of the local Bonsai Society. They can tell you what is appropriate care in your area, so you have the most chance of success.