I’ve had the bonsai forest bug for a while now. I’ve always loved good forests, but only made a limited number. In the past year, I’ve really ramped up the assembly line. During this past summer’s Water-elm collecting season I intentionally set about to harvest some smaller trees with great character, so I could make a few unique forest bonsai from them. This trio was among them. Previously I wired and shaped the individual trees, and now that they’re starting to come out it’s the perfect time to bring them together. In any forest planting, the whole needs to exceed the sum of the parts. Let’s see if I can make this happen.
Because I had potted the two larger trees together with the intention of their roots growing together (that’s what you want in a forest), they were placed in this fine Byron Myrick tray in more or less the same position they started out. I think this is going to work well.
Though it’s sometimes hard to look beyond the focal tree or trees, at the end of every forest plan it’s the smallest tree(s) that makes the composition work. Why? Because part of the illusion of bonsai is a sense of depth in the planting. With individual trees, this is achieved by making sure there are open spaces in the tree’s structure that allow you to see from front to back. With group plantings, small trees placed toward the rear create this illusion due to the forced perspective it accomplishes. Now, with that said you have to ask yourself this question about this specific placement of the smallest tree – does it work, and is it harmonious? The answer is a very obvious no. Why is that? The two focal trees are growing in a pattern that suggests what you’d see in nature – that is, they have grown somewhat apart from one another to ensure they get the sunshine they need. That makes sense, and with the two focal trees there’s balance and harmony in their trunk lines taken together visually. But that small tree in the back? It’s growing right toward the middle tree, and that’s a disruption of the harmony achieved with the main trees.
Doesn’t this make all the difference in the world! All I had to do was turn the smallest tree so its trunk movement became harmonious with that of the two larger trees. So simple; so game-changing.
Here’s the forest after securing everything and filling the tray with soil.
Fed, mossed, watered. This is exactly what I was thinking last summer when we were searching for smaller Water-elms. I hope you like this forest as much as I do. The trees should continue to push new growth, and by the time another 4-6 weeks pass I should be doing the first trim on it. Just to give you an idea of size, the larger trees have trunks about 1″ thick; the overall height of the finished forest will be about 12″. I plan on posting this forest for sale in about a month, so stay tuned if you’re interested.