Water-elm12-5-15You may remember the story of this water-elm clump, featured in the blog post “How to Make Bonsai Lemonade – Part 2.” I had taken a nice raft-style tree I’d been working on for years, that got almost killed off in Winter 2014, and gave it new life as a clump-style bonsai. Part of that process was potting the tree into this nice Byron Myrick tray. But there was a problem with the composition, at least to my eye. Does anything jump out at you?

While the pot is a very nice one, it just felt too large to me. When the pot is too large relative to your bonsai, it diminishes the impression of size the tree produces making it look more juvenile. The proportions are wrong. Remember, it’s not the purpose of the pot to overwhelm or “outshine” the tree; rather, the pot’s purpose is to complement and thus “frame” the tree. They have to work together. When the pot isn’t right for your tree, your eye will tend to be drawn to that fact as you view it just as it is to a flaw in the tree itself.

I’ve been waiting patiently for signs of swelling buds on my water-elms. Indeed, they come out later that most other species I work with. This past week I saw some signs, so that told me it was time to correct the flaw in this bonsai.

Water-elm3-5-16-1I just got this nice tray in from Chuck Iker. If you compare this photo with the one above, you can see how much different the tree looks now. The pot doesn’t overwhelm the tree. Moreover, the tree now looks larger and more mature. The proportions are just better.

Pot selection is one of the more difficult skills to learn when you’re studying the art of bonsai. We all tend to focus on the trees themselves, and rightfully so. Getting a tree styled properly is no mean task. But that doesn’t mean we can neglect this most important piece of the puzzle.

This tree is now available at our Elm Bonsai sale page. It should be ready for shipping in about three or four weeks max, once it’s leafing out.

Oh, and if you can discover the one rule I’ve blatantly broken with this clump, I’ll give you an ironic 10% off the price.