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Basics 3


Let us have a closer look at the criteria which are relevant for choosing a pot for a certain tree. If you ask ten people how a pot for a certain tree should look like, you might get ten different suggestions. It is possible that all of them are acceptable. This means that everything that follows can only be hints.

The art of bonsai is not only the shape of a tree, but the overall composition of a tree in a plant container. None of the elements should dominate the other. In case of doubt, it is always better to let the pot play the background rolefor the tree than vice versa . If you are unsure, it is best to choose an oval or rectangular pot with rounded corners, plain walls and simple feet. The colour should not be too bright and if glazed, not too glossy.

It makes sense to first shape the tree and later choose the pot instead of other way round. One should keep in mind the character of the tree. Is it for example a strong powerful or a delicate smooth tree? The pot should be in line with this. The height of the tree, its width, the length of the branches are important as well as the thickness of the trunk. In addition to this, the colour of the leaves, the fruit and the structure of the bark play a role. Beside these aesthetic considerations, horticultural aspects are imortant as well. The size and height of the plant container must suffice to allow healthy growth of the tree.

Many trees consume the moisture of the soil very fast and therefore need a bigger pot (willows, wisterias, tamarisks etc.). Other trees need a deeper pot in order to produce flowers and fruit (cherries, pomgrenates, quinces etc.).

Strong Trees    Delicate Trees

Formal styles
Rectangular or square.

Straight or curved surfaces. Straight lines on the upper side as well as at the lower brink of the pot (especially for trees with a lot of deadwood). Stepped upper rim. Drawn-in or rounded edges. V-shaped or straight feet, but always accentuated.
   Oval or round, with outward slanted side walls. Hardly accentuated feet. 

Informal styles
Rectangular, square, lotus or other flower shape, hexagonal, octagonal, round or oval. Convex side walls, round-bodied. Straight or concave surfaces, slightly outward slanting (from bottom to top). Rounded edges. Flashy feet shaped like clouds or very ornamental.    Oval, round, free shapes. Concave, overhanging especially in the upper part of the pot. Narrow base. Feet not much accentuated. Feet point outward and have little or no decoration. Gentle and airy feet, tapered to the end.

The Size of the Pot

The length of the pot depends on two different proportions of the tree. If the tree is higher than wide, the pot should measure 2/3 to 3/4 of the tree's height. The height of the pot should equal the diameter of the trunk's base. In general it is difficult to apply these rules exactly. It depends much on the climate, the species, age, the root development and the origin. (A tree taken from nature in most cases needs a deeper container and the same applies to trees from a very cold or hot climate.) For cascade trees the height of the pot should never equal the length of the cascade.

The text and the first three photographs were kindly provided by BONSAI ART.

All other photographs by Peter Krebs

Translation: Heike van Gunst


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