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How to choose a bonsai pot no 3 - Gardiol's Commiphora

Updated: Jun 17, 2021

Due to popular demand we have started this series to help Bonsai artists and our loyal customers in their choice of a bonsai container. There are many factors that need to be taken into account when selecting a bonsai pot and we will be diving into the way we select a container for our trees and customers trees.


Masculine or Feminine

The main consideration in choosing a pot is to work out if the tree is masculine or feminine. This is determined by multiple characteristics of each tree, for example the nebari, trunk line, bark texture, leaf density and much more.


A tree that has characteristics of strength, power, formality, harshness, roughness and struggle can be considered masculine


A tree that has characteristics of calm, delicacy, instability, informality and finesse can be considered feminine.


Note:

Please note that these are merely guidelines and form a basis on how to break down the elements of tree and pot to help in choosing a correct Bonsai container. Every artist and bonsai enthusiast will have their own opinions and artistic flair which will create a different composition of their own.


Commiphora harveyi (Kanniedood or Red stemmed cork wood)

Gardiol von Horsten

Current pot size: 45 x 18cm

Tree Size: 55 x 66cm




Tree characteristics

Lets start by listing some of the characteristics of this tree and how they fit into the masculine or feminine approach.

  1. Nebari - Masculine, Powerful base with root spread, roots can be improved over time through grafting or just general growth.

  2. Trunk line - Masculine, Straight trunk with very little taper as in the Baobab style.

  3. Bark texture - Masculine, Flaky paper like bark shows age.

  4. Bark colour - Masculine, Dark tones of green, red, brown with hints of white contrast.

  5. Primary branches - Masculine, Thick powerful branch structure with angular movement.

  6. Ramification - Masculine, Same as above angular movement

  7. Leaf size/density - Masculine, Tri-foliate compound leaf with pronounced leaf venation and slight serration.

  8. Leaf colour New/Old - Feminine, New leaves have a beautiful red/pinkish tinge. Masculine, Old leaves are dark green and hardy

  9. Other features - Shari feature, masculine feature showing age and the story of life and death.

Masculine 9 - Feminine 1

On the scale below the tree is at no 5 on the masculine side.

Pot selection


Option A: Landscape X Large 48 x 33 x 4.5cm

Glazed effect: As pictured in the deep stone







A. Pot characteristics:

1. Top View - Feminine, Oval shape, rounded corners.

2. Side Profile - Masculine, Some curvature but closer to straight with the visual weight being quite high.

3. Rim effect - Masculine, Pronounced rim that gives power and rigidity to the pot.

4. Feet of pot - Masculine, slightly indented from profile of pot but low profile design

5. Feet design - Masculine, straight, simple rectangular design

6. Details and special features - Masculine, Low profile of the entire pot design

7. Glazed/Unglazed - Masculine, as above the Deep stone glaze will work very well with the tree, being a matt glaze also helps the masculinity. Iron oxide unglazed effect will also be a great colour and effect for this tree.(See Pottery studio page for picture).

Masculine 5 - Feminine 1


Reasoning

1. Contrast and Harmony - The Deep Stone glaze with its matt effect has 2 elements, a darker reddish brown and a lighter tan colour. The darker reddish brown tone will harmonize with the bark colours while contrasting the green of the leaf and young bark. The lighter colour will pick up the whitish/cream hues in the bark and flaky bark so highlight this feature of the tree.

2. Composition/ Telling a story - This pot emphasizes the masculinity of the tree while still softening the overall masculinity with the oval shape of the pot. This helps the viewer to experience the tree in its entirety without being overwhelmed by the sheer masculinity. The colouration can be seen as telling a story of where these tree originate from(Eastern Cape and Kwazulu Natal). Most Commiphora grow in rock outcrops or on the sides of cliff sides. The Deep Stone Glaze will highlight this effect simulating a rocky outcrop that the tree is clinging to while still having some negative space to allow the eye to go to rest.


 

Option B: Oval X Large 43 x 43 x 11cm - Willow Bonsai Pots



B. Pot characteristics:

1. Top View - Feminine, Oval shaped.

2. Side Profile - Masculine, Slight curvature but the visual weight and height of pot is quite heavy.

3. Rim effect - Masculine, Accentuated rim gives power to the pot.

4. Feet of pot - Masculine, Slightly indented from side profile but still a simple design.

5. Feet design - Masculine, Simple rectangle feet design with straight sides.

6. Details and special features - Masculine glaze effect of the matt Deep Stone.

7. Glazed/Unglazed - Deep Stone Glaze as in Option A.


Masculine 5 - Feminine 1


Reasoning

1. Contrast and Harmony - The Deep Stone glaze with its matt effect has 2 elements, a darker reddish brown and a lighter tan colour. The darker reddish brown tone will harmonize with the bark colours while contrasting the green of the leaf and young bark. The lighter colour will pick up the whitish/cream hues in the bark and flaky bark so highlight this feature of the tree.


2. Composition/ Telling a story - This pot emphasizes more the trunk thickness and more solitude effect of a baobab in Natura. The Deep Stone Glaze pictured in Option A will help showcase a Baobab in a sandy arid environment standing on its own. This pot is much deeper so the canopy of the tree must compensate and be dominant to not get lost in the composition.

 

Conclusion

This Commiphora will work the best in Option A, however due to the unknown root ball it may not fit in the beginning. Luckily Commiporas are easy to prune root systems and create a nice flat base so over time this tree will fit into the proposed pot. But as a development pot Option B will work very well until the root base is developed.


As always this is an opinion and is just a guideline to what can work and the reason thereof. In art we need to take a set of choices and make them tangible and easy to understand. Breaking up the characteristics of the tree and pot makes this easier to explain the options and choices made in a constructive manner. Not just saying it looks nice or not, but using the above to tell a story and convey the image in the artists mind to the viewer.



Want to participate?

We plan on doing a case study on a tree like the above each week for our customers and collection trees. If you would like to participate and have us choose a pot for your tree with explanations please send us an email with the following details:

  1. Photo of tree taken from the front and at eyelevel

  2. Size of the tree

  3. Size of current pot

  4. Future growth and compositional remarks for the future.

  5. What story do you have in mind for the tree or what feature do you want to enhance.


Send the above to willowbonsaishop@gmail.com



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