The Magic Cloth for Bonsai

The first time I saw a ‘magic cloth’ used was during a bonsai workshop with John Naka.  I was a novice. 

I don’t remember the tree, but I remember John looking, somewhat frantically, around the room.  Someone asked if they could get something for him …  “a handkerchief, paper napkin or something” he replied.

I reached in my lap and handed him the – not so clean – small towel I always kept with my bonsai tool set. He promptly covered a branch with the cloth.

Suddenly, his design concept for my bonsai became very clear!  I never forgot the lesson, and continued to use it.

Many years later, when I began to teach bonsai, the magic cloth was a way to guide students to better design without cutting their trees.

“When in doubt, cover the branch and imagine
   what the tree would look like without it.”
– John Naka

Sometimes, it takes a larger towel or even two small ones to get the full impact.

If you’re not sure — cover everything under consideration for removal, before reaching for your bonsai tool set.

I have gone so far as to leave the cloth on all day, while I worked on other trees.  When I went back to the bonsai in question and removed the cloth — I often wondered why I ever doubted.

This technique worked wonders with this tree – as did the bonsai tools that came next!  Half of the original bonsai rightfully disappeared.  (Instead of cutting off the top of this tree, I used an air layer.)

Get Your Very Own Magic Cloth

The Magic Cloth is now available for your personal use.  As a teaching tool, it will be much more professional looking than a “dirty rag.”  It will also make a fun gift for a bonsai friend!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.