what to do with import "S" curve trees

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With all the imported "S" curve trees out there that have flooded the market lately, the question is what to do to style them in a somewhat realistic fashion. I think the trick is when wiring branches, to continue with simillar curves, although not as drastic as the trunk it self. As the branches go out trhe curve become less subtle, or not at all.

The first is a ficus, that was originally picked up at home depot for $10, and that I have done multiple wiring on.
The second is a chinese elm, that was given to me with two braches and three leaves for a friend. I have done alot of work just increasing branches and foilage, and there is still alot of work to be done, but I think it is on it's way. Just wished someone who worked on it before import, would of used a wire that wouldn't of left rust stains behind... but, unfortunately this is pretty common.

There are alot of individuals that do bonsai, that don't care for these "s" curve imports and I can truely understand. I think for the most part they are often found on "beginners" shelves, comming straight from the box store after being imported, and are left to remain that way indefinitely.
I do think they have a place in bonsai, and I think it goes to show you that if done right I think they can come off rather believeable.
 

edprocoat

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I like the Ficus. I really like the hanging roots coming off the right side, I have taken branches of Ficus like the lower one on the left side and layered them into the ground and made thicker roots like the air roots on the right, but on your tree it may throw off the balance. It is a pretty little tree. Around here the new trend in stuff they call Bonsai in the box stores is the wrapped or braided trunk trees, very popular are the money trees which are so ugly they are obscene, last year everywhere you looked it was lucky bamboo Bonsai? trees, another blight to the eye.

ed
 

jk_lewis

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The problem with these S-curve trees is that they they all have two curves, then the trunk suddenly grows arrow straight upward. If the curves could be continued up the trunk (but less dramatically) they might have more aesthetic appeal. But it is hard to imagine, looking at them, how the natural tree these are supposed to emulate grew so crookedly, then suddenly conditions changed and they sprung up toward the sky. They just look artificial.
 
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jkl, as far as looking artifical... that is really something about "S" curve imported trunks that I cannot change, unless I lobbed the whole thing off. This is why alot of people do not perfer these imports... for they think they look to artifical.

As far as going straight up towards the sky, I can see on the elm where this might be a problem... but when said and done, this will eventually be covered with foilage.

I think sometimes there is a personal preference here with these imports, some like em', some do not. I personally do and have very realistic looking bonsai, but at the same time I do these as well... I don't think one should have to pick one or the other, just appreciate them for what they are ???
 

JudyB

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Could you cut the elm just above the first branches and make a cascade? I only ask as I have a fukien tea that I finally got sick enough of looking at those Ss's, and just loped it off above the first curve, and am thinking about cascade for it. So I'm wondering if that could be a viable solution for your elm as well? It looks like it could make a nice cascade.
 

JudyB

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I don't think one should have to pick one or the other, just appreciate them for what they are ???

I think this is the key to this old argument, I think one can appreciate them, but I don't think that you can expect everyone to do the same. I think that pleasing the eye is very personal, and if you like it, that's ok.
 

HB Smith

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Nice work with what you have. These trees as is can be a good beginning, but to take them to the next level you have to make a big cut above the first curve and regrow the upper trunk to develop some taper. Can also ground layer to improve the nebari (thinking of the elm). Be cautious when hacking the tree back, depending on the health and the species of the tree you may need to proceed in stages.
 

Random Usr

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The problem (as I see it) is a curved trunk (nothing wrong in that) but straight sections of both trunk and aerial roots that are mismatched to the curvature of the trunk.

It is probably obvious that "straightening out" the curves in both is a bad idea and pretty much impossible. But there are a couple of other things that can be done to bring more balance into the trees.

Although aerial roots can be nice, the ones in your ficus tend to put an awkward angle onto the curved trunk. If it were mine I'd reshaped the aerial roots (or chop them off and cultivate new ones) to follow (or compliment) the curvature of the trunk.

Then there is the straight part of both trunks that off-balance the s-curves. I'd first decide how tall I'd like the plants to be - then there are 3 chioices:

1). Introduce curves into the upper part of the existing trunk to follow the s-curves already present.
2). Simply wire the existing crown downwards, obscuring the straight, upper part of the trunk.
3). Chop the trunk just after it straightens and then:
3a). build the crown there
3b). or allow new growth to be shaped in the s-bend school
 

Redwood Ryan

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Jerry Meislik wrote an article about these S shaped trees, and that article featured one of my trees as an example. My tree is the first tree in the first three pictures:

http://www.bonsaihunk.us/info/TheDreadedSCurve.html


That was the tree a few months ago. Here is that tree now, on its way to being a semi-cascade:

 
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mcpesq817

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Depending on how twisty they are at the bottom, have you considered rotating the tree to a new front so that the side to side motion becomes lessened? Lots of these trees have "s" curves in only two planes, so if you turn the tree slightly to a new front, you lessen the side to side curves and start getting more front to back movement.

Otherwise, I think these trees are difficult to work with unless you plant them out or cut them back considerably.
 
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edprocoat

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I was thinking about the elm today, while painting a 35 foot high metal barn roof, anyway, I bet it would look wonderful as a raft style, you have the branches needed to pull it off and the s laying on its side on the ground would look pretty neat too.

ed
 

Attila Soos

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S-curved trees look ridiculous, and give bonsai a bad name.

My opinion, of course...

P.S.: at a second thought, I would like to call them the knick-knacks of bonsai. And if one wants a little diversity, one can replace the S-curve with a rising Zig-Zag. It's the same effect, but more masculine.
 
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wanted to thank everyone for their comments, I appreciate it...
But with the exception of Judy, it seems that everyone missed the point... I know very well that I can wack these down and rework the trees, take the "artifical" out of the tree, but that is not the point of these "S" curve imports. If one wants to do that, than perhaps one should not buy one of these trees.

I know it is common practice for everyone here to strive to make very realistic trees, and I commend everyone for it... I also sadly think that there is a trend here at B-NUT to kinda snub one's nose at anything that doesn't seem realistic... and I think this show a lack of understanding and respect of the art of bonsai.

There are those who might not appreciate an "S" curve trunk and that is fine, but they are no more or less of a bonsai. Let me state that I have "alot" of trees, 90 percent or more of them styled in a very realistic approach, But I also understand and appreciate these for what they are... Are they my "greatest" trees, and would I ever plan on showing them, perhaps not... but it doesn't mean I like them any less, or that they are of any less value than my prized realistic trees, they are just different approaches.

Sadly along with knowledge, often times comes arrogance... My opinion, of course...
 

John Ruger

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One thing that hasn't been mentioned yet is that the "S" shaped bonsai has some years behind it. Essentially, the style is archaic, yet it's become today viewed as "mallsai" and, unfortunatley, earned the stigma as being cheap. Is this fair? No, I don't think so. If it's done with taste and imparts the artistic expression of the designer, then so what? If you take a look at some of the old bonsai prints you'll see that the "S" shaped bonsai seems to have been popular at the turn of the 19th century, however I've never been able to locate a photo of one.

p.s. There are some examples, or close to it, in Peter Chan's older book (his first?) on bonsai where he styled some of his trees in that manner. He has them classified as informal uprights.
 
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Brian Van Fleet

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wanted to thank everyone for their comments, I appreciate it...
But with the exception of Judy, it seems that everyone missed the point... I know very well that I can wack these down and rework the trees, take the "artifical" out of the tree, but that is not the point of these "S" curve imports. If one wants to do that, than perhaps one should not buy one of these trees.

I know it is common practice for everyone here to strive to make very realistic trees, and I commend everyone for it... I also sadly think that there is a trend here at B-NUT to kinda snub one's nose at anything that doesn't seem realistic... and I think this show a lack of understanding and respect of the art of bonsai.

There are those who might not appreciate an "S" curve trunk and that is fine, but they are no more or less of a bonsai. Let me state that I have "alot" of trees, 90 percent or more of them styled in a very realistic approach, But I also understand and appreciate these for what they are... Are they my "greatest" trees, and would I ever plan on showing them, perhaps not... but it doesn't mean I like them any less, or that they are of any less value than my prized realistic trees, they are just different approaches.

Sadly along with knowledge, often times comes arrogance... My opinion, of course...

Your original question was, "...what to do to style them in a somewhat realistic fashion", and half a dozen viable options followed. It doesn’t appear anyone missed the point. Rather, folks who have been doing bonsai for a while offered a few options, and also suggested that these trees aren’t realistic/quality bonsai candidates, while newer members applauded the curves.

My answer: to style these into a realistic fashion, it is necessary to remove or conceal what's not realistic. It's art...no option is wrong, but trees like this don't show up at Kokufu, or the National Bonsai Exhibition for a reason.

These contrived shapes are “unusual” and “unusual” appeals to those new to bonsai. With some experience, that appeal is ideally replaced with an eye for and an attraction to movement, taper, form, and structure that does lend itself to convincing bonsai.

I suspect that trees like this are planted by the thousands, and a certain number are harvested each year, years too soon. Those allowed to grow for a decade or more outgrow the awkward look and develop more subtle curves that could be useful. The vast majority are condemned to coffee tables, TV sets, kitchen windowsills, and finally to club sales tables to repeat the cycle...if they live long enough to see their owner move on to better material.
 
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These contrived shapes are “unusual” and “unusual” appeals to those new to bonsai. With some experience, that appeal is ideally replaced with an eye for and an attraction to movement, taper, form, and structure that does lend itself to convincing bonsai.

I assuming that one is referring to those that originated the style some 200 years ago ???
Wow, if they only knew that what they were doing was not going to be convincing enough for some here at B-nut...
 
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jk_lewis

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I know it is common practice for everyone here to strive to make very realistic trees, and I commend everyone for it... I also sadly think that there is a trend here at B-NUT to kinda snub one's nose at anything that doesn't seem realistic... and I think this show a lack of understanding and respect of the art of bonsai.

Being a tad provocative, eh? As ye reap . . .

At any rate, it isn't the "S" curve that is so awful in these things, it is the geometry.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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See, John gets it... thanks.

The style is often refered to as "Horai Style", but I am sure that was already known by those with so-called better material.

http://capebonsaikai.co.za/styles/157-raft-neagari-and-horai.html

Ahhh...now I get it too. Post a couple contorted plants that happen to be in bonsai pots, ask a question you don’t want an answer to, then sit back and throw bombs at anyone who suggests your trees aren't little masterpieces. Clearly you're the knowledgeable one here...good luck with your little S-trees.
 

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