Judging bonsai

Here are some suggested guidance notes for aspiring judges of bonsai.

Well developed roots and good surface treatment

These should spread out evenly from the base of the trunk forming a good buttress; they should be free of exposed hair roots. Crossed roots are undesirable. Root over rock styles should have their roots firmly attached to the rock and be evenly placed.

Good maturity of trunk

This must respect the style indicated by the exhibitor and should have a good/even taper. Pruning scars should be minimal and be neatly calloused. Jin / Sharimiki effects should enhance rather than distract (consider the over whitened effects of some jins). Bark development should suggest maturity.

High level of ramification and great winter image

Always in proportion to the trunk, with the large ones in the lower part of the tree and should alternate avoiding opposing branches. They should be well set if wired and have good twig ramification. A well formed crown is desirable. Wire scars can detract from the presentation of branches. Good structure is vitally important to the presentation of the tree.

Healthy foliage

Needs to be in proportion to the size of the tree, it should be of good colour, healthy and free from pests and disease. Excess foliage should be avoided, too dense a canopy may create a top heavy appearance and so detract from the harmony of the presentation. Space between the foliage reduces the visual weight and provides light and air within the composition.

Harmony of pot with tree

The pot should display the tree to its best advantage. The colour should harmonise with the tree, be subdued to avoid overpowering the tree in its presentation. It should be of the appropriate shape to provide balance and harmony of the exhibit. Garish colours should be avoided. Rocks / slabs should be given the same consideration when used instead of a pot.

Healthy moss, good surface treatment

Surface treatment
Must always be weed free, it must serve to present the tree to its best advantage; surface material should be of a fine nature to accentuate rather than detract. The purpose of the surface is to mimic the landscape and so attention to detail should be paramount. Moss if used must be healthy and of a good colour.

Harmony of presentation

Overall presentation
Presentation of the exhibit should account for at least 50% of the judging marks. Points to consider, does it present with harmony to the eye perhaps as a mature tree in its natural state in the wild, consider the positive aspects of the presentation worry less about the demerits unless they far exceed the merits of the tree. Major factors to consider are, health, vigour, the tree / pot combination, the stand if so presented. Does the overall presentation produce a picture of harmony that works well and pleases the viewer with a living work of art.