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Hey friends.

I’m curious what you guys’ opinions are as to how good the backside of a bonsai trunk looks. Does it matter or does it not? Can an ugly trunk backside just be hidden by branches and foliage over time? or does it take away from the value of the tree?

For example, I have this azalea stump that has an absolutely lovely trunk front with dramatic taper and good features, but the back of the stump is just ugly. Does this matter? Can the backside of a trunk determine whether or not a bonsai has worth?

front:
AF91A8E0-28AE-4A5B-8291-64FE704BED2F.jpeg

back:
A47C655C-67D8-4E62-B357-04ACF337FC3C.jpeg
34946264-5913-49DC-98F8-D0B346F73D0B.jpeg
 

BobbyLane

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Hey friends.

I’m curious what you guys’ opinions are as to how good the backside of a bonsai trunk looks. Does it matter or does it not? Can an ugly trunk backside just be hidden by branches and foliage over time? or does it take away from the value of the tree?

For example, I have this azalea stump that has an absolutely lovely trunk front with dramatic taper and good features, but the back of the stump is just ugly. Does this matter? Can the backside of a trunk determine whether or not a bonsai has worth?

front:
View attachment 385144

back:
View attachment 385145
View attachment 385146
azalea is an evergreen species right? so once it leafs up you can try to obscure any bits you dont like, so yes.
its a bit bare at the minute!
yes a tree that looks great from various angles is a unique selling point. i personally get quite bored if i can't enjoy them as i rotate them through the season.
you can make ugly sides more interesting by adding features such as uro, hollows, deadwood etc
sometimes ugly backsides even become fronts sides over time!

to sum up, a good backside is a nice bonus but not essential.
 
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Paradox

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i agree with Bobby. Its nice to have different options but its not critical.
Sure a spectacular tree with good views all around is awesome but its also rare.

Unless you think you are going to want to enter this tree into some high end show or you think you want to sell it someday for a ton of money (both of which are unlikely), I wouldnt worry about the back so much. If you enjoy the tree for what it is, that is all that matters
 

Tieball

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Over time your slippery looking tree will send out new branches and growth and it might also kill off some branches that are alive right now. Your views will change and adjust. As @BobbyLane explained…..create some features on an ugly back and make interesting. You might just find that the “safe view“ front right now is kinda boring actually and there will be much more interest in the ugly side. There will be a much better story and wow factor.

I try to keep multiple views in mind as I work on a tree. Nature may present most favorable sides that we seem to like best because that’s how we’ve been conditioned. We like to believe there is only one front.…because after all that’s what we’re supposed to do and what we tell people. I find interest in many sides of trees and sometimes the worst side ends up the best for awhile. I like to challenge myself to create a variety of viewing options. It doesn’t always work out perfect but I have a great trip trying.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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Agreed with the others here…having a scarred-up back limits options, which can limit value. I have several trees on my benches which started out one way, and ended up with the back as the final front. I have several trees which have scars on the back that could never become the front in my lifetime.

John Naka had a saying while styling trees: “If you can’t find the front of a tree, then find the back. The front will be on the other side.” Always liked that one.

Your azalea has some great potential, but you’ll have to work to get those scars closed or it will rot out on you over time. You’ll also want to reduce the whorl of 3-4 branches down to a branch and next trunk section.
23FC60AE-2476-4853-B387-C5AE43D90B57.jpeg
 

Shibui

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For public display bonsai are on a table or in tokonama where the only view is from the front. What people can't see does not matter so you can hide a multitude of sins behind a trunk.
Hiding faults with foliage is a second choice but not so good with deciduous because for part of the year your fault will be revealed.

However a good front view is only part of the story. A tree that looks good from all sides will always be considered better and more value.

You may also be underselling your tree. Looks like it has only just been reduced so still lots of potential growing to do that could change what's there currently. Someone also mentioned future pruning. From what I can see some of the 'ugly' may just be from branches that have not yet been reduced enough? plenty of time to do that next year or the one after when the tree has recovered from this first reduction pruning.

Bonsai takes many years. Good bonsai takes longer.
 
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