Four trunks…

Ok, I’ve waited and can wait no longer…

Been delightfully shocked that no one, in 4 months, has commented that there are scandalously FOUR trunks in the spruce clump I posted on Feb. 25th. Have we really evolved past that?

To be frank, I had no particular intention of falling out of line with that guideline of an odd number of trunks. It just seemed that the balance would be destroyed if one of the trunks was removed. Maybe I’ll remove one in the future, but for now I am relishing my moment of rebellion…

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  1. Kestutis says:

    the spruce seems natural and balanced and you can’t really order a tree in nature to have an odd number of trunks, can you? 🙂

    Perhaps the second trunk from the right could be removed, since it is of similar height to the third, but then the biggest trunk would lack branches on the right.

    • crataegus says:

      Yes, I agree. And the heights will be changed over time. It is growing well this summer, but won’t really bud back well until next year. At that time I can make some adjustments…and cut off those branch stubs that have been bothering me to no end.


  2. I noticed it, liked and agreed with the choice. The odd numbered trunk rule is based partly on aesthetics, and partly on superstitions within the Japanese language. Many of the words for even numbers are homophones with words that are ‘negative’ words. The number four, as a for instance (the first even number that is classically not ‘ok’ to use), “shi” sounds the same as the word for ‘death’. It may not be part of the modern reason these rules are cloven to of course, since the associations with even numbers is so ingrained linguistically into the culture. It’s true that often odd numbers do just look better, but I think in this case, the whole composition *is* well balanced and I like the look (at least personally).

    Because I love a good pun, and the Japanese language lends itself so well to them, I leave one parting detail. A potential name. “Shi no Mori”, which could mean either ‘Forest of Four” or “Forest of Death.” Which, granted, is kinda creepy, but if you are going to flaunt your rebellion…. 😉

    Ok, I’ve rambled enough. Suffice to say, I liked the spruce Mike!

    • crataegus says:


      Ha! I’d have to title that one in English or Suzuki-san would excommunicate me for sure, which would be rather extreme for a minor infraction. Thanks for your comments on Japanese. Few understand that there are pretty wild and far-flung reasons for these rules. Actually Suzuki-san was rather irreverent to the rules himself.

      But I think the front could be changed slightly which would bring the two central trunks closer together and might pacify my audience, here and over there….possibly…


  3. Alex V says:

    I think it looks great, though I can see how it could be developed to have either 5 or 3 if it was really important to someone. In every other field of art, the “rules” are in place so that occasionally they can be broken in the perfect way. I am unsure why so many American bonsai artists feel the need to rigidly stick to the rules, even when breaking them would create a better tree. This tree seems a perfect candidate for violating the “no even # of trunks” rule.

  4. Elliott Farkas says:

    About these “rules”, I was on watching a demo video from another great Bonsai artist, Walter Pall.
    As he was styling a tree, he was discussing the Japanese rules, in this case in particular He was referring to bar branches. He said that the Bonsai rules were originaly adapted from japanese gardners a very long time ago. In Japanese gardens, everything is very precise and arranged perfectly.
    Trees, However are anything but precise and perfect. We should try to make our Bonsai look like trees, not our trees look like Bonsai, as in the trees in Japanese gardens He said. This makes alot of sense to me. The rules ofcource, allow us to develope trees that are pleasing to the eye and should be observed for the most part, but as artists, we have to try and make a tree look like no one has touched a single leaf and this is how the tree grew naturaly, and thats sometimes hard to do if your to dogmatic with your thinking.
    My bonsai teacher, Ted Matson, has a very well known 2 tree foemina planting on a slab. 1 tree actualy crosses the other and this is supposed to be a big no no. When I asked him about it, He simply replied what John naka told him, ” first learn the rules, then you can break them”
    Every country, and regeon and individual artist, should develope their own style and flavor. Most of us aren’t from Japan, so its okay to style outside of the box sometimes.
    I would like to look at a Bonsai magazine 50 yrs from now. I think as time goes on, we will see small things like only odd number trees in a forest, go by the wayside.

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