Rating Bonsai

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When bonsai are discussed, often the trees are discussed from a subjective point of view. This may very quickly lead to situations where the proud owner is hurt, and feels rejected. By using a few simple ratings one could reduce the influence of the subjective opinion, and increase the objectiveness of assessing a bonsai. Naturally, when looking at a tree part of the evaluation will be subjective. But by using the guidelines, one can discuss concrete element of the design, rather than the liking or disliking of the work done.

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Rating and discussing Bonsai

Evaluation points

Download a printable bonsai rating card here.Expected soon

Design & Styling: What bonsai style is presented by the tree. To what extent has the style been achieved and which parts could be improved. Rate from 1-10

Taper: To what extent is the main trunk nicely tapered. Does the tree have inverse taper. To what extent is the taper in line with the style chosen? (A literati styled tree will in general require less taper than a formal upright). Rate from 1-10

Nebari: How well developed is the base of the tree. Are the roots evenly distributed along the trunk. Do the roots match the scale of the trunk and the overall image the tree presents? Rate from 1-10

Branches should be evenly distributed in the tree. Branches reduce girth with increasing level in the tree. Branches show a nice taper, gradually thinning to the tips of the tree. Mature branches show several levels of ramification. Rate from 1-10

Pot: Pots should fit the tree shown. Ideally, the depth of the pot matches roughly the diameter of the trunk at ground level (This is however style and species dependent). The colour of the pot should match the tree. A good pot blends with the images the tree portrays but does not steal the show. A good pot provides a sense of stability to the tree. Rate from 1-10

Wiring: How has the tree been wired? If a tree is exposition ready, wiring should be invisible to the casual observer. When the tree is in the middle of styling, wiring should not be biting in the branches. Branches should be protected against guy-wires biting into the bark. Ideally wires do not cross and are tight along the branches, wound at roughly 45 degree angle to the branch. Rate from 1-10

Layout: What is the design philosophy of the tree. Is the tree more of less 2-dimensional without any sense of depth in the crown? Or can the tree be rotated and looks good at any angle, with back and front branches easily swapping places? Have multiple branches been used for forming the crown, or has elaborate bending been used to create a crown using just one branch (As often the case with too-quickly developed pines). Rating is naturally dependent on tree species and chosen style. Rate from 1-10

Scale: Do all elements fit the scale of the tree presented. Are leaves properly reduced, branches and roots matching the schale of the trunk & overall size of the tree. Rate 1-10

Balance: Is the tree as a whole balanced: Does the size of the crown fit the trunk? Is the tree optically stable, or does it give the impression of a tree on the verge of falling over? Rate 1-10?

Character: Does the tree portray the image of an old mature tree? How are trunk line, bark, nebari and crown shape used to give the impression of an old tree. As a whole, does the tree in harmony? Rate 1-10

Final Grade: Take the average of all scores given. In case one of the points has not been discussed, or is not applicable, leave that point out of the rating.

It helps to take a look at some examples on how this may be used. Example 1. Example 2.

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