Juniperus californica is one of the 67 known species of Juniper. It’s a small coniferous shrub that is widely used in ornamental gardening, especially among Bonsai artists based in North America. Due to its size and overall appearance, Juniperus californica is deemed suitable for the art of Bonsai or any other ornamental gardening artform. Most species of plants that are deemed suitable for any landscaping art can withstand various pruning techniques. Bonsai is a gardening artform that involves growing miniature trees in pots that mimic their big counterparts. It’s not easy as it may sound as there are a lot of gardening techniques involved. Many American-based Bonsai artists prefer Juniperus californica as it is naturally found in Southwestern North America.
Often times, the process of importing species from other countries involve legal hassles and can also be quite expensive. This is because plant species or soil imported from an entirely different ecosystem can pose a threat to the flora and fauna of the local habitat. Of course, this is not true for all species of plants or soil types, but the process of getting an approval from the concerned authorities can be tiresome and expensive. Thus, most people who are interested in Bonsai or any other landscaping or gardening artform for that matter prefer suitable plant species that can be found locally. For American and Mexican Bonsai artists, one of those plant species is Juniperus californica.
Additional Information on Juniperus californica
Juniper californica belongs to the genus Juniperus, which in turn is part of the family Cupressaceae. Its species can be found in abundance throughout the Northern Hemisphere. From Central America to Tibet and tropical Africa to the Arctic, various species of Juniper are found in a diversity of environments.
The distribution of this plant species ranges from California in the United States to Baja California in Mexico. It can also be found in southern Nevada and northwestern Arizona. As it is found in abundance in California, it is named after the state. In California, you can easily find this plant in various habitats such as pinyon-juniper woodland, Joshua tree woodland, foothill woodlands, etc. Its height is often between the range of 3 and 8 meters. In rare cases, it can also grow as much as 10 meters tall. The scale-like leaves of this perennial shrub are arranged in opposite decussate pairs. In other words, the leaves at each node are opposite of each other, and successive pairs form an angle of 90 degrees. The female cones of Juniper californica are often referred to as “berries” and are edible.
The conservation status of this shrub/small tree is “least concerned”. In other words, Juniperus californica is not a threatened species according to The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). There is, however, one vegetation of Juniperus californica that was completely destroyed by feral goats back in 2007. However, trees have started to grow again in that area.
Uses of Juniperus californica
Apart from its ornamental use in Bonsai, Juniperus californica has also been used as a medicinal plant as well as a food source by the indigenous peoples of California. These include the Cahuilla, Kumeyaay, and Ohlone people. The berries of this shrub were eaten raw as well as used in baking by Native Americans. Juniperus californica is also ecologically important for a variety of animal species including turkeys, deer, etc.
The Aesthetics of Juniperus californica Bonsai
Most Junipers make good candidates for Bonsai, however, Juniperus californica stands out due to its thick shoot system. Its bluish-grey foliage combined with its scale-like leaves gives it a very aesthetically pleasing look. In Bonsai, the appearance of foliage is of utmost importance. It looks majestic in its natural habitat. As it can withstand various pruning techniques including crown pruning and root pruning, Bonsai artists can mimic its glorious foliage found in the wild. Apart from that, you can also give it a shape based on other Bonsai trees in your garden. This way, you can determine a whole theme for your Bonsai collection. However, if you’re new to this art form, it’s recommended that you start with just a single shrub.
How Long does it Take to Grow Juniperus californica Bonsai?
Juniperus californica takes around 9 months to fully mature. However, you will have to constantly work at it if you want to prune it into a beautiful Bonsai. As the plant grows, you will have to make the necessary adjustments in its foliage by pruning. If you are new to pruning, then Juniperus californica can be a good species to start with it because it is tough. It grows in the interior desert regions of California as well as woodlands. Its height often varies based on the amount of water an area receives. All in all, how well a Juniperus californica Bonsai is grown and maintained depends upon the skills of a Bonsai artist.
How to Plant and Grow Juniperus californica Bonsai?
Juniperus californica Bonsai is a tough shrub that can thrive in challenging environments. This is evident in the fact that it grows in the interior desert region of California as well as other regions where conditions vary. Due to its toughness and resilience to challenging conditions, beginner gardeners or Bonsai artists use it for landscaping, ornamental gardening, or Bonsai. However, there are still certain points that you should keep in mind while growing your Juniperus californica Bonsai.
It’s recommended that you plant it in the open as most Junipers including Juniperus californica don’t grow well indoors. If you cannot plant it in an open garden, make sure that it gets as much sunlight as possible. Lack of sunlight can hamper the growth of this shrub. Juniperus Californica usually grows in low-nutrient soil. If you want to use it for Bonsai, you will have to water it accordingly. This will also depend upon the soil type. You have to allow the soil to dry before watering. As a Bonsai artist, you will learn about maintaining Bonsai trees with practice.
Juniperus californica shrubs have a lifespan that ranges from 50 to 150 years. Thus, you wouldn’t have to worry about your Juniperus californica Bonsai dying anytime soon if you keep it healthy.
How to Care for Your Juniperus Californica Bonsai?
The first and foremost thing is to make sure that you water you Juniperus californica Bonsai. As you go along, you will end up finding just the right amount of water your miniature tree will require. Another point to keep in mind is that you should not keep it in a dark space. It’s important that you tree gets enough sunlight. Growing lights is another option, but most Botanical experts as well as Bonsai artists will tell you that natural sunlight is the best option.
Prune your tree regularly to give it the desired shape. You will have to utilize various pruning techniques as the plant grows. Thus, you will have to keep an eye on its growth and prune it accordingly. Keep yourself informed about the needs of your Juniperus californica. Information on the tree and its growth can help you keep the plant healthy. But you will have to start with Bonsai to gain practical knowledge.
Handle your Juniperus californica with care. Although it’s a tough shrub, pruning it with care and keeping it healthy will only help you get the desired foliage shape. It is recommended that you use Bonsai clippers instead of scissors for pruning or removing dead branches. Trim the foliage to get the desired shape as it grows. This is where your creativity will come in. You can browse the web and mimic various shapes, or you can just go with the flow. As you get better with various pruning techniques, you will find that Bonsai offers immense potential for creative expression. You will also be able to control its growth better as you gain more experience.
Another important thing is to connect with various other Bonsai enthusiasts. If you cannot find anyone who is interested in Bonsai in your local area, use the internet. You will find that there are many Bonsai communities online that will help you grow as a Bonsai artist. Another upside of connecting with other Bonsai artists is that you will be able to find new information, keep yourself updated and make new friends.
Another key piece of information to remember is that Juniperus californica is highly flammable. So, you should not bring a naked flame near it. According to experts, this species can take more than 125 years to recover from a fire.
Like any other art form, Bonsai helps people of different communities come together. This traditional art form from Japan becomes a connecting point for a diversity of people. Art is transcendental and making art is often a meditative experience. Bonsai is no different. All you need to ensure is that you keep your Juniper californica healthy and make efforts to improve your pruning skills.