As you know by now, I more often than not collect deciduous tree trunks. Though I seek good size, movement and taper, I seldom come home with a branch structure. But that’s okay. That just means I have complete control over the branch structure and can tailor it to the inherent character in the trunk I was after in the first place.


This Water oak trunk, Quercus nigra, only one stub away from complete “trunk-ness,” is a prime example of how we control details to make our design work properly. The intention with this tree is to produce a classic oak design. You can see countless examples in nature, meaning you have a great pattern to work from. Do an Internet search or snap a few photos of trees that have a trunk line like your bonsai-to-be. It can really help.


I had already done the initial wiring of this tree when the shoots had extended several inches (once it got going, this tree grew very fast). While I was generally satisfied with the work I did, there was one detail that simply did not work. Can you spot it?


Once I had taken the photo of this tree following the initial wiring, I knew I was off on the number one branch on the left. Why? Even though it actually does have some bend in it, it doesn’t have enough to produce the right visual appeal and this certainly is true to the camera. This was a critical problem, and could not go unresolved. I decided to wait a couple of weeks, though, because the shoots were still tender and I didn’t want to risk unwiring and rewiring the branch.


Today I unwired and rewired the branch, then positioned it properly. Notice how just a subtle movement makes a world of difference? Now there’s much better harmony in the shapes and attitudes of the branches. In nature you’ll see a general upsweep in the main branches of trees, with the sub-branching exhibiting movement into the horizontal plane. In this tree, notice how there’s a sub-branch on this lowest left-hand branch that moves in just this way. This will be repeated all the way up the tree.

I’d love to hear what you thought of this blog post. Leave me a comment below.