Plant a bonsai on a mountain side in a shallow dish

A friend gave my wife a beautiful small bonsai dish and then a few weeks later, the same friend presented me with a carefully-chosen small evergreen that was well shaped and only needed a touch up to become an excellent bonsai starter. The plant is chamaecyparis obtusa nana lutea

The dish was rather shallow and my friend suggested that I should get a deeper container for this beautiful (and expensive) plant. I decided to show off. Here are the pictures of me doing exactly that.

I like to use a good, porous potting soil for the process. I check out the plant to see how it will fit and to get a mental picture.

blog dwarf bonsai 1
I like to use a good, porous potting soil. The plant should like this just fine

I study the relationship of the plant to the container. I move it around and study the placement possibilities. The main rule I am following here is to “stay out of the center.” I get an idea of my direction with the project.

blog dwarf bonsai 2
Take lots of time studying the placement possibilities. Stay out of the center

Take the plant out of its container and study the root structure. This is the “soul of the plant” and sometimes that soul needs a bit of re-arranging. (I’m sure you can understand that).

blog dwarf bonsai 3
study the root ball to determine how you will modify it to fit the container

I carefully break up the root ball. Sometimes I have to use a hack saw or a knife to cut the bottom from the root ball but this one is easy. Pruning the roots of a plant adds strength to the plant by encouraging the remaining roots to branch out and develop more feeders.

blog dwarf bonsai 4
break up the bottom of the root ball so that it will fit in the container

After determining the placement of the plant, I place the soil around the root ball, packing it down firmly, and this gives me the basic shape for the “mountain.”

blog dwarf bonsai 5
Pile potting soil around the root ball and shape the mountain (sort of like with modelling clay)

I start to “build a mountainside” around the plant by adding well-chosen rocks which support the plant while they keep the soil in place. The rocks, in essence, increase the depth of the container in an attractive manner. At this point, I take care to make sure all roots are covered.

blog dwarf bonsai 6
continue to shape the mountain and add a rock or two if needed to hold the soil or stabilize the plant

Dekie and I keep a bucket of “neat rocks” that we have picked up here or there. Collecting rocks is fun. My next step in this project is to use a few of these to build “cliffs and mountainsides.” I make sure that everything fits tightly so it won’t fall out when the plant is moved.

blog dwarf bonsai 7
On a stable surface, pack the soil around the rocks and plant so that nothing moves.

I used to have to go to the aquarium department of a pet store to find the polished rocks, but I had spotted these flat, polished, black rocks in the Dollar Store one day. I bought them for just such an occasion as this. I start adding a stabilizing and attractive “ground cover” with the black rocks. As I work, I pack the soil over and over to make sure it will stand the test of time.

blog dwarf bonsai 8
add decorative roocks and perhaps a bit of gravel to paint a picture.

We cleaned off a prominent place on the patio for the mountain bonsai to live. After a couple of years of meditative pruning it should be a masterpiece.

blog dwarf bonsai 10 chamaecyparis obtusa nana lutea
The mountain bonsai looks good enough to earn a place of prominence.

And here’s a top view

blog dwarf bonsai 11
We named it “Betty.”


Other articles that pertain to this subject:

The basics of pruning-Pruning as an art form

A few years ago Dekie and I visited a bonsai show in Nashville at the Cheekwood gardens Here’s the story

Published by John P.Schulz

I lost my vocal cords a while back due to throat cancer. The laryngectomy sent me on a quest to find and learn to use my new, altered voice. I am able to talk now with a really small and neat new prosthesis. My writing reflects what I have learned in my search for a voice. My site publishes a daily motivational quote and a personal comment. I write an article a week for my blog, which deals with a lot of the things that I do in the garden. I am also the author of Requiem for a Redneck and the new Redemption for a Redneck--novels portraying the lives and doings of folks around the north Georgia hills. I have an English Education degree from the University of Georgia and very happily married to the lovely Dekie Hicks. You may enjoy my daily Quotes and Notes at

4 thoughts on “Plant a bonsai on a mountain side in a shallow dish

  1. Someone else was just writing about how difficult it is to use these small chamaecyparis in the landscape because just one stray gardener with hedge shears can ruin them in an instant. Even if not worked into a bonsai specimen, they are at their best in pots where gardeners will hopefully leave them alone.
    In the second to last picture, what is that small juniper in the background to the left?

  2. Tony, my wife says she thinks we were told “blue mound.” It is definitely the slowest growing juniper of all.We love our groomed trees in pots and no one else is allowed to touch them. I’ll check that plant name with my grower.

  3. Loved your post about the bonsai. Once again, you’ve given me inspiration. Hope to try my hand at starting a bonsai soon.
    Stop by and visit again and hope you are well,
    Layton Roberts

Comment or leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: