A New Pot for a New Effect

by Katsumi Kumiya

A pot is not simply a container for a tree and its soil, but an important element of the aesthetic impression of a bonsai. It should underline the beauty of the tree, even morph into the substrate on which the viewer imagines the growing tree.

Here the pot of a shohin rose should be changed, to a surprising effect as you will see. Rose bonsai are frequently of the species Rosa wichuraiana, and often in sizes that are associated with the shohin category (up to 20cm height). This species is valued for its brightly green foliage, the white blossoms that open around June, and for the red fruit that mature in autumn. It therefore can be regarded as either a flowering or a fruiting bonsai. One of its most attractive features is the striking contrast between the green leaves, the old, reddish-brown trunk and the signal red fruit. The pot which is to replace the current one should emphasize exactly these features.

It is not easy to desrcibe in a few words why a pot is a good match or not. In the specific case of this rose, the most important consideration is that the pot should fit the character of the season in which the tree is most likely to be displayed. During the flowering phase, the colours that would harmonize best with this species are yellow, green or red (colours that correspond to one of the plant's colours), while a white pot is best suited for the fruiting season, where the white colour might symbolize fog or snow. Simple uni-coloured or painted pots should not be dismissed either; there are no fixed rules for selecting a pot. In a presentation it should also convey the exhibitor's individual approach.

So the choice of a pot is an important step when preparing a bonsai for an exhibition. The importance of selecting a pot is also demonstrated by the fact that there is often a special section for it in the jury's judging sheets where the pot is evaluated according to its colour, shape, size and the interplay of all these elements.


Rosa wichuraiana, height 14 cm. A nice shohin.

The pot is going to be replaced. The new choice underlines the contrasting colour of the fruit and emphasizes the season.

Starting the work. The tree is removed from the pot.

Combing out the roots. Since the cultivation in a small pot is not that easy, one could be tempted to choose an oversized pot. But to make the best of the appearance of this exemplar it's important to select a pot with an aesthetically pleasing size, even if it will be small.

The typical appearance of the trunk is noticeable. In the wild, this species grows on rocky coasts or river banks where it needs firm roots to anchor itself firmly in the soil. Thin as the trunk may be, the roots usually develop quite impressive shapes. If this rose could be propagated by root cuttings, the results might be spectacular. Unfortunately this method has little success with this species.

What a change in appearance! The colours of the fruit and the trunk are emphasized by the shape and colour of the pot.

A display arrangement. Here the rosa wichuraiana was combined with an Ezo spruce (Picea jezoensis).

This article was kindly provided by BONSAI ART.

Translation: Stefan Ulrich