Windswept Bonsai Article

Also see traditional Windswept Style on bonsai Styles Page

- Growing Toward the Sun -

By Guest Author
David Whitaker

Redhawk Bonsai

Windswept trees are something I thought about even as a kid in school.  Two or three times a year my family would take a weekend fishing trip to the “coast”.  We always stayed at the Sea Foam Motel on Fulton Beach Road, right next to the Fulton Mansion in Rockport, Texas.

This is where the most beautiful wind blown live oaks I’ve ever seen, grow.

They inspired me every time I saw them, although I really didn’t know why until later in life. Then they became a model for one of my favorite bonsai styles. 

I found this bonsai style takes a little more maintenance than others.  Trimming and wiring, of course, are useful, but here’s a technique I use to get Mother Nature to help out with a bit of “solar power”. 

All plants grow toward the sun; regardless of how much or how little sun they receive.  Since the purpose of this style is to create the illusion of having been blown sideways by the wind, you want the plant to continue to grow “sideways” in the same direction.

If the potted tree is placed at a tipped angle so that “sideways” is reaching more of an upward direction while growing, the natural growth will be facing “sideways”.

Think of any plant left in a sunny window facing one direction too long.  Doesn’t everything start growing or leaning in the direction of the sun it was receiving?  So, if the plant is deliberately placed so that the desired sideways is angled a little up, it will a have more natural windswept looking growth with less maintenance.  Less than having to trim and wire the new branches to make them stay growing that way.

I've found that if a tree is placed with the wind blown direction facing due south (Northern hemisphere) and prop it up at a 30 to 45 degree angle to get the best sun light.

This way there are fewer problems with branches wanting to grow in the wrong direction or the opposite way of the “wind swept.”  They will grow toward the sun. This also encourages desired new growth from the underside of branches. Facing the equator at an angle between the horizon and straight up is the best that we can practically give it.

Ideally, I would follow it with the rising and setting sun, but I have better things to do and other trees to tend to!

The upward angle doesn’t have to be 90 degrees.  By putting a couple of wooden wedges (approximately a 30 to 45 degree angle) under the end of the pot to prop the windswept end upwards, it will be reaching more toward the sun.

windswept bonsai, bonsai styles, buttonwood bonsai

Here in South Texas, facing the pot due south and propping upwards gives the growth maximum exposure to the sunlight.  No need to move the plant around all day to follow the sun.

When watering (while using this technique) it’s better to set the pot flat until the water has drained out. 

On days that are less windy and the soil doesn’t dry out, I prop up the “low end” during the night to help it dry out and help prevent root rot.  Then after the morning watering drains out, I prop back up the “high end.”

While trimming and wiring will still be necessary for major shaping, use “solar power” to help. Then sit back and watch the sun help “maintain” your windswept style!

Where to Go From Here

More about bonsai shapes on the Basic Bonsai Styles page.

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