One of Robert Steven’s two simulations of a tree in a rock-like container that was submitted by Kian (no second name given). In spite of the somewhat fuzzy images, the general ideas come through loud and clear.
It’s Labor Day weekend here in the States, a good time to relax and enjoy family and friends, so we’ll take the easy way out (once again) and dig into our archives. This Robert Steven critique was originally posted back in December, 2010. It contains useful tips for planting on rocks and slabs and is well worth another look. Especially considering that 90% of you have never seen it, and 100% of you who have seen it have forgotten by now.
Simple changes with profound results
Sometimes an adjustment to the position of a container (below), or a new container (above), can radically transform a planting. Neither of Robert’s simulations involve any changes to the tree, yet both transform a somewhat stagnant planting to something full of natural movement and interest.
Robert’s second simulation.
Kian’s original submission.
I changed the order of Robert’s two simulations (above) which explains why the second appears first below.
Robert Steven’s Critique
The main purpose of using these types of containers** for bonsai is to create a theme that suggests a captured moment of a natural scene.
Kian, the bonsai artist is trying to show a tree growing on a rocky hill, but he fails to do so because the container too symmetrical. It looks unnatural, bulky and monotonous. The result is that the tree and the container are in competition to catch our eye; they look separate, without integrated unity. This is because the wide green moss is too much in contrast with the straight line of the container’s edge without any “third element” to bridge the two elements.
The second solution: Correct the container shape and overall effect by changing the position of the container and replanting the tree. Now the container’s edge has a natural irregular form and the image created is of a tree growing on a rocky hill. By placing some small rocks as a the third element, unity between the container and tree is enhanced.
The first solution: By using a shallow and wide container, a more panoramic view is created. The container’s edge is irregular which gives a natural look, and the small rocks help tie the container and tree together into a unified whole.
Same tree. It’s the containers and the repositioning of the three that create more natural themes and nuance. You make your choice….
**These stone carved pots are by Prayogi of Tulung Agung Indonesia. They are his first generation shapes. I offered him some advice on natural looking containers for bonsai purposes.
There is more than one way to design any bonsai and my critiques and recommended solutions might not always fit your taste because of personal preferences. But I always try to give my opinion based on artistic and horticultural principles.
You can also visit my bonsai blog.
Robert’s Mission of Transformation.