rulebreaking 101 – red mulberry

Sneak Peak

Rules are made to be broken, right? Yes and no. When you break a rule of art, what you end up with had better be a lot better than if you’d stuck with the rule. In bonsai it’s not any different ….

Rulebreaking 101 – Red Mulberry

I recently acquired this Red mulberry, Morus rubra, from another collector. It’s one of those trees that just calls out to you. The structure doesn’t really fit a familiar mold – and yet, you can’t take your eyes off of it. It’s quite a tree, and certainly ready for a bonsai pot.

What about this view? Isn’t it amazing! It’s hard to describe the style, though if pressed I guess the fallback would be informal upright. But that’s certainly not accurate, and doesn’t do the tree justice.

But this is where the problem comes in. The apex of this tree does not move toward the viewer; quite the contrary. When we’re learning all about bonsai, one of the rules is that the apex of your tree must always move slightly toward the viewer. It’s a metaphor that represents the tree “bowing.” So if you’re attending a workshop or demo, one of the things the artist will tell you is to be sure the apex of your tree comes slightly toward the viewer. And they’re absolutely right!

So in this view of the tree, after I potted it up, the rule is being adhered to. I’ve got the apex of the tree moving toward the viewer. Rules are followed! And it’s not a bad bonsai, right?

And yet …

In this view, the apex of the tree is moving away from the viewer. Is this a better bonsai? In my opinion, there’s no question this is the best front for this specimen. The deadwood feature is visible. The curve of the trunk and taper are spot-on. That terrific branch with all its development balances the composition. What’s not to like?

I’m convinced that this is one of those trees where you have to forget bonsai tradition in order to make the best bonsai out of what you’re working with. I could have force-fit the tree into something that followed the rules – but why end up with something less in the process?

I’d love to hear what you think about this specimen. It’s already one of my favorites.