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Creation of bonsai follows certain rules of design that dictate the final composition. They have been worked out and refined by the Japanese for generations. The component parts of a finished bonsai are container, surface roots, trunk, branches, twigs and leaves. The trunk is the focal point and is proportioned into three approximately equal parts. The bottom third is completely bare of branches; the middle is free of branches in the front but framed by branches at the sides and at the back. The top third shows branches on all four sides.
The branches of a bonsai are arranged in sets of three. Number one branch of the first triad is the lowest of the tree; it is trained to one side and slightly forward. Number two is slightly higher on the trunk; it is inclined to the opposite direction. Number three is often situated between the first two and extends to the back. This patterning is repeated up the trunk in spiralling groups of three. When the top third is reached, small branches are trained forward to cover the trunk. Limbs are always designed in an alternating pattern to avoid monotony. These principles are basic to good design ; the beginner in bonsai should strive to follow them, but nature is not always accommodating and compromises often must be made.