When displaying bonsai, the tree should always be the most dominant feature.
Traditionally, artists create the feeling of a scene or season in their arrangement.
For example - if the bonsai tree is a rugged juniper or pine, the accent could be a stone, and the scroll, a ‘snow on a mountain’ scene.
In the photo shown here, the awarded bonsai is a Florida Bald Cypress, created by David Baruch.
The sun in the scroll could certainly be considered tropical and the accent plant (difficult to see in this photo) is also from South Florida.
All of this calls for some contemplation and coordination.
One of the least complicated introductions is:
With simple drawings, Andy makes the layout concepts easy to understand.
The bonsai display stand is important; it emphasizes the bonsai. Quite often, it also raises the tree up off the table or bench. This is not unlike placing a painting on the wall.
The closer to eye level, the better it can be seen by observers.
More and more clubs are also raising the foundation benches before draping them and using individual pedestals, for the same purpose.
There are many decorative scrolls available online.
Although there are expensive antique scrolls, you can also find appropriate inexpensive Chinese and Japanese scrolls online and in many oriental gift and import stores.
Occasionally, the most detailed or colorful may be perfect for hanging alone on a wall, but it may be overwhelming in a bonsai display.
Remember, the scroll is not the focal point. Select carefully.
The scrolls do not have to be a traditional Japanese scrolls. One year for the Miami show, club member Mieko Kubota created several kanji panels for us to chose from.
Another year, the late Joe Samuels created a simple moon scene with pastels on heavy dark blue paper as a backdrop for a blooming white Bougainvillea.
The accent or companion does not have to be a accent plant.
Although plants are most commonly used, an accent can also be a small sculpture, figurine or even a stone.
This succulent accent plant is the perfect combination of plant, pot and stand.
Whatever your companion choice, it should also be on a “stand,” lower than the bonsai.
Mike Sullivan's well cared for miniature orchid had perfect timing. It was fantastic as a bonsai companion in a Bonsai Societies of Florida exhibit.
This vibrant, beautiful, uncommon plant and the scale of the tiny flowers left many visitors asking
"Is it real?"
Bonsai societies around the world are paying much more attention to accents when displaying bonsai. A good example was the first dedicated exhibition of bonsai accents in Britain ... Magical Bonsai Accents - held May 27, 2012... nothing but accents!
By now you may be thinking, displaying bonsai sounds pretty expensive! It can be, but it doesn’t have to be.
One of my favorite accent "stands" is a simple black, glazed ceramic circle.
At any show, in addition to traditional bonsai display stands, you may see:
bamboo place-mats (they can often be cut to size,) wooden slabs (painted and unpainted), porcelain tiles and many other creative ways to show off the subject.
The bonsai display shown here, was created for one of the Bonsai Society of Miami’s annual exhibits.
(Fortunately is was on a raised stand not a low table.)
Member Brian Saponaro carved the stand from a 4” x 4” block of construction wood.
He also made his own bonsai pot. The tree was an inexpensive imported, upright Fukien Tea, which he totally restyled.
Brian added a scroll and one of his bonsai figurines (fishing at the base of the mountain) to complete his scene.
Needless to say, guests were impressed.
In addition to displaying bonsai in individual vignettes, the overall show design then needs to be coordinated by a knowledgeable chairperson with a great committee.
Each grouping is not just lined up in a hodge-podge manner ... and that is another study.
Any good exhibit displaying bonsai takes a lot of work behind the scenes!
See more about accent plants, beautiful bronzes and pots!
Also see good examples of display at the Miniature Bonsai page.
is my free monthly newsletter. Subscribe to get current tips, ideas and photos that may not appear on this site.
"Wow, read in one day -- will take a lifetime to master! Great book."
- Lee S.
So glad to know you're a real person!
. . . Bob C
I knew you would know. Perfect!
. . . Carol S
Mary, thank you so much for your quick response and info. You are terrific!
. . . B
Finding your website was like finding that needle in a haystack! I
truly enjoy your straightforward information on all the topics you
. . . Kristian M
People like you solidify novices like me and our desire to continue in creating Bonsai.
. . . Brian P