Branch structure in bonsai is just as important as any other part of the tree. There are a number of things to think about when it comes to branch structure and they are as follows.
- Changes at the fork or point of division
- Bifurcation of branches
- 3D Branches
- A Narrow gap
- Forks not Foliage
- Individual space for branches
Changes at the Fork or Point of Division
Three changes need to take place at the fork of a branch.
- Longer branch segments divide into shorter segments.
- Thicker segments divide into thinner segments.
- The direction of the new segment at the fork moves in a different direction than the segment that came before it.
Bifurcation of the Branches
Bifurcation just means to divide into two. This is essential in creating an uncongested and coherent design. Graham Potter has a nice video on Deciduous design that shows this and I will provide it lower on the page. One segment of the branch divides into two and each of those two divide into two and so on. If this creates a void in the crown of the tree or a lack of balance in the overall design then don’t use this method at this time on this particular section.
Three Dimensional Branches
To create a branch structure that is three dimensional you have have to create Length, Width, and Depth. You do this by alternating the horizontal and vertical direction at the forks of the branches.
When you are deciding the direction of the next segment of branch keep in mind when you move it that you want a narrow gap. Meaning that you want to create an angle of 45 degrees or less. If you always use a narrow gap it helps create Consistency, grace, and more importantly directional flow to your design. Sharp angles make your eyes stop and you do not want to do that. You want your eyes to flow to the end.
Forks not Foliage
In the crotches (forks) of mature trees, you do not see leafs, shoots or needles. Clean out and around the forks. Let’s see those crotches.
I know I like my personal space and the branches of your tree are no different. Each branch needs to have its own space. Primary branches out to the tiny twigs will grow and look better if they are provided their own space. They should not cross. If two branches touch, cut one.
Artistic Principles of Branch Design
Branches are no different than the rest of the tree. Branches need to follow the artistic principles of design as well. Particularly proportion, balance, and harmony.
- Progressive diminution of elements. Each segment of growth becomes thinner as we move from the base of the primary branch to the tips of the twigs.
- When a branch is viewed from above it should have a symmetrical balanced shape where possible.
- The visual mass of the branch should be balanced.
- Overly long or thick secondary branches near the tips should be corrected.
- The amount of ramification will determine the density of foliage.
- Foliage density should be balanced between each branch and the tree as a whole.
- Harmony is the balance between consistency and contrast, but of course, we are aiming for more consistency.
Without the six previous discussed parts of branch structure and the use of artistic principles our branches will look horrible. Below I am going to share a couple links that I found very helpful in developing branches along with that Graham potter video.
I love Harry Harrington’s website www.bonsai4me.com.
- Developing Deciduous Bonsai Branch Structures: Part One Building a Branch Structure
- Developing Deciduous Bonsai Branch Structures: Part Two Autumn/Winter or Structural Pruning and Wiring
- Developing Deciduous Bonsai Branch Structures: Part Three Shaping Deciduous Tree Branches
- Developing Deciduous Bonsai Branch Structures: Part Four The Importance of Branch Taper in Bonsai