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How to choose a bonsai pot no 6 - Acacia galpinii

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.


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.

Acacia galpinii


Current pot size: 420mm wide

Tree Size: 600mm high x 700mm wide

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 that will show more of the root flair after repotting.

  2. Trunk line - Masculine, Slight tapered trunk line and movement.

  3. Bark texture - Masculine, Very flaky, course bark

  4. Bark colour - Masculine, Dark brown colours with hints of light cream and black

  5. Primary branches - Masculine, Thick pronounced primary branches

  6. Ramification - Masculine, Still more development needs to happen but eventually the finer branch structure will mimic the primaries.

  7. Leaf size/density - Feminine, Fine bipinnate compound leaves gives a softer image to the tree.

  8. Leaf colour New/Old - Masculine, The dark green tones of both the light and old leaves adds more visual weight to the tree.

  9. Other features - Masculine, scars and deadwood features give a sense of age and drama.

Masculine 8 - Feminine 1

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

Pot selection

Option A: Oval RDB 36cm x 27cm x 7cm high - Willow Bonsai Pots

Glazed effect: Deep Stone

A. Pot characteristics:

1. Top View - Feminine, This is a tricky one as it is between rectangle and oval but die to the rounded corners and less visual weight it is more feminine.

2. Side Profile - Masculine, Straight with a slight taper from top to bottom. Lots of visual weight.

3. Rim effect - Masculine, No rim really but the band does create the effect of a rim which emphasizes the straight side profile.

4. Feet of pot - Masculine, Slight indentation from profile, Simple

5. Feet design - Masculine, Simple design with the rounded rectangle and straight sides.

6. Details and special features - Masculine, The double band on this pot is a very important feature on Bonsai pots, the horizontal lines break up the pot into 3 parts. Our eye visually only sees the middle height which reduces the overall visual weight of the pot. This is a trick to be able to get a deeper pot to visually present a shallower version while giving enough space for the root system and horticultural needs.

7. Glazed/Unglazed - Masculine, The matt glaze with the earthy stone colour is more subdued(See Pottery studio page for picture).

Masculine 6 - Feminine 1


1. Contrast and Harmony - This pots length is 4cm short of being 2/3rds the height of the tree. This helps us emphasize the trunk and base of the tree. The Deep stone glaze has 3 tones of brown to work with. The dark brown harmonizes with the black hints in the bark and the dark green of the leaves. The caramel colour harmonizes with the primary branches while contrasting the light tones in the bark. The light base brown colour harmonizes with the bark overall and contrasts with the dark green of the leaf.

2. Composition/ Telling a story - This pot will emphasize the masculinity of the tree being mostly masculine itself. Using the low profile effect of the pot we can highlight the power of the nebari, trunk line and primary branches. All of these show strength and in time with the right development of the canopy will also create a sense of support. The pot being relatively small according to the rule of thirds represents a tree separated in the bushveld and not cropped together with other trees. Its power and beauty dealing with the elements have created a shorter squat look with older, thicker primary branches enduring the heat, sun and other elements in the African continent.


Option B: Rectangle T X Large 37cm x 28 x 10cm high - Willow Bonsai Pots

Glazed effect: Seaweed Glaze as pictured

B. Pot characteristics:

1. Top View - Masculine, Rectangular shape with rounded corners to reduce the masculinity a little bit.

2. Side Profile - Masculine, slight taper from top to bottom but generally straight with a lot of visual weight.

3. Rim effect - Masculine, Very pronounced rim giving extra power to the pot

4. Feet of pot - Masculine, Slightly angled outwards with a wrap around design.

5. Feet design - Masculine, No extra detail. Just rectangular wrap around design

6. Details and special features - Masculine, The middle band breaks up the visual weight of the pot. Less than option A but still has a thinning effect. The curvature increases the visual weight of the pot.

7. Glazed/Unglazed - Feminine, the glossy seaweed glaze brings a bit of life and interest into the pot.

Masculine 6 - Feminine 1


1. Contrast and Harmony - The seaweed glaze has 3 elements to work with.

Light green undertone harmonizes with the lighter younger leaves in the season. The dark green harmonizes with the older leaves in the growing season while contrasting with the lighter bark areas. The bright brown tone harmonizes with the bark colour and primary branches younger bark while contrasting with the leaves.

2. Composition/ Telling a story - In comparison to Option A this pot bring out more of the foliage and green spectrum of colours. There is a slight pickup of the green/mossy tone in the bark in places but this is very slight. Because this pot has a much wider look due to the length of the feet and extended rim the tree has a more balanced and stable look to it. The overall lush look of the glaze will highlight a tree in the bushveld during a period of good rains and lush grass and shrub growth around it. Showcasing a more fertile environment with the promise of growth and serenity.



This tree has a bit of development in the coming years but with that in mind Option A is the best as it showcases the tree as it would be found in nature in the bush. Where Acacia's grow is normally quite arid with lots of brown tones from the grasses to the rocks. With the more subdued glaze this helps the tree standout and highlight the special features in this tree (Trunk, nebari, bark texture and primary branches)

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

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