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How to choose a bonsai pot no 7 - Pinus Radiata

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.

Pinus Radiata

Paul Moult

Current pot size: 240mm wide x 65mm high

Tree Size: 200mm high

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 - Feminine, Not very pronounced base as yet(may improve with age) however it give the impression of a more slender tree

  2. Trunk line - Masculine, Very straight, no movement at all and very little taper.

  3. Bark texture - Masculine, Rough textured bark that will get rougher with age. Slight bit of flakiness at the moment,

  4. Bark colour - Masculine, Different tones of brown from light to dark

  5. Primary branches - Masculine, straight and mimicking the trunk line. For the future work will be needed to correct the bifurcation as reverse taper will develop in time.

  6. Ramification - Masculine, as it is not very fine dense twiggy growth.

  7. Leaf size/density - Feminine, Depending on the story one can think of the needles as fine and delicate or straight and sharp. As this is a coastal pine with development going towards a rounded crown it can used to create a more feminine feel.

  8. Leaf colour New/Old - Feminine, As the tree stands at the moment the colour is more a subdued green than a dark green foliage.

  9. Other features - Suggestion for more a feminine look is to remove the thick trunk towards the apex. Just above the dense canopy of the lower branches there seems to be a strong left and right branch that will set the apical growth.

Masculine 5 - Feminine 3

On the scale below the tree is at no 3 on the masculine side.

Pot selection

Option A: Natural Planter Small 35cm long - Willow Bonsai Pots

Glazed effect: Unglazed Manganese

A. Pot characteristics:

1. Top View - Feminine, Naturalistic rock look with curves and indents.

2. Side Profile - Masculine, tapering towards bottom with lots of texture and interest.

3. Rim effect - Masculine, no traditional rim but the edge of the planter has sharp lines and textures.

4. Feet of pot - Masculine, no feet present. Textures and lines of the pot create a base for the pot and being a low profile design shows more masculinity.

5. Feet design - N/A

6. Details and special features - Masculine, the textures and rugged look help showcase aspects in the tree or the environment it comes from.

7. Glazed/Unglazed - Masculine, The dark reds to black tones showcase an earthy effect in the pot

Masculine 5 - Feminine 1


1. Contrast and Harmony - A natural planter is a very unique pot. In this case if we look at the black tones they contrast with the light green foliage helping it stand out and look lush. The red tones in the pot harmonize with the bark colour and gently pick up reds in the new young branches.

2. Composition/ Telling a story - Due to this pot being quite rugged with lots of texture and a naturalistic effect, we can use it to highlight the story better than a traditional pot. When using such a pot emphasis is place on the rock landscape the tree grows in and including the mosses, grasses and undulations of the landscape. By heaping up the growing medium and creating hills and crevice's we emulate that effect. We then create a full story of a Coastal Pine growing in an area with slight winds but protected in part to be able to grow as a rounded crown and not in a windswept fashion. The area around the tree is a rocky landscape with areas of exposed rock and the soil surface ebbing and flowing through these rocks. Due to the shaded areas of the Pine Trees mosses have grown to cover the landscape.


Option B: Oval DLT 26cm x 21 x 6.5cm high - Willow Bonsai Pots

Glazed effect: Deep stone as pictured/Unglazed Manganese as Option B

B. Pot characteristics:

1. Top View - Feminine, Oval shape with less visual weight than a rectangular shape.

2. Side Profile - Masculine, Some taper with a curvature towards the base but closer to straight.

3. Rim effect - Masculine, The double banded rim accentuates the top of the pot and give it more visual weight.

4. Feet of pot - Masculine, Indented from the profile with a simple design.

5. Feet design - Masculine, Low profile, rectangular with slight taper on sides.

6. Details and special features - Masculine, The bands create an extra detail to the pot which helps adds a feminine feel with the added detail and lower visual weight of the pot. Yet accentuating the masculine qualities of the pot.

7. Glazed/Unglazed - Masculine, As pictured it can be used in this matt glaze or an unglazed manganese will also work well.

Masculine 6 - Feminine 1


1. Contrast and Harmony - The matt deep stone glaze helps to highlight the bark tones in the tree by harmonizing with both the light and darker tones. It also picks up the younger branch tones and contrast with the green foliage.

2. Composition/ Telling a story - With this more traditional pot the emphasis is on the trunk and branch structure and less of the tree in a landscape. It portrays a slender tree still youthful but stretching out to the light in its environment. The subdued glaze helps draw attention to the tree and more a feminine feel visually rather than an unglazed effect.



Due to this tree still being in development and not yet fully refined things will still change in the future. However to tell a story and create a beautiful statement piece Option A would be my choice for this tree. As long as the horticultural needs are met.

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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