Beginner's Design Super Critique

Not sure if this is better in Design or Beginner, but since this is my fourth ever styling, I guess Beginner seems more appropriate.

So I found this $4 nursery stock material and though it was advertised as a shrub, I bought it to practice my technique.

I think I did ok, but I already see, that my wiring is sloppy and my bending is inconsequent.

Front of my Design.

When Ryan is doing it, it looks so easy, flowing and flawless.
I didnt even understand, if I uncovered my root correctly.
What should I do, when I dig down, but all I find are very thin long roots. Nothing big and base-like? Should I keep digging? What would I do with all the hairy thing roots? cut them off? Especially on the side of the container?

Can you please critique everything you can find.
Though I had loads of fun doing it, I wanna learn the most.
Thank you guys. You have been already a big help.


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Here is the original shrub, still at the nursery:

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And a top view for a better understanding.

Seeing it now, I think that my balancing branch is WAY too big!?

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Hello Philip,

with a tree of this size i guess any base or flare will be very minimal if at all recognizable. For material like this the beginner series and then nursery stock series is a good starting point.
Regarding your design, if the pictures are from the front your tree is moving away from the viewer, not necessarily inviting him in by moving towards him.


Hello Antelion,

Yes I am watching the nursery stock and beginner series right now. But its a lot of information all at once :smiley:
So when you say moving towards, should that be just the apex, the trunkline or the whole tree?

with your tree there is not really an apex but rather a long top branch. With such a rather small shrub i think a coherent design is rather difficult. One option could be to go for a cascade by bending the now top branch all the way down.
I think you are on a right pass with just giving it a go and actually get your hand dirty. All the information will fall more an more into place. Two key elements for sure being what are you trying to achieve and balance of water and oxygen.

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this one started out quite similar to yours in terms of early practice (and not saying this is necessarily a good design). And i guess i got myself some head start by going for the $14 shurb :wink:

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haha nice. I would have gotten anything a bit more expensive, but they only had the $4 ones. I figured it’s easier to ruin :wink:

As for the design, I styled it with the idea in mind, that it would need a couple more years to grow into place. So the little shrub bit at the top would become a nice apex.
Is that a false approach? Should the tree always look good in all it stages?

In my opinion, the tree is going to go through a lot of phases and especially if you want to grow out the tree or trunk you are going to be “styling” it very differently than if you are getting the tree ready for a show. With that in mend do what you need to do to get it to the stage you want in the future. Just keep working towards the goal you are after for the design and don’t worry how good it looks in the stages that help you get there, but only if those stages are beneficial to getting you to your end goal.

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For sure not a false approach. What are you trying to achieve >> work towards that. And this also means that a tree in development will grow things like sacrificial branches etc… So yes, it will not look “good” in all stages. But imo that is part of creating bonsai so the “good” can be very subjective. I would rather see it as in development or refinement stages etc.

In order to develop a smaller tree into a bigger one it is faster though to have it put in a root bag or such and put it in the ground and not in a container immediately.
As said, you are doing the right thing in actually getting trees and making your own experiences and trials.

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Theres also the design fundamentals video in the archive:

This helped me loads in getting an idea of what type of material suits what type of design, and also the basic design types its worth considering.

Its also got the perk of Ryan throwing some shapes, a bonsai-through-interpretive-dance approach. :laughing:

From the picture it looks like the trunk movement is to the right, and the flow setting branch and the apex move to the left. This is what is described as the ‘tension’ design (in the linked video), and is probably the best type choice for this sort of material to create additional interest. With that in mind, it might be nice if (eventually, depending on tree health), the longer branch on the right is reduced so that this feeling of tension is heightened.

I have done a bunch of those procumbens nanas (they are cheap, fun, and can get a ton of practise out of them), i’d say its probably better to leave more foliage on, as it takes a while to recover and the more leaf mass you’ve got on the tree the better/quicker it will do.

Linked to this I guess I’d also say that its best with these to try to make the best design you can from whats available (wire the braches as much as possible into nice pads, clean the undersides etc), as they can take a fair while to recover, and in styling you will be setting up the foliage in a nice photosynthetically efficient way, which in turn increases recovery.

I love this type of little tree. Have fun. :smiley:

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