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How to choose a good tree, material

March 2, 2009

What is important in starting bonsai planting is to choose a good tree. Advice from professionals will help beginners assess the future growth of the tree. Sixty-year-old Kiyoshi Hiramatsu, owner of the Hiramatsu Seijuen bonsai garden in Takamatsu's Kokubunji area, discusses how to choose a tree in launching ''matsu'' (pine) bonsai.


A more than 100-year-old kuromatsu (Japanese Black Pine) tree collected from a mountain.
A more than 100-year-old kuromatsu (Japanese Black Pine) tree collected from a mountain.

Selection of trees

In the case of ''kuromatsu'' (Japanese Black Pine), a low-growing tree with a thick root is basically better. Also important is to look into the subject's edajun branch lineup and nebari visible root spread. It is better to consult with professionals and also to imagine how to fix up the tree by wiring in the future. A young tree with a ganseki rock style of mikihada trunk surface is promising.

A goyomatsu (Japanese White Pine) tree is usually grafted to a mother tree of kuromatsu (Japanese Black Pine). So it is better to choose one whose grafting mark is covert. An ideal tree is one whose joint with its mother tree would become unable to spot as it is getting older. It is better to pick a tree with a thick root which spreads in all directions powerfully. Also important is a good kokejun trunk that tapers off toward the apex. A short-leaved tree without twists is better.

An around 50-year-old kuromatsu (Japanese Black Pine) tree grown from seeds.
An around 50-year-old kuromatsu (Japanese Black Pine) tree grown from seeds.


A kuromatsu (Japanese Black Pine) tree about 15 years old grown from seeds.
A kuromatsu (Japanese Black Pine) tree about 15 years old grown from seeds.

Key factors differ depending on tree forms

Such factors as the nebari root spread, tachiagari lower part of the trunk, nagare flow of the trunk, mikihada trunk surface, edajun order of branches lined up, hasho leaf features and kobokukan antiquity are generally important for koboku aged trees. But the importance of those factors slightly differs depending on tree form.

Moyogi trees with curved upright trunks are popular among bonsai lovers. In general, moyogi trees with natural trunk curves in all directions are said to be better. However, the center of a tree crown should ideally be on the vertical line from the base point of the root. The highlight of a moyogi tree with curved trunk is its harmonious beauty amid bold changes.

Important factors for the chokkan upright style of a round trunk are steady happo nebari roots that spread in eight directions and good kokejun trunk that tapers off toward the apex. Branches with symmetrical appearance are preferred. An elegant tree form would be produced depending on the length and positioning of branches.

Trees of the bunjingi literal style enjoy deep-rooted popularity. Generally, it is said to be better to choose one with a slim, but not thick, trunk with an aged mikihada trunk surface and few branches.
(By Shigeo Hano)

translated by Kyodo News

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