Selecting Plant Material

Seeing the Potential; What to Look For

Anne Spencer -- Reference: Basic Bonsai Design, by David De Groot, 1995

The Process:

Examine the nursery tree (a skill that improves with practice)
1. Identify the major trunk line
   a. What style does it suggest?
   b. Any flaws?
   c. Logical termination (top)?

2. Examine major branches for size
   a. Do they support the style(s) the trunk line suggests?

3. Evaluate the various parts of the tree
   a. Base: flared, uniform, balanced
   b. Trunk line: movement, short enough, taper
   c. Branch structure: internodes, location, position outside curves

4. Select a front, based on #3
   a. Needs a face (good side)(front)
   b. Needs rear branches to give depth feeling c. Movement toward the front

5. Select tree's finished height
6. Locate apex based on:
   a. Trunk movement
   b. Opportunities for taper c. Distribution of branches

When this process is familiar enough, you can make decisions fairly quickly. You will also begin to discover that some trees allow you more than one design option. Exploring these options is both satisfying and fun. It is ART.