Boon on Styling, Part 2: Pre-bonsai v. Yamadori

Sashi-eda: With all the brouhaha about the advantages or disadvantages of collected stock, prebonsai, and nursery stock, what would you say are the chief differences between styling a pre-bonsai or a young tree, and a collected tree?

Boon: You are in control of the shape and style of a young tree. It is easy to shape and style. Starting the tree from seed, cutting and air layering small branches, you can wire and bend the trunk to an appropriate shape.

If you grow a formal upright bonsai the trunk should be as straight as possible.

The word moyogi means tree with curves. When you grow an informal upright style the tree should have at least two curves. The apex is on the same vertical line as the center of the nebari. The main branches are on the outside of the curve.

On slant style, the apex is not on the same vertical line as the nebari. Directional branches can be either on the same side of the lean or the opposite side.

Trunks of semi-cascade and cascade trees should lean to the same side of the cascading branch(es).

On the other hand, working with collected trees is different. It takes more skill and more time to change the curve or bend the trunk. Collected trees are far away from perfect. Existing branches are normally too thick or too leggy. Unless you are lucky, then you may find a tree with compact growth. Nature creates those trees for hundreds of years. We should respect what nature has made.

Nature is the best teacher. Bonsai is not the way to imitate nature. It is the way to create what could have been a perfect tree in nature. Bonsai should be more beautiful than nature itself.

There are lots of beautiful trees in nature. Pick beautiful trees to be a model for your bonsai.

Sashi-eda: Can you give us some pointers that we can use to help us improve our bonsai? Perhaps you could share some things that we might overlook while working with our trees.

Boon: Branches must be harmonized. The angle of each branch on the tree should be:

  1. all downward (conifer)
  2. lower part downward, horizontal in the center. upward toward the top (all type of tree)
  3. all upward (deciduous)

Tree with curve trunk, the branches should be curve, On the other hand the tree with soft curve trunk. The curve on the trunk should also be soft curve.

Branches should come from all direction.

Side branches should be located on both sides. They should be coming slightly toward viewer.

Back branches give depth to bonsai.

Front branches keep the tree’s trunk round. Front branches should locate closer to the top.

Branches that grow directly downward should be removed. Downward growing branch is shaded and dies off in nature.

Upward growing branches should be kept. A tree wants sunlight for photosynthesis. Top branches keep it healthy. On the other hand, it can become a problem if it is too long.

Look at several options. Study your tree from all sides.

Keep extra branches on the tree. In some cases, after wiring, some branches may die.

Keep the tree full, do not over prune your bonsai.

You have to know the rule and know how to use it. Breaking the rules is acceptable only when it does improve the beauty and quality of the bonsai.

Only live and healthy tree make good bonsai!

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