The Juniper Practicum: A Two-Year Lecture and Workshop Series Jan 2016-Jan2018

The Juniper Practicum is a series of lectures and workshops that will take a group of 30 normal juniper from a nursery and see them turned into bonsai over a two year period.

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Introduction and Rules Summary

Because the Practicum is an ongoing series, this web page will serve as a reference for participants and a place to include tracking of progress.

Juniper Practicum Announcement

Rules reminders: The Practicum Junipers belong to the participants. Participants are solely responsible for their health, growth and maintenance. The rules reward participants for attending workshops in the series, but do not require it. To have the best chance of winning one of the three prizes participants should attend all workshops and meetings in the series. We ask that if you no longer wish to participate that you return your plant to the group, but this is voluntary. You will be reimbursed the $30 cost of the plant if you chose to do so.

Participants may work on their trees at any time with anyone they choose, including professionals.

Other articles referencing the Juniper Practicum:

“Your Participation in BSSF Programs Benefits Everyone” – by Eric Schrader
” Long Term Plan” By Eric Schrader
“Juniper Practicum Lifts Off” by Catherine Wolf

Key Information:

Cost: Initial cost: $80 per plant which includes the cost of the plant, the entry fee and the January 16th repotting workshop; General Meeting lectures are free and open to all; each additional workshop is $25 per plant payable at the time of the class. Taking one tree through the entire Practicum will cost the participant only $180.

Start Date: January 14th, 2016
How to Sign Up: Signups are full, Please look for our next Practicum workshop series starting in January 2017.

Documentation and “Show and Tell”

The Practicum Series participants will be encouraged to document all work that they do on their trees and share it with the group. You can post your photos to the BSSF Facebook feed, or Tweet them or post to Instagram with the hashtag #BSSFPracticum?. We will photograph each tree at each meeting and workshop and post the photos to the Practicum progress page on the website.


Thursday January 14, 2016, General Meeting: Growing and Inspiration Lecture – Completed.

Saturday Jan 16th, 2016, Workshop: Repotting Workshop – Completed. Goal: A hands-on foundation in repotting skills.

Thursday November 10th, 2016, General Meeting: This will be the Initial styling discussion and lecture. We will begin by reviewing the health and growth during the 2016 growing season for each participant’s plant(s). From there we will discuss juniper styling techniques, lifeline creation, and lifeline relocation and coaxing. An introduction to branch bending and splitting will be included as will Eric’s thoughts on irregular Jin creation and how to achieve an irregular trunk cross-section. Goal: Understanding of basic and advanced juniper creation techniques.

Saturday November 12th, 2016, Workshop: The second all-day workshop will focus on the styling of the trees using all techniques available. Great emphasis will be given to learning proper wiring technique so that existing branching can be used to greatest effect. Additionally, participants will be encouraged to explore deadwood creation techniques. Goal: Hands-on wiring instruction, exploration of deadwood creation.

Thursday June 8th, 2017, General Meeting: The meeting will begin with an additional review of progress of each plant’s health and growth. Eighteen months after starting the trees should be healthy and growing quickly. We will continue with a discussion of branch refinement techniques and how to optimize growing for creation of fine branching. Analysis of examples of bonsai showing how branch structure can be developed to allow for easy maintenance and added character. Goal: Understanding juniper branch refinement and maintenance techniques.

Sunday June 18th, 2017, Workshop: The third all-day workshop will focus on foliage thinning, branch refinement, and additional wiring of smaller branching. The workshop will also be used as an opportunity to review the deadwood portions of the tree and add to them as needed to increase the interest in the trunk. 9am-6pm (rotating attendance) in the rec room at the hall of flowers. Goal: Hands-on refinement technique, additional wiring practice.

Saturday November 4th, 2017, Workshop: The fourth workshop will be a final session that can be used to restyle and clean up the trees for the end of the series contest and voting. A good fall cleanup and thinning will bring the trees as far along as they can go for the scope of this workshop series. Participants will learn how to prep a tree for a show by cleaning it up, both in terms of the top growth and the deadwood work including texturing, cleaning and application of lime sulfur. Goal: Hands-on show prep.

Saturday, January 6th, 2018, Workshop: The final workshop in the series will focus on repotting and show container selection. We will repot all the trees into a container that is appropriate for showing the tree. Although a second repotting is normally enough, some trees may still need additional root work to achieve an appropriate container size. Goal: Repotting technique, emphasis on placement in the pot, angle, selecting the exact front.

Thursday January 11th, 2018, General Meeting: Presentation of trees to BSSF membership, voting by Practicum participants and award of final prizes. Possibly also the start of our next Practicum.

Eric's graphical timeline for the Practicum.

Eric’s graphical timeline for the Practicum.

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FAQ, Rules etc.

1. Q– Can anyone take the Juniper Practicum Series?
A The series is open to all paid BSSF members, there are no other requirements. If you are not a member and would like to take the series you may sign up as a member at or before the January 14th, 2016 meeting, which is the deadline for signing up for the series.
2. Q– What if I don’t want to take the entire series?
A If you decide after the series starts that you are no longer interested or able to attend we ask that you return the plant to the club so that it can be included in the rest of the series. The success of the series depends on the comparison of a batch of material at each stage. The club will reimburse you for the cost of the plant ($25), but not the entry fee or workshop fees.
3. Q Why is this going to take so long? Do you really need two years?
A Bonsai takes time. Anyone who tells you otherwise is mistaken. Chinese Junipers grow slowly, but they make great bonsai. Occupy the time between these classes with other bonsai activities!
4. Q – Can I start the series in the middle?
A Yes, but only if there are available trees. If we have trees that are left over from the beginning of the Practicum Eric will grow them until they are needed. We may also have trees returned if any participants drop out. You will not be eligible to participate in the prize competition if you start in the middle.
5. Q – Do I have to take all the workshops?
A Participants should enroll in the Practicum with the intention of attending all relevant meetings and workshops and participating fully in the opportunity provided. If you are unable to attend one of the meetings or workshops you will still be able to participate in the prize competition.

6. Q Can I get help with my tree from someone else?
A Yes. The point of the Practicum is to learn in a group environment so we encourage you to exchange ideas with your fellow participants. You can get help from anyone you choose during the time period the series runs. (Yes, even professionals.)
7. Q Can I work on my tree between workshops?
A Yes. In fact you’ll be doing the most important work between workshops: growing the tree. But you may also want to do other work as you see fit. However, be cautioned that overworking a juniper can slow progress rather than speed it up.
8. Q– What if my plant dies?
A This is a program that is meant to teach you how to grow bonsai trees. If your plant does not survive you will not be eligible for the prize competition. However, in the event that a plant dies you may use a similar plant to continue participating in the workshops. (only if you started from the beginning though.)
9. Q – Can I use more than one of the eligible trees?
A – Yes. A single tree will first be distributed to all interested members. If there are extra trees you can elect to purchase an additional tree, up to two per person. The cost for entry and each workshop is per tree, not per participant.
10. Q – How will the prize winners be determined?
A– The workshop participants that are present at the January 2018 meeting will vote on the best tree. Each vote will count as one point. You will also receive one point for each Practicum workshop you attend. The participant with the most points will be the winner, second place to the participant with second most points and third place to the participant with the third most points. In the event of a tie BSSF members present at the January 2018 general meeting who did not participate in the series will be asked to vote for the best tree to break the tie. If there is still a tie the cash prizes will be pooled and split evenly among the tied participants.