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How to Choose Your Bonsai Pot (Part 2)

We covered trees’ “gender” and visual weight in Part 1. Now, we can put into practice what we have learnt by evaluating some bonsai-in-pot examples.

Juniperus procumbens “Nana”

This Juniper was styled in 2015. The photo above was taken a few months after styling, once the foliage pads had filled out. It is in an unglazed, golden pot, imported from China.

  • The tree has nice movement in the trunk, with lots of detail in the foliage pads and branch structure. This shows more feminine qualities.

  • However, it also has a textured bark, spiky foliage, and a dense canopy, which are all more masculine characteristics.

Looking at the tree’s most dominant “gender” features, we can see that it is more feminine because of the slender movement in the trunk, fine foliage, and detail in the branches. Looking at its pot:

  • On the one hand, the pot is round, has some detail in the foot, and the profile is slightly curved, all of which are feminine features.

  • On the other hand, the pot has a pronounced lip, is simple in design, and the base is very bold. These are all masculine properties.

Overall, the pot is more masculine as the major factors – profile, design, and base – are all masculine.

The bonsai-pot combination does not work because the pot is too masculine and too visually heavy compared to the tree, which is more feminine. It does not compliment the bonsai or give balance.

Let’s evaluate the image below when the pot has been changed.

  • The pot has detailed and dainty feet, is round in shape, with a curved profile and horizontal lines that break up the profile of the pot. These are feminine elements.

  • The pot is simple in design and unglazed, making it slightly masculine.

Immediately, the pot is much more feminine and visually lighter than the previous pot. This is a much better option than before because the pot is smaller and balances the foliage mass better. It works well with the silhouette by leading the eye up the profile of the pot into the branch structure and showing off the trunk line as well.

Acer palmatum

This Japanese Maple is about 25 years old as a bonsai. The photo above was taken in 2015. The one below is from 2018, just before winter. Let’s look at the tree, like we did with the first example.

  • The tree has a slender trunk line, with gradual movement, fine branch structure, and a light-coloured smooth bark. These are all feminine characteristics.

  • The tree has good nebari flare and some scarring, which are all masculine features.

Because the tree has more feminine attributes, we can see that it is more female. Now, let’s evaluate the pot in the image above.

  • The pot is oval, and that’s about all the feminine characteristics it has.

  • The pot has no lip, simple foot design, thick horizontal bands, a straight profile, and is unglazed. All of these properties are masculine.

Therefore, the pot is masculine in every way: feet, profile, detail, and colour.

The bonsai-pot combination does not work as the tree is very feminine and the pot is very masculine - completely opposite. These two elements are clashing instead of harmonising.

In the image below, we can see that:

  • The pot has a lip, is oval, is glazed, and is long and slender in shape, which are feminine facets.

  • The pot is simple in design, with simple feet, and the profile is relatively simple. These are masculine traits.

The tree now has a presence due to the pot being much more feminine than the previous masculine one. The dark glaze contrasts with the foliage and the bark of the Maple. The slight white drip on the left-hand side is used to harmonise with the bark and breaks the monotony of the glaze slightly(Pictured below).

The pot also now allows the eye to flow up the trunk into the fine branches with ease. Using a longer pot gives more negative space to the composition of bonsai and pot, giving the eye a “place to rest”.

These two trees show how much a bonsai can change just with pot choice. Every tree is unique, but using these techniques will help guide you to choose the best combination for your bonsai. Remember, trees evolve over time and so should your pot choice.

Want to learn more? We offer classes through the Willow Bonsai Academy. These classes range from two-day beginner’s courses to workshops. Follow this link to book your class today!

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