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Understanding The Importance Of Scalene Triangles in Bonsai Design

My bonsai journey really started to take off when I began to understand the basics of design.


I've written about David De Groot's amazing "Principles of Bonsai Design". Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be widely available. If you come across a copy, I'd highly recommend a purchase. Until then, I'm going to try and impart some of the thoughts and "ah-ah" moments I've experienced the last few years when it comes to bonsai design.


Scalene Triangles are an important part of art and design. A scalene triangle is defined where all the sides of the triangle are different lengths.


Let's start with a look at some examples.


Finding Scalene Triangles in Bonsai Design

Portulacaria Afra

Japanese Black Pine

Colorado Spruce


In each case, the 3 sides of the triangle are different lengths. This moves the tree in one direction while creating a visually pleasing design.



Using Scalene Triangles in Stylings

Now, let's look back at a few of my initial stylings. When I look at a piece of raw material, I focus on finding the "tree within", which is effectively finding a visually pleasing design using the scalene triangle as a base.


Rocky Mountain Juniper - Before

Rocky Mountain Juniper - After

With this Rocky Mountain juniper, I could see the defining first branch coming out to the left. Which means the counter branch needed to come to the right. It also needed to be on a different plane as the primary branch. From there, I built the apex.

Pinyon Pine - Before

Pinyon Pine - After

Once again, this pinyon pine had a defining branch I could see coming out from the left. I then built the second branch to the right. Don't forget to add back branches in your design. This ensures your tree will have a 3D look & feel. Finish the design by building the apex. (Which is the most difficult aspect to design. I'll address this in a future blog post.)


Action Steps

  1. Take a look at your current trees. Do you see a specific scalene triangle design? If not, what can you do to create one?

  2. Take a pencil and paper and try drawing. Tree or otherwise. Focus on creating triangle designs that are pleasing to the eye. Learning to draw will make your designs better.



I hope this deep dive into design will help you on your bonsai journey. Be sure to subscribe to the blog for all my future bonsai information. Until next time, Peace Love Bonsai!



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