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How can I tell whether my bonsai is masculine or feminine?

Claude Savard

The art of bonsai uses the criteria of « feminine » and « masculine », but this notion is often ambiguous and interpreted differently by enthusiasts. Some associate it with the tree species used, while others see it more as a projection of image through the bonsai.

It’s often said that Japanese maples are considered to be trees with a feminine character, while Japanese black pines represent the masculine side in the art of bonsai. However, if your bonsai belongs to a different species, you may be wondering how to choose the right pot to show it off to its best advantage.

When you include the notion of gender, whether masculine or feminine, in the design of your bonsai, you’ll make it much easier to find the ideal pot to match these criteria. It’s your tree that will benefit the most, as it will truly stand out from the crowd.

How do you choose a pot for a feminine tree?

If your tree has sinuous lines and a delicate silhouette, it’s probably feminine in gender. These trees often feature a light root system, gently shaped trunks and branches, and light foliage.
Appropriate pots for these trees are round, oval or lotus-style cups. They can be either convex or concave. These pots should reflect delicacy, finesse and lightness. Patterns engraved on the pots can represent flowers, leaves or other natural elements.

For deciduous trees, choose smooth textures and colors that highlight the tree’s characteristics. Shades such as blue, beige, green or gray are often used for these trees.

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Here are two beautiful pots that will enhance feminine-style trees. The first pot, in a natural color, is specially designed for coniferous trees. Its neutral hue will highlight the beauty and vigor of these resinous trees.

The second pot, meanwhile, features an elegant pale green glaze, ideal for complementing a deciduous tree. This delicate shade will highlight the green hues of the leaves and add a touch of softness to the ensemble.

How do you choose a pot for a masculine tree?

If you have a tree with straight lines, sharp changes of direction, a massive, very triangular trunk and foliage, and a powerful « nebari », you have a masculine-style tree.

The pots used for these trees should have straight, angular lines. Square or rectangular pots are ideal for these trees.
In this style, your pot should have standard unpatterned feet, which will reinforce the pot’s masculine side.

For conifers, rough textures can be used on the pot to reinforce the texture of the trunk.
For deciduous trees, you can opt for darker colors on the pot. It’s best to avoid pots with images or patterns.

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Here are two pots that embody different styles. The first is a natural-colored pot specially designed for coniferous trees. Its terracotta hue, enhanced by darker shades, will highlight the beauty and vigor of these trees.

The second pot has a certain elegance with its rounded corners, pale green color and earth-toned base. It is perfectly suited to accompany a deciduous tree. These subtle details will underline the masculinity of the bonsai.

What should I do in this case?

Life is full of nuances. Not everything is black and white; there are also complex gray areas. Your bonsai may have both masculine and feminine characteristics.

What should I do in this case? Analyze your tree and observe the predominant traits. If your bonsai is more masculine than feminine, it’s still possible to opt for masculine-style pottery, but add a few feminine features.

For example, if your tree is imposing but has gentle curves on its trunk, graceful branches but dense foliage, or veins of dead wood snaking up the trunk, you might consider using a rectangular pot with a convex cut or one with rounded corners to represent this feminine aspect too.

When choosing your pot, you can incorporate elements of one gender to match the appearance of your bonsai. It’s always better to choose a pot adapted to your bonsai than to conform to established standards.

Never forget that this tree belongs to you, and that you’ll be contemplating it every day.