Help with Coastal Redwood design

Hi everyone! I was recently lucky enough to pick up a collected redwood from the Mendocino Coast Bonsai guys (Bob, specifically) at the REBS 2018 show. It is the first unstyled redwood I’ve purchased, and it is a doozy. I was hoping everyone would provide their opinions on what the right direction would be just in case I was missing some awesome opportunity/direction.

Many of the branches obviously need to be reduced in length, but I am waiting to do that until the right time of year (winter). I also have not finished wiring/positioning much of the apex because I’m unsure where to go. I’m hoping people can help provide input on some of the more major structural decisions.

First decision is obviously the front, of which there are 2 obvious choices (that I flip-flop on constantly) :

A) Exposed deadwood

B) Bark side

For Front A, the exposed deadwood is an obvious appealing feature that you would want to show off, but because all the foliage is originating from the top of the tree, it has some awkward spots that I am unsure how to deal with. There is a ‘knob’ growing outward near the apex with many branches growing off it that I’m unsure how to handle given that it is coming straight outward. Part of me thinks simply cutting it off could be a solution, but maybe someone else has a better idea?

Front B has branch positions that are easier to manage (at least for me), but the apex is still a mess. Short of removing much of the existing growth, I’m not sure how to move the branches at the apex without it looking cluttered.

Thanks for reading this far! Any input would be fantastic. This is my most substantial tree, so I really want to do it justice! Thanks again!

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My 2 cents; I have a hard time envisioning keeping both upright portions for either front since they are so parallel to each other. I see for the ‘bark front’ keeping the left side as the apex and eliminating the height on the right side. But that does not make a very dynamic or interesting tree. My preference is for the hollow side as a burnt out trunk seen in the redwood forests. Facing that side, the right branch could be reduced back closer to the trunk and keep a low branch extending in the direction of the trunk curve. The left becomes the apex and I think should point in the same direction as the the trunk curve. The sharp looking cut back, overhang of the left side looks odd. Can you rotate it a quarter turn either direction to minimize that sharp overhang? But it still will probably take some reduction to eliminate the apparent knot. Interesting tree with some design challenges, but enjoy because that’s part of the real fun!

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Both fronts you’re considering seem to be rather flat. Though I would choose the deadwood front any day of the week. You should consider other angles as possible fronts though. Like, if you’re treating the deadwood side as the front, what happens when you turn the tree 30 degrees clockwise, or 30 degrees counterclockwise? You may create more depth to the trunk by playing with the angle a bit. I seem to find that I flip flop on choosing a front a lot when I haven’t discovered that there is a better angle that I haven’t been considering at all.

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Continuing from my previous post… like what does the front look like from the angle that this photo is taken?

Would love to see photos of the full tree with alternative fronts to the 2 you options you are considering.


Hey Mike! Thanks for the ideas. I’ve done a little more wiring to accommodate a new potential front. It’s similar to deadwood front above, but rotated counterclockwise just as you suggested!

Again, I do expect to pull in a lot of this growth when the time is right, so it still looks rather messy.

The apex portion you pointed out is still kind of a mess, and I’m not sure where to go with it. The direction the branch (that I am holding in the pictures) is currently growing means it obscures quite a bit, but every other direction I could move it in seems awkward as well. There’s also a small clump of growth a couple of inches behind it as well. Any more input would be great! Thanks again.


OK. As reluctant as I am to chime in here (due to my limited experience) I am going to try my aesthetic opinion. First: keep the first view as the front. It’s succeeds on a number of levels. You can make out the live wood to the left and you can see the cut off limb on the right and interesting nebari. The cut off limb could make a really interesting feature if you are skilled enough to create a bed so that it moves with the trunk. Isolate thelive veins and denude the rest. Jin the end and strip back the bark. As to the apex, it appears from the photo that you already have one in the shoot sitting on top the old (what I assume was) the old Apex. I think it’s already beautiful and that it has a huge amount of potential. Just take your time. Eventually you’ll have a gorgeous bonsai that you’ll be proud to show.
I sincerely apologize if I’ve gone farther than you had asked. In doing so, rather than thinking you hadn’t already thought of these things just think we geniuses agree on the same points :rofl:.

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I think that adjustment to the angle makes a fantastic front! You still get the dead wood but you get a good view of the live vein so it adds a nice balance visually to the dead/living aspect. Your base appears even stronger from that angle, and one thing that change of angle accomplished very well in my opinion is that it offset your two main branches at the top. They seemed like they were lined up on the same visual plane before and seemed to be fighting for who gets to be the apex. Now that they are offset like this it is obvious the one in the front wants to be the apex and the one toward the right and to the back wants to be a branch or secondary apex. I feel there is more depth and that the primary trunk/branching looks better from this angle.

I think that it took me a while to look for the front of the tree in this way. Since I mostly just saw pictures of bonsai I kept choosing very two dimensional, flat fronts. Now that I have seen a lot more bonsai in person it has helped me gain a better understanding of how depth plays an important role in selecting a front. Looks good. Not sure about how to work the apex, but I’ll think on it.

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Finally got to cut back and do some more structural pruning on this tree. I am beginning to really like it, but would still like some input. I really hope the structural branches I chose actually grow some buds instead of everything growing off the trunk again.

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