Creating Small Juniper Rock Plantings

Creating Small Juniper Rock Plantings

Back in January I took apart a container full of rooted Kishu juniper cuttings and used the cuttings to create some rock plantings.

In preparation for the operation I had taken some "lace rock" that I got from a stone yard in Santa Rosa, CA and first washed, then used a fabric spot gun, which is like a mini-pressure washer to remove dirt. I took each clean stone and examined it for the angles that I liked the most and then cast small composite bases to allow the stones to be used at the best orientation. The entire process wasn't super difficult; it was inspired by Jan Culek's fall 2019 visit and by current BSSF president Sam Tan asking me to help him with a much larger stone project needing a cast resin base. 

I had never created batches of juniper rock plantings before, but I liked the idea of creating some compositions that were pushing the boundaries of what might be considered natural, into the "fantasy" realm. I had previously put together a larger juniper on a slab, and a small juniper on a stone, but one that never had a base, and where the roots are growing in a small pocket of the stone, not down into a pot.

I cast bases for about 25 different stones and then proceeded to create compositions to use the best features and angles of the stones. 

Muck is a mixture of clay, akadama (Japanese bonsai soil) and sphagnum moss and was the main component in attaching the trees. I used a small stainless steel screw to create a removable attachment point. In the past I've used a mixture of portland cement and super glue; but a warning if you try it - the resulting mixture is seemingly indestructible so you don't get any second chances. (and wear disposable gloves!) With the screws, I know that they can later be removed entirely. 

After nearly a full growing season now I've learned a few things:

  • Covering the muck with a good live green moss is a really good idea: it prevents the clay and muck from eroding when you water and also keeps the soil more moist. 
  • Watering, or lightly re-wetting just the muck mixture area on the upper parts of the stone will ensure the juniper roots can make it into the pot.
  • The junipers that get their roots into the containers immediately start growing more quickly. If you see a tree sitting stagnant, try adding more muck and moss over the roots to encourage them to run downward. 

Below is the back side of the planting in the main photo with this article. There are two juniper cuttings and both have started to grow nicely. I have not added muck or moss, but as a result I've had to scrape the top soil a couple times to remove built up clay that eroded. I will add moss once the rainy season starts. 



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