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Hello,

I have an azalea stump that I’m going to be transforming into bonsai. Pictured below is my desired front:
81A8AF08-8CC1-4753-960E-B4698882748A.jpeg
9DC74759-B3BE-4407-976C-60CCEA1938A3.jpeg
24AA7642-A770-40B4-8F5D-496FFF7BFABC.jpeg

Given that this is the front of the future bonsai, what styles would you guys recommend for me? I am not creative at all and I will not be able to create a beautiful tree myself. The leaves of the tree are very small and the flowers are white/pink. It’s a sakuragata variety.

Here are a few ideas I thought might work:
827D7C64-B963-419E-BDDE-0479D47388C0.jpeg
21C696A0-A146-4D3D-96A0-FE41552AE6DB.png
80F98CCC-C3F8-43B3-B7DA-20C578FA5D8A.png

Or something with branches closer to the base like this:

3CD5B231-8667-41ED-9C5A-73EF476C8AF4.png

what would you guys recommend? could I achieve something similar to the pictures with the base I have? pictures/drawings more than welcome. would this material be more suitable for branches that are higher up to make the trunk visible or for branches lower down like the last picture example?

thanks!
 

Forsoothe!

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Make a crude drawing of what you want. A stick figure will do with branches pointing in directions that you like or want. Many buds will issue from all over the stump and you need to pick & choose which to erase with your fingertip and which to keep. Those that are close to your plan/drawing locations are kept and wired when they are large enough, which is slightly woody, not green. Over time, update your drawing as necessary. You next need to decide where/when to prune the tips of stems to force them to back-bud/ramify. That will be some number of inches long. You can watch growth and measure stems and measure pictures of other people's trees off all kinds to establish a scale relationship that pleases you and which you add to your drawings as you discard old drawings, replacing them with new drawings. There will be some relationship between the length of the bare trunk from the ground surface to the first branch, from the first branch to the first subdivision (ramification), from that first ramification-on. The exact lengths and diameters are less important than understanding that there is a progression from larger to smallest in increments. Once you get that clear in your mind you can plan to trim at points along the continuum for each trunk, branch, stem, twig, ad infinitum. There is also "good" directions that a new stem can point and bad directions that new growth can point. Growth will occur in the direction that the bud is pointed. Your learn to choose which bud you leave at the end of a stem when you trim it.

@Walter Pall has gifted us thousands of pictures of trees from the beginning of the process to the finished bonsai through the seasons that you can lay a scale on your monitor, or print them out and follow a pathway from the ground to the tip bud. Follow Walter and look especially at the trees in winter-key. You will find a commonality that is really a formula that is both flexible and rigid, -rigid in that the prettiest trees have a wood length and diameter that starts big and reduces in logical steps on conventional trees, and flexible in that the range of lengths and diameters can be dramatically different on dramatic or striking trees. Enough said now. Force yourself to go through this process of measuring what is, and you will be able to do this in your mind when you look at a candidate tree.ramification A.JPGramification B.JPG
 

bunjin

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It appears you are starting with an azalea that was in the garden. Not the easiest choice, but not impossible. Styling at this point is not really the issue as the main trunk is short and not bendable and the shape has already been defined. The stumps of the branches will need to be removed, of course, but I would let the root system re-establish first. The size of the nebari creates a big imbalance. Hopefully a good leader will develop for you to extend the trunk. As new buds develop you will be able to wire them even when they are very thin to create new side branches at the proper angle. It took me half a lifetime to learn this, but older azaleas look best with thin branching. The second photo seems to be the most appropriate goal. A strong crown will create growth of the main trunk and give it better balance.
 
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Thanks guys.
It appears you are starting with an azalea that was in the garden. Not the easiest choice, but not impossible. Styling at this point is not really the issue as the main trunk is short and not bendable and the shape has already been defined. The stumps of the branches will need to be removed, of course, but I would let the root system re-establish first. The size of the nebari creates a big imbalance. Hopefully a good leader will develop for you to extend the trunk. As new buds develop you will be able to wire them even when they are very thin to create new side branches at the proper angle. It took me half a lifetime to learn this, but older azaleas look best with thin branching. The second photo seems to be the most appropriate goal. A strong crown will create growth of the main trunk and give it better balance.
Would it make sense to cover some of the base in the soil to form a more balanced appearance? Is such a dramatic taper as presented in this material not desirable for an azalea? Also I have two possible trunk directions at the top of the tree- the one to the right and the one to the left. Which one should I get rid of? If I remove the one to the left, there will be more movement but less balance. If I remove the one to the right, there would be less movement but more balance.
 

bunjin

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Yes, planting deeper or adding soil would help. In my eyes the taper at the bottom is not so much the problem, but the inverted funnel shape is. There are several examples of satsuki with extreme taper in Watanabe's booklet: https://store.bonsaitonight.com/products/japanese-satsuki-bonsai (This publication doe not appear to have an ISBN #). Your container appears to be fairly large, which will encourage growth similar to putting it back in the ground. I have had good results using very wide and shallow training pots.
 
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you’ve received some good advice here. I’ll add some other thoughts.

The nebari is very dramatic I like it a lot. It needs to be shown off. As the taper is pretty extreme, rather then bury the nebari, you might consider creating the lower branches so foliage is just low enough for the foliage to cover the most spextrem parts of the “funnel”.…. Just below the second lowest stub branch, rather then burying the really cool lower nebari.

I’d lose the lowest stub now though. Also @bunjin is right on about thinner branches rather then thick branches. It’s good to keep this in mind for future planning.

I thought about the idea of losing the stubs above down to two too, I would, yet that’s not necessary if you lower the foliage…. But…. If you do decide to do this, I’d wait until the trunk is bustling with growth next spring, given all grows out well.

cheers
DSD sends
 

Forsoothe!

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I may be infamous for disliking 'Taters, but even I wince at the thought of burying the nebari of anything. At the moment, the nebari is the best part of this tree, and will likely be the best part for the foreseeable future. Plan the branches to accent it.
 
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