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bonsai planters

updated sun 3 jun 01


David George on wed 26 apr 00

Biljana et al,
This brief overview is in response to several inquiries I've received
regarding bonsai pots.

The Japanese word bonsai translates as "tree in a pot." The tree is
primary and reflects an artistic idealization of nature achieved by
training(pruning, wiring, etc). There a 5 major styles of bonsai
including formal upright, informal upright, slanting, semi-cascade and
cascade. There are many variants on these styles such as windswept,
tree-on-rock, forest planting, literati, etc.

Although secondary, the pot serves a vital horticultural and artistic
function. The pot contains the soil and roots which are essential for
the tree's survival and stability. The pot also serves as the visual
foundation for the tree. The pot should, therefore, complement the tree
in size, shape, color and texture.

Most bonsai containers are unglazed, stoneware and earth-tone in color.
Subdued glazes are acceptable but should reflect or contrast a prominent
feature of the tree, eg. leaf, flower, trunk, or fruit color. For
example, an azalea bonsai with pink flowers would be nicely contrasted by
a dark blue pot. The size of the pot is determined by the size and
species of the tree(s). There are guidelines that determine the size of
the pot in relation to the height of the tree as well as the depth of the
pot in relation to the thickness of the trunk. The most common shapes
are ovals and rectangles Round, hexagonal, square and freeform shapes are
also used depending on the style of the tree. Surface decoration is
usually minimal and appropriate for the tree. For example, an incised
mountain scene could be used to complement an alpine hemlock.

The pots imported from Japan (eg. Tokoname) have traditionally been
preferred and are the most expensive. A large number of inexpensive,
quality pots are now being imported from China and Korea. Most imported
pots are press-molded or slip cast. Several potters in the US and
Europe specialize in handmade bonsai containers and advertize in bonsai

I prefer to hand build bonsai pots using coils, slabs or extruded walls.
Pots may also be thrown, thrown and altered(oval) or molded. The
essential feature of a good bonsai pot is adequate drainage. The
drainage holes should be numerous and large depending on the size of the
pot. H2O that collects in the pot can lead to root rot and death of a
valued tree. Bonsai pots are not glazed on the inside (except for the
rim) to promote root adhesion and are footed to enhance drainage and air

Dave, in Olympia, WA

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iandol on sat 2 jun 01

Dear Wesley,

Thanks for the commercial.

I had thought about writing another article on this topic but it is such =
a cut throat business with the market being flooded from the Orient that =
I doubt if there is a market to exploit. Not only that, many Bonsai =
growers look for authentic Tokonami or Chinese products which can be =
extortionately expensive, so there are a lot of third world export =
copies around.To get anyware commercially you need to have good enogh =
skill to make those which are over large or too complex to plagiarise.=20

Nevertheless, it is an interesting field to exploit and I still have all =
my notes and design books to draw on.

Best regards,