I posted this pic on social media a few days ago with the question-“Which pot?”

 Oh-boy oh-boy did everyone have an opinion. I already had a pot picked out for it but I thought I’d have some fun reading the responses.  

 The pot it’s in is obviously wrong for it. You first saw this tree in This post two years ago and I explained why I was using it. Here’s how it looked then. 


Here’s was my virtual scribble.   

When I potted the tree two years ago, I did say it needed a smaller and shallower pot. Now is the time. 

First pot, a contemporary (but probably ten year old) Chinese pot, in a glaze they (they being the potheads of the bonsai world…..and regular potters too, or ceramists to be more precise, because those who play with clay make things other than pots, you know,like coffe mugs and tea cups and plates and stuff) call: namako. 

 I’m thinking, actually, that all three pots are namako (these links are blogposts from Peter Tea and Ryan Bell respectively, Here and Here, that explain what “namako” is, way better than I can, and makes me think so).  Namako has brown, blue, and white in various stages of dominance depending on the clay body and the application of glaze. 
They all seem to have it.   

The first pot, the dark oval, is actually my favorite namako manifestation.  

 To me, it looks like the night sky, like one is gazing into the infinite measure of space (namako actually means “sea cucumber-ish” amazingly. Maybe the old Japanese potters didn’t look up into the depths of night much, being busy playing with mud and all). 

I would love this pot for this tree except for two reasons. It’s too shallow and the drain holes are too small.  I’m still thinking on it though. I do tend to use a very coarse soil mix…….


The next pot, the bright blue one, has good drain holes. Not the best but they are better placed. 

 It’s even a Japanese pot, I think: it has the higher quality clay I associate with Japanese production pots, and it has a chop too.  


There’s even a bit of patina with this pot. I’ve used it before.  

Patina? What’s that. Well, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines patina as:

“a : a usually green film formed naturally on copper and bronze by long exposure or artificially (as by acids) and often valued aesthetically for its color”

And, since we aren’t dealing with bronze or copper, we go with definition “b”

“b : a surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use” 

“Grown beautiful….with age or use” basically means: dirt and grime buildup from being used (for a long time) as a bonsai pot. (Here’s something funny to ponder: the word “patina” comes from Latin meaning “a shallow tray or dish”. Ironic, since I’m talking about patina on a bonsai pot, which is a shallow tray or dish. And to tie it all together, the antique Chinese bronze incense burners (remember definition “a” above) were some of the first shallow bonsai containers. It’s almost like the whole history of the bonsai pot is interconnected, or some mystical thing like that. Which illustrates the concept of Synchronicity, just for Seth.).  Anyway, we try to make our trees look old. With our pots, it’s also a desirable thing for them to be old, or appear to be old. Age and provenance are things that are revered in Asian cultures. But our second pot, to me, might be too bright and clean for this tree.  


Let’s look at the third pot.  

 Yeah, it is chipped. But look at that color!  It looks like a retreating wave, a cleansing wash, the descending firmament. And, yes, it has patina.  

 Not like a ninety year old pot (or my hand up there in the corner)  but nice. And it has the biggest drain holes yet.    Very important for our ilex. Before I choose the pot, let’s get the tree ready and then look at it in sitting in the pots.  

From bush-


To trim- 

 Hmmmmnnn……lookie here:  I was pretty close! Let’s look at the roots.   


Looking good.  


Not pot bound yet so I’ll be gentle.   

Ok, let’s look at the tree in each pot.  

Bright blue rectangle:

 I could use this one, it’s not bad. 

Dark night sky oval: 

 It also could work. Maybe not. 

Next up. 

 Yes. I like it. The blue is muted, the chips on the rim are in the right spot and add to the overall composition (I’ll get hell for them anyway, too bad). Some people were saying the tree needed an oval pot but I think the tree is very masculine, so a rectangle works.  


Some tie downs, some soil, a stand to make it pretty. 

I don’t have any moss but you can use your imagination for that. 

Feel free to give your opinions, you can call me stupid, or blind, or delusional, or crazy….they will all be published (well, all except political, religious, and bonsai soil opinions. Nobody ever agrees on those subjects.). I’m liking my choice and it’s my tree and my blog, so there. You do have to admit that the tree looks good though. I think it’s ready for show. 

9 thoughts

  1. Adam I have this fascination with Bonsai Pots, maybe because they are awesome, maybe because they are so cool, maybe because they can be expensive. But the tree and the soil are equally important. I hope to see some soil opinions here. People, what’s your mix? I need a change! I use 50: 20 compost and pea gravel and it aint working! Thanks Adam great post as usual.


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