Oaks make great bonsai. They grow quickly, meaning you can get fast development. And they’re fairly easy to collect.


This Water oak, Quercus nigra, is a good example. I collected it this past January. The trunk has good character and taper, and it proceeded to pop buds in some really good spots. Making a believable bonsai out of it was going to be a breeze.


I potted it on July 4th into this nice Byron Myrick oval. There was no doubt in my mind that the tree would work best as a slanting style specimen, so that’s what I made happen. I thought it looked okay when the work was done, but I also thought it could be better.

This brings up a very important point when you’re designing and developing your bonsai. Where’s the front? Virtually all bonsai have a very distinct front, one viewing angle that looks better than all the other possibilities. But with this understood, finding that perfect front is not always easy. And sometimes you’re going to get it wrong. I know I do.

Yesterday I was doing a little trimming on this tree, and decided to turn it to see if maybe I missed the front when I was first potting it up. This is what I came up with.



Yep, I definitely got it wrong the first time.

This front is so much better I’m a little disappointed I wasn’t able to spot it before. But that’s okay. I have had trees on my bench for years, training away on them, and only some time later discovered a better front. So it does happen, and the good new is you just turn the tree and continue the work from there.

You can’t see it in this photo, but two more things needs to happen with this specimen.

With the front now spotted successfully, the tree needs to be turned slightly in the pot, moved slightly to the rear and repositioned so that it leans toward the viewer. All of this can be done next spring.

This tree is available at our Oak Bonsai page. Turned the right way, too!