Styling a Windswept Larch

In a previous essay I made reference to an unconvincing windswept tree. Several people have asked if I could provide some more information about what a convincing windswept Bonsai would actually look like, so to help visualize. I have recently worked on a Larch with this question in mind. Instead of making a half-hearted attempt and failing to provide the answer I decided to go the whole way and reproduce something akin to a hawthorn I photographed on top of Dartmoor.IMG_9279

For those who don’t know Dartmoor it is where the winds first hit land after crossing the Atlantic Ocean – so pretty windy. Here’s the tree:

Notable features here include:

  • Very few verticals even the main stem despite obvious attempts by new shoots to grow upwards
  • Long extended horizontal branches
  • Every live branch tip is pointing to the leeward side as tips the other side get battered by the wind
  • The foliage only really survives where it is sheltered by other smaller twigs above it, creating a modicum of shelter
  • Overall an incredibly dynamic, but consistent image

For this demonstration I picked a Larch that already suggested a leaning image, due to the angle of its roots


This was a healthy tree recently collected with a good fibrous root system so I feel confident giving it a fairly dramatic styling at this stage.

The first step was a simple removal of any dead or damaged shots to clean up the tree, this made no overall change to the tree and I now had a clean slate to work with.

I decided to pull the trunk further downwards closer to the horizontal, I experimented with a gentle bend but decided that this would not really be possible so opted instead for pulling the whole trunk and securing underneath the pot, effecting an invisible change but putting the tree well on the way.

I removed any branches that were now obviously out of line with the idea of the direction of the blowing wind, one major branch that many would have been afraid to lose but fundamentally wrong for this tree. I highlight the branch:

Then came the always time-consuming but enjoyable task of wiring every branch that was not growing in the desired direction – for such a fundamental image overhaul this was in fact every single twig. This also gave the opportunity to add little twists and direction changes in the smaller branches to give an increased impression of the tree loosing shoots and having to regrow. So we end up with this after the styling


The lower branches will need to strengthen and some more will need to be removed from the canopy once shoots develop in the spring. However having a longer thin branch shows that the tree is able to develop a branch in this spot sheltered by its own branches and I will be careful not to allow them to thicken too much and dominate the image.

I am also undecided about the tiny jins which, now I look at the photo, add nothing of value to the image, instead I will replace them in a year or two with a jin of one of the external branches and at that time I may also add a small shari to the windward side of the trunk.

I will then try to find a suitable pot… but that will be a story for another day



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