Bonsai tree: Case study: balance – follow-up

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bonsai tree: Case study: balance – follow-up

The tree from Tuesday’s Case study was shown this past January at Bay Island Bonsai’s 11th annual exhibit.
Japanese black pine as shown at BIB’s 11th annual exhibit
I hope Boon will share the tree’s story some day – it’s a good one. The tree has been in development for a long time from nursery stock and is looking really good. Here’s a close-up showing the spring candles. Note how well the tree’s strength is balanced from top to bottom.
Spring candles on Japanese black pine – the tree is in great health

Based on your comments, the tree’s balance is, overall, very good. The tree decidedly points left and can benefit from subtle refinements to its silhouette.
Japanese black pine silhouette
As Janet mentions, the upper part of the trunk moves strongly to the right. It makes great counterpoint to the left-leaning sections of the trunk above and below and provides the tree with good movement. It’s strong enough, I believe, to support an apex that points right instead of left. But as Peter mentioned, that would make for a different tree, not necessarily a better one.
Graham’s comment about growing out the apex intrigues me. Making the tree taller could provide very interesting opportunities for altering the tree’s balance, but at the expense of downplaying the tree’s powerful trunk. The comment also made me wonder about extending the trunk, but after getting a look at this, I changed my mind. Making it shorter, on the other hand, produced a surprisingly pleasant effect.
Silhouette with the trunk removed
In response to Jeremiah’s question, a tree’s key branch, as I understand it, always points the same way as the tree’s apex. The key branch is not necessarily the largest or most pronounced branch on a bonsai – it is the branch that reinforces the direction of the apex.
On a related note, thanks to Mike for capturing so well Michele Andolfo’s description of what makes an apex point one way or the other. To paraphrase, making one side of the apex longer than the other side creates movement toward the shorter side. I’ve long thought that getting this bit right is one of the more important design considerations in bonsai.


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