Bonsai Styles: Group Plantings

Creating a good group planting takes all your Bonsai skills. It would be wrong to assume that you can pick any old trees and stick them together in a pot an have an acceptable group.

The trees must all be of the same species. This need not be the case if you are making a Saikei or tray landscape.

The trees are best developed from cuttings or layerings, the logic of this is that all the trees are genetically the same and will exhibit the same growth characteristics. This may not be true of seed, even from the same source.

Try to vary the size/height of the trees. The idea of a group planting is to evoke the feeling of looking into a forest, the taller trees should therefore be at the front and the most of the smaller trees at the back, with perhaps a larger tree at the back, as a large tree (in the distance).

How many trees the group contains varies from three upward, four however both looks wrong and apparently has bad symbolism in Japan.

Placing the trees

Top view

The trees should not be planted just anywhere in the pot. The major trees, Primary. Secondary, and Tertiary need careful consideration. Generally the biggest (Primary and Secondary) should be planted in the front half of the pot, the Tertiary tree in the back, symbolising a large tree in the distance. Any other trees should be planted so that no trunk hides another, when viewed from the front.

Aim to have the lowest branch in the composition on one of the smaller trunks. This will add to the impression of a larger tree in the distance.

A young cypress group (center) and a young Trident Maple group (right). The small pot in the front contains bloodgrass and is an 'Accent' plant, used to visually enhance the main tree. The Maple group is planted on a slab rather than on a pot.

Allen. C. Roffey 14:35 06/01/2001