Finding the bonsai in the tree by Viky Petermann - revised
Findingthe Bonsai in the Tree(Designing Bonsai)Viky Petermannwww.oyama.co.za
• Over the years I have watched people struggle with what to dowhen starting a new Bonsai.• They battle with insecurity and self doubt . They often second guess theirdecisions and almost always feel they have chosen the wrong design for atree when someone expresses an unfavorable opinion about their Bonsai tothe point that they even rush to change the design of their tree as soon asthey get home.• I don’t see people struggle in this way when they choose a new colour forthe walls of their living room or a new style of lounge suite to complimenttheir décor or a new car to express their taste in their daily life.• What is it about Bonsai design that makes people so insecure intheir beliefs? Why do they find it so difficult to select a design?• It is my believe that the problem lies in the waythey approach their trees.
• The most common approach to creating a new Bonsaiinvolves very little thought and lots of quick Wiring andPruning on the part of the grower.Starting pointThe grower in this instance isconsidering ONLY the tree todayand not its long-term design.
• While this approach may give good resultswhen dealing with young nursery stock, thisoften results in a mediocre Bonsai with nodefinite future plan for the final image whenusing more mature stock.
•A more reliable long-term approach is todesign the tree in less of a hurry, carefullylooking at the plant to find the Bonsaihidden within.•This is especially important for plants collected in thewild as Yamadori are always imprinted withthe history of their life.So…
1. It is important to keep an open mind andto consider several options for the plant.How do we find the Bonsai within?In order to do this, it is necessary to look at thetree from ALLpossible angles including tiltingthe plant up by 180º!!
2. Looking at the plant from all the different viewpointswill allow you to come up with at leastTHREE possible designs/answers/future trees.As time goes by your visual understanding and youreye for design will develop and what seemed as aninsurmountable task a few months ago becomeswith practice a lot easier.There are a number of TOOLSwhich can be used tohelp you find the Bonsai:
b) Photographs or Photocopies, Tipex & markersc) Photoshop for the PC boffins
3. The next step is Choosing and implementing one of the designs.Use the drawing as a guideline to follow whilecutting and wiring as it will help you with projecting thefinal image of the tree in your mind.The drawing will become a constant reference that will helpyou to achieve the intended Bonsai in a short space of time.It will help you to stop floundering and getting lost andconfused with the direction you originally intended for thetree to go towards.Let’s see how this works…..
It is important to bear in mind that a Bonsai treeis a living being and as such, it is constantlychanging and it is important to for you as thedesigner to be flexible enough so as to allowyour long term plan to evolve in line with thetree’s growth habits and needs as you refine theBonsai.The result will then be a tree with a strong sense of design, anexciting and often innovative Bonsai!Carl Morrow
When NO DESIGN comes to mindSometimes, even after thoroughly looking at the plant, the rightdesign doesn’t comes to mind.This is especially true with Yamadori.As I mentioned before, trees collected in the wild are oftenstrongly imprinted with their life history and while a few designoptions may come to mind, none feel like the right design optionfor that particular tree.Be patient; WAIT; do not rush to cut and wire thetree until the right design becomes apparent to you!
Put the tree aside for a few weeks and thenhave another look at it!Remembering what was the feature of the tree that got you toselect it in the first place usually helps to focus your thinking andchanging the location of the tree is often helpful.Move the plant to different places on the benchesin your Bonsai-En, so that as you water the tree yousee it from different angles and at different heights.
THE DESIGN PROCESS•The Tree:As an example Ihave chosen aCotoneaster.This is a regulargarden plant,easily found atgarden canters,with lots ofbranches tochoose from
Option 1:To balance the heavy root on the left the tree isplaced on a rock.
•Option 2:Rotating the bag slightly the rootbecomes more prominent and asmaller root also appears on theopposite side
•Option 3:Leaning the bag on its sidechanges the character of boththe roots and the trunk
Photos: Steven RouxLet’s have a look at a Juniper from Cindy:
She needs to look ather tree and decidewhat elements in thetree she wants to bringout and what shewants to hide so as tofind the design thatbest answers hervision for the longterm future of her tree.Cindy asked a lot of people for their opinion on her tree butultimately the tree belongs to her .
Following the designprocess outlined before,here are three possibledesigns for this tree thatwould work for me:
I would now like to show you how the design process is used witha tree that most people would find difficult as it does not presentmost of the characteristics that we are taught to look for in goodBonsai material.The tree, a Schotia Afra, has a complicatedneabari, no taper and no radiating branches sowhy bother with it you would ask.Three reasons:•Sentimental value, it was a present from Gavin•The species is one I want to try•It is FUN designing marginal stock as it makes you think out of the box!So, let’s look at the tree and what can be done with it!