Let’s face it, sometimes we’ll style and pot a tree and then decide the pot isn’t quite right. It happens, despite our best efforts. The good news is, you can always change pots. What’s critical, of course, is to get it right the second time if you misfire the first time. Let’s take a look at a specific example, and I’ll explain the thought process and some design principles to show how I decided what needed to change and why.

Yaupon8-21-16-2You’ve been following the saga of this yaupon holly, Ilex vomitoria, since this past winter when I collected and direct-potted the tree into this nice Byron Myrick oval. The tree is terrific, and so is the pot. And the pot is acceptable … but, it’s just not quite right. I’ve been looking at the tree now for several months, and I finally reached a point where I had to take action.

You may want to study this photo for a couple of minutes before reading on and viewing the next shot. What strikes you about the composition? This is a triple-trunk specimen, with nice graceful movement in the trunks. It’s potted in the right position in the pot – slightly off-center thereby producing the proper balance (you can envision the scalene triangle formed by the earth, the outer tips of the branches of the left-hand trunk and the tips of the three trunks moving toward the earth). But despite all of this, there’s just something not quite right. Can you name some flaws associated with the pot?

yaupon9-12-16-1Here’s an analysis of the problem with this composition, which lies completely with the choice of pot. While the pot depth is fine, it’s too long and the sides are too straight; taken together, the pot looks “heavy” with respect to the tree and draws the attention away from the overall composition. This has to be corrected.










Here’s the tree in its new Chuck Iker home. I think the composition has improved dramatically. This pot has curved sides, which complement the graceful movement of the trunks. The size is much more in keeping with the tree itself. The pot isn’t “heavy.” When you view the tree, your eye isn’t attracted to the pot itself to the exclusion of the tree. Rather, the eye moves throughout the composition as it should, never coming to rest in one spot.

This pot is a round, by the way, so the rule is you put the tree in the center.

Let me know your thoughts on this transformation. Do you think the bonsai has been improved?