At Raw Bonsai we are focused on taking our inspiration from nature and suggest that a truly convincing image can only be created in Bonsai if you understand the natural processes involved in shaping a wild tree.
Let’s take a few moments to think about a convincing windswept image. I will start by introducing a windswept beech at the recent Bristol club show. Now fundamentally this is a lovely tree with a lot to recommend it, graceful movement in the trunk with a nice unusual shari, good root formation and well developed branching, not to mention a really good pot that brings out the silver in the bark:
So what is wrong with it?
The natural reaction to a tree growing in strong wind is for the buds in more sheltered locations to develop at the expense of those getting battered on the windward side of a tree. Any location will have a prevailing wind and the tree will lean away from this direction due to the cold dessicating effect of the wind, possibly even some salt laden spray in close to the coast. It is this and not the power of the wind that causes a windswept tree, unless it has simply an abnormal gust blowing an established tree over, but that is something quite different. So a bud in shelter will develop in a normal way, but instead of growing upwards any part of the bud tempted to do this will raise its head above the parapet and get buffeted by the wind, so instead it will grow into calmer air on the windward side fo the tree. Of course a slight steady upward growth will be possible but think of the correct growth like a staircase one step up and one step along.
The whole image has a single direction of flow and the top is virtually flat as the wind sheers off new shoots. Of particular note is the lower branch, a young off shoot that has been able to develop quicker and therefore thicken up more than the older true trunk above it.
Take a moment now to compare it with the Bonsai image above and it becomes clear to me that a few of the branches to the right of the canopy really need to be removed to keep the flow in line with the angle started in the trunk, to do anything else is unnatural and unconvincing.
The problem for me is that the angle of the trunk suggests a very strong wind pressure throughout the life of the tree if it had grown in the top of a hill. A wind strong enough to create the dramatic lean would carry through to the finer twigs. To reflect this in bonsai we end up with something like this:
The same theory applies in a less windy place – consistency of the prevailing wind needs to be considered. This beech is set just under the brow of the hill and so the lower trunk is not in a location totally inhospitable but as the crown gets higher up it does get into the wind and the effects become more noticeable