Bonsai Tonight

Show pots

Posted in Display by Jonas Dupuich on January 5, 2010

When a tree is ready for exhibit – needles plucked, wires wired – it’s time to select a show pot.

In Japan, it’s common for bonsai professionals to repot bonsai into show pots so they look their best during an exhibit. For some of the more prestigious shows, bonsai owners rent pots for exhibit. Shortly after the trees return from exhibit, they are returned to their growing pots.

Why not grow bonsai in show pots all year round? Two reasons. Sometimes show pots are worth more than the trees they contain. In extreme cases, antique Chinese pots can cost over $100,000. Growing trees in such expensive pots is an unnecessary risk when a hard freeze or an accidental slip can be so costly.

Show pots also tend to be a bit smaller than growing pots. While it’s possible to keep trees healthy in small pots, it’s far easier to keep them happy in more generously sized containers.

I like to see what a tree looks like in a given container before making a final decision. To do so, I line up a variety of pots to see how the tree looks in each. Some pots emphasize a tree’s silhouette; others, the curve of the trunk. The color of the clay can complement the bark as well as the foliage, and even small details like a pot’s “feet” have a big effect on the ensemble.

Here are photos of eight of the pots I tried with a small pine (11″) I’ll be showing in two weeks. I was surprised how many work well with the tree.

Have any favorites? Would any make you want to stay home from the exhibit? Feel free to comment – I’ll post my selection in a few days.

Pot #1 – Chinese

Pot #2 – Yamaaki

Pot #3 – Chinese

Pot #4 – Sakura

Pot #5 – Chinese

Pot #6 – Japanese

Pot #7 – Bunzan

Pot #8 – Nanban

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8 Responses

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  1. AlexV said, on January 5, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    I am gonna have to say either 2 or 5. If it was 2 (my first choice) I would want it planted more off center, so more to the left. This tree doesn’t have a massive trunk, so the oval feels like it matches the tree a bit better than the rectangles.

    Of the rectangles, I liked 5 mostly because of the color which seems like it has a nice patina and because it seems to be the right proportion for the tree. It also has a less pronounced lip and subtle feet.

    The Bunzan was tempting though…


  2. John Kirby said, on January 5, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    Bunzan, Bunzan, Bunzan……..

  3. tom tynan said, on January 5, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    I lean towards the grey Chinese pot #3; the flare along the top edge and the detail at the feet. It is a bit to long. There is something about that Bunzan #7 though; the curves of the bowl go well with the movement in the trunk. With a different color backdrop the unusual color combinations should really pop. Tom

  4. Daniel said, on January 5, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    Hi Jonas, cool post! Pots 1,2,5 and 6 are all worth considering. I don’t consider the others suitable whatsoever. Here’s what I feel about the ones that are possibilities.

    1 is a bit thick and deep.
    2 doesn’t work as well with the bark, and the tree is too central.
    5 is possibly the best choice, but again the tree needs to move a cm or two left.
    6 is excellent, but a bit too small and won’t allow for the tree to be correctly placed without further reducing the rootball.

    If I had to pick one for this show, I would go with number 5.
    Looking forward to seeing which you picked!


  5. Sam Edge said, on January 5, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    Jonas I like the Yamakki because it has a nice feel to it with your tree. However, if I could get away with it for the show (only) then I would try pot number 6. I like the feet on the pot and the way it sits up with the tree. I’m concerned that 6 might be a bit to small for the root ball but if it fits it is very nice.

  6. Graham Hues said, on January 6, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Hi Jonas,
    I think you are right…many of the pots do work (or could work if slightly different), however IMO some of them are too small like the Nanban (also too shallow) and the Japanese one. I like the Yamaaki but think the colour needs to be darker (like the Japanese one). Although the colour of the Sakura might be close to a complementary colour to the pines foliage it just doesn’t do it for me. The Nanban could work if a little taller and wider. The Bunzan is a stunning pot (as are all the ones in that link) but I think it might steal the show in that it’s perhaps too flashy?!
    But then again, I’m just a rookie so what do I know.
    Cheers Graham
    Ps must be nice to have such a collection of pots to choice from.

  7. TCK said, on January 7, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Hi Jonas,

    I’m going to go with #1 Chinese pot because it has a strong rectangular shape, good color, and pot feet which attracted me to pot #6 but I feel that #6 is is to small. The most important decider to me was patina which #1 seems to have over the others, some feeling of age.

    I wonder what setting you could make the Bunzan potting work in? Tiny bear on a beach accent from Howard and Sylvia?

  8. Pot selection redux « Bonsai Tonight said, on January 8, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    […] appreciate that the Bunzan received more comments than the other pots. And I want to say it’s a tongue-in-cheek entry, but there are cases in […]

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