Updated: Oct 8
Repotting season is coming to an end here at Aichien an how fitting that this Black Pine turned out to be the last tree to be repotted. I got the honor (ordered) of repotting this tree. Welcome to Part 3 of this Black Pine’s restyling journey. This marks the end of the major work for this tree. For the next couple of years, I’m only going to be pulling needles and de-candling this tree to build more structure and density (maintenance work). As Mr. Tanaka would say, “the fun is over.” Personally I like doing the maintenance work and getting the tree more refined is satisfying in its own right. This time around I’m going to repot the tree into another pot and I thought it would be fun to see how the feeling of the tree changes with each pot. Though this is not any sort of definitive guide to selecting a pot, it may add to your increasing library of tips when deciding what pot goes well with a tree.
Are you ready? Okay, just checking.
The Mighty Wedge
The Four Options
I pulled the tree out of the pot and took care of the root work. Now I need your help in selecting a pot! Take a look at each photo carefully and think how the pot complements the tree. Is the pot too big, too small, too light, too heavy, or just right? Take into consideration all of your own experiences selecting a pot for a tree and decide which you feel is the best pot.
Mr. Spock – “… in this case, do yourself a favor: Put aside logic. Do what feels right.”
Your feelings can be a very powerful tool in Bonsai. It wasn’t until recently that I seriously started using it for Bonsai. Bonsai in the past has always been somewhat logical and mechanical to me. It was a matter of defining the problem (tree material) and applying a set of rules/guidelines (limitations) to remedy that problem. For the most part, it was working really well. After awhile, in my pursue for more Bonsai knowledge I found that my feelings of what needed to be done were developing an edge to my logical senses. There became a point where I felt the answer first and the logical side of me explained it after the fact. Not to say that one is better then the other though. I believe that we need to use both to advance ours Bonsai knowledge and experiences. Logic in a way is how we process our pool of knowledge and our feelings are what allows us to expand that pool.
Example: I’m working on a tree and I come to a branch that I’m not sure what to do with. I’m trying to think about what I should do with it (bend, cut, etc.). At one point I find that I don’t really have a logical answer but I feel I need to cut it off. I end up going the safe route wiring the branch instead and moving on with the rest of the tree. After I’m done with the tree, Mr. Tanaka looks over the tree and ends up cutting that branch off. I would ask him why and he would give me an explaination. After having this happen several times with other trees, I decided that I was going to do what I felt and not spend an excess amount of time thinking about it. At that point on, I decided to convey my thoughts about what I felt needed to be done with other trees. I guess I started to trust my gut feelings. If I thought a tree needed to be tilted, wired, bent, cut or left alone I would do it. More times then not, it turned out to be correct and my pool got a little bit bigger. Either Mr. Tanaka explained it to me after the fact or I took some time to contemplate and figure out the answer on my own. Not to mention my confidence level shot up as well! Though I always found the answer at the end, my feelings told me it was right long before the reasoning came.
Now It’s Your Turn
So as you’re looking at the four photos and thinking about which one is the best choice, try letting your feelings guide you in your decision. I can’t guarantee that they will always be right, but when they are, you will have taken one more step deeper into what Bonsai is all about. Why not give it a shot? Scroll back up and really look at the four pictures carefully and thoughtfully. Then make your decision.
What We Decided On
The compressed trunk, strong lean to the left gives this tree a very powerful feeling. This tree is a bit on the strange side as well because of the curve on the trunk. We needed a pot that will complement all those characteristics. In this case, the pot is deep which gives it a heavier feeling. This heavy feeling pot helps anchor the tree to the ground because of it’s heavy lean to the left and keeps the tree from looking like it’s going to fall over. This concept applies to cascading trees as well. The pot isn’t oiled at the moment but if I did, the color would be slightly darker and give it an even heavier feeling. The cloud corners and tall feet gives the pot a more fancier look which goes well with the unusual shape of the trunk. Mr. Tanaka says, “a strange interesting tree should be in a strange interesting pot.
So out of the four pots, we felt this one was the best one. Are there other pots out there that would work better? Of course there are. If this tree ends up staying at Aichien for a long time and perhaps go to a show one day, we would definitely take the time to find the perfect pot for it. As for now, this pot will do.
I put some moss on the right side to help protect some of the exposed roots. Once the roots start to grow and establish themselves, the moss will be removed. I took the tree outside, watered it and put it in a nice sunny spot. At this point, the tree is placed just about in the center of the pot. I would have liked to move it more to the right side but there isn’t enough space at this time. In the future when the roots on the left side grows and develop, I will then be able to reduce the root ball on the right side down. I probably won’t repot this tree for the next three years.
So Why Not the Others
The heaviness and strength of this pot is beyond the tree to the point where the tree is dwarfed. Instead of a balanced composition, the focus is shifted to the pot first and the tree second. The shape and depth of the pot is good and the raised cloud feet are good as well. In this case, it’s just a matter of the pot being too big.
This pot is similar to Option #1 but smaller. The size is much more appropriate and the focus is shifted more to the overall composition as oppose to the tree only or the pot only. Unfortunately, though this pot is a good size, the lack of cloud feet makes this pot more on the plain side. Since the tree trunk shape is on the abnormal side, the pot should have a little of that same feeling to complement the tree. Overall, this is pot is okay for this tree but not the best choice.
This pot is very interesting to me. When I placed the tree in the pot, the first thing that came to mind was a snake coming out of a basket. Something that you might see in front of a snake charmer! A oval drum pot this big is somewhat a rare shape. This was actually the first time I’ve ever seen one myself. The size of this pot is about the same as Option #1 but has a much more heavier feeling because of the beads and the red colored clay. The design of the pot would be a great match for this tree if it was only smaller. Just like Option #1, the pot is just too heavy for the tree. If this pot was the same size as Option #2, then this pot would have been the best choice.
Now that this tree repotted, the main work is done and it’s off to other things at the nursery. Thanks for following along with this project. I’m sure there will be more to come in the future. I hope that the work I did on this tree has helped to increase your own knowledge and has added to your Bonsai experiences. The restyling took about 9 months, which is a drop in the bucket in Bonsai time!
So did your feelings help you in selecting a pot this time? If so, great! If not, don’t worry, you may still be correct. The important part is that your thinking and feelings are coming together and deep inside of you, an answer came and you expressed it with confidence. Right or wrong, you stuck your neck out and made a decision. Isn’t that really how we learn, grow and get better at the things we do?
Behind the Scenes
One thing that many professionals don’t talk about is the care of the tree during the restyling process. In the case of this tree, how I watered it was essential to the overall health of the tree. Black Pines like water but they grow best when they are allowed to dry out. Normally, the tree would dry out every day except when it’s worked on. After the first bending of the trunk, the tree slowed down in it’s water intake. If I continued to water the tree heavily, the tree would weaken even more and I might not have been able to style it in January. After I styled the tree in January, again the tree slowed down and took in less water. During the Winter months, it can be tricky in how the tree is watered because of freezing weather and rain. There were times where the tree wasn’t watered for 5 days because of rain and cool weather. There was also a point in the Winter when I placed a block of wood under one side of the pot just so that it would not allow the soil to hold so much water. All of these little things adds up to the overall health of the tree. Since I was able to keep the tree healthy, I was able to move on to the repotting this year. If the tree wasn’t healthy at this time, I would have had to skip the repotting this year and you wouldn’t be reading this post until the Spring of 2013. That would have been a one year lost!
Though this post is not about tree health, it is important to understand how to keep your tree healthy. It should be one of our top priorities. In the long run, a little extra work in keeping the tree healthy will allow us to produce quality Bonsai and at a much faster rate.
Thanks for reading.