Why a bonsai pot?
Many centuries of oriental ingenuity, tradition and craftsmanship produced containers specifically designed to show off their contents ... bonsai.
Today, potters around the world, such as American Chuck Iker, create both traditional and contemporary containers with the same goals of displaying the tree or accent plant.
Containers are often compared to the frame on a painting. They set off and display the art (in this case a bonsai tree.)
Over the centuries, many “rules” were initiated to emphasize the tree. Some of those rules are listed below – today, they are more often considered "guidelines."
Don't be surprised if you see some very good bonsai that break these not so hard-and-fast rules. Many times bonsai are started in plastic pots. As bonsai develop, they are often placed in nicer and more appropriate containers.
Containers are created from many different materials. You can find them made of clay, ceramic, mica, porcelain, stoneware and inexpensive plastic for training.
Many hobbyist start with nursery plants and train them in the same nursery containers. However, over the years, many growers find they take better care of the trees in bonsai pots, even if they are oversized and/or not the "correct" shapes.
Bonsai artists follow ancient guidelines for selecting the correct pot to enhance their trees.
Your container should always compliment the small tree's attributes . . . such as flowers, thickness of trunk, bark texture and needle or leaf shapes and sizes.
Glazed colors are recommended for flowering and fruiting bonsai. The muted tones of brown and gray unglazed clay are recommended for evergreen trees, such as juniper and pine.
Remember, there are always exceptions to a rule. The flowering azalea bonsai shown above is breaking the rules by being displayed in a brown pot. Sometimes a bonsai just looks best in the "wrong" pot!
Peter Tea wrote about his experiences while studying in Japan with Mr. Junichiro Tanaka. He quoted his teacher speaking about containers:
"There are no real rules as to what kind of pot looks good with what kind of tree Then Peter added: "Since
all of our perceptions of what, "looks good," are different from person
to person, we can really go wild with all the pots out there." The only real rule is balance and the overall aesthetics of the pairing."
These size "rules" are very difficult to follow precisely. They are, however, definitely good guidelines.
This grouping of bonsai containers consists of various shapes, colors and sizes of cascade pots.
Small collections, such as this, can be decorative as well as practical.
(You can always grab one off the shelf, as needed.)
Always shape (style) your tree before you select a bonsai pot.
The art forms of Ikebana and bonsai have many similar design guidelines. In some instances the containers may look similar. However, ikebana containers do not have holes in them, containers for bonsai do. Holes provide water drainage and are necessary for the health of the tree.
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