What Makes a ‘Good’ Bonsai?

I’m coming to the conclusion that ‘it depends’.  Depends on the viewer (beauty is in the eye of the beholder), depends on the season, depends on the species, depends on so many things but hopefully I’m learning more with each opportunity to display my trees and view other artists work too.  This is a busy time for the bonsai society I’m a member of, with a show just finished, one this weekend, one next month and then finally the Belfast Parks Autumn Show which has several classes for bonsai trees.  I’m planning on attending each event in some capacity and so as I alluded to a recent post I’m thinking more about the artistic side to the hobby and how my trees can be improved in future.  Being a very visual person, I enjoy looking at other trees and reading about other artists’ efforts to succeed and improve in their ability.   I recently unearthed this book that I bought a few years ago and rediscovered a very helpful section on evaluating and judging bonsai trees.

DSC_0306It’s a dated book but a valuable read with images and text by well known established British artists of an older generation: Harry Tomlinson, Peter Chan, Colin Lewis, Dan Barton and others.  These were the authors that provided me with my knowledge to begin with but I still refer to them for help on developing ‘classical’ bonsai images of my own.

It’s hard to remember so much information in terms of criteria for evaluating a bonsai tree – some of the old advice/rules aren’t followed so much now in Europe it seems and the bonsai artists who appear to be the most popular/successful are those who are producing more dynamic and original displays.

For me its a bit of both.  I enjoy reading the latest blog posts by forward thinking bonsai artists but I’m equally as happy reading a book by a very experienced Japanese master.  What makes a good bonsai? A bit of everything!  Maybe I’ll do a series of blog posts evaluating my own material.


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