thing to do when you acquire a new plant is to decide which style will
be the best suited to the tree's basic shape. It can also be the contrary,
you might be looking for a concrete form or the plant was recovered
directly from nature so its basic form might be given by a special growth
motivated by special conditions as there are freeze, wind, placement
There are a lot of different style definitions
to choose from. However, these styles can be classified into seven basic
styles which depend on the overall form of the tree and how much the
trunk is deviated from an imaginary vertical axis.
NOTE: Fine Japanese Calligraphy realized and copyrighted by Eri Takase. Please visit her site at www.takase.com
The trees most likely suited for this style are conifers because
of their normally upright and straight proportions. Beginners should
start to develop a Chokkan styled tree because it is the easiest form
to develop. There is no need for complete wiring and pruning techniques,
it is quite simple to form rapidly a tree nice to look at.
Essential for this style is a straight trunk with a naturally balanced branch
structure. The trunk should not branch at the top. The form is conical
with an erect trunk and horizontal branches, every one extending little
farther from the trunk than the next. The lowest two branches should
be trained to reach to the front side, one slightly higher than the other.
Trim the branches that grow too near to the base as the trunk should
be visible, specially in the case of conifers which have a beautifully
The trees formed in this style are normally planted in rectangular pots as they
shouldn't be placed in the center of it; plant them 2/3 away from on
of the ends.
Similar to the formal upright style, but the top of the trunk
instead of growing straight bends slightly to the front. The form of
the branches are much the same but the bent stem gives the tree the
look of motion, slightly moved by a light wind. Informal upright grown
trees are one of the most common styles. The species I like most for
this style are maples, especially Acer palmatum and buergeranium or
flowering trees like pomegranates.
It is much easier to find young plants in this form because in nature trees normally
grow this way, because of irregular light exposition, heavy winds or
other parameters which influence growth. Another thing you can do is
to move the root ball in the direction you want the trunk to slant.
Doing this, you will have to prune and wire the branches back to horizontal
As the formal upright trees, Moyogi styles bonsai look best in oval or rectangular
pots, planting them again 2/3 away from on of the ends. Informal uprights
are one of the most common styles.
The trunk slants in much more angle than in the previously mentioned
styles. It is also important that the top of the trunk bends slightly
to the front and the lowest branches grow in the opposite direction
to which the stem slants. Shakan styled bonsai show trees exposed to
extreme weather and gravity conditions as there are heavy winds or heavy
loads of snow.
The shakkan style can be considered the intermediate stadium between the informal
upright and cascade styles as the tree still grows up, but tends to
bend down. In nature, this kind of trees are normally called leaners
as they seem to lean against an imaginary stake.
Contrary to the previously mentioned Chokkan and Moyogi styled trees, Shakan
trees should be centered in round (also square) pots, as the goal is
that the trees bends out of the container.
The trunk starts growing upward, but then turns downward and
reaches a point below the base of the pot and for this reason the bonsai
should be placed on a higher base. My cascade style trees are positioned
at the border of their stone basements. Normally a great part of the
foliage is situated below the soil level as cascade style trees try
to simulate natural trees growing at the edge of an embankment or the
slope of a mountain.
It is not easy to force a tree into the cascade style as trees normally grow up
and never down, so the plant is actually trained into a very unnatural
position. The first thing to do is to move the root ball at least 45
degrees to the side where the cascade will be formed. The upper part
of the root ball has to be removed and straightened. After that, the
rest of the work will be fulfilled by pruning and wiring the branches
in a naturally falling form.
Cascaded trees are usually planted in a round or hexagonal pot that is higher
than it is wide. The tree is planted at one side of the pot, normally
at the cascading side.
The trunk grows straight for a while and then cascades down at
a slight angle, not as dramatic as in the cascade style. I have a pine
mugo in semi cascade with three main branches of which only one cascades,
might be a special style but looks quite nice. Species to recommend
could be al kind of junipers and especially flowering plants.
Normally the cascading branch or branches should be the front of the tree, and
the semi cascade should not reach below the bottom of the container
as the full cascade does but should also reach down below the level
of the soil surface.
Semi-cascaded trees are usually planted in the same kind of pot as the cascades with
the only difference that the pot needs not to be that high. The tree
is planted, as usual, at one side of the pot, always at the cascading
This windswept style simulates the effect
of extreme exposure to strong winds. Every part of the tree is swung
in the direction of the gust of wind, nude branches simulate foliage
loss due to weather conditions. These trees are usually modeled on trees
found in coastal areas (in Spain, particularly on the island Formentera),
where ruff environmental have given them their shape.
The Literati style is maybe the strangest
of all the styles. There are lots of different shapes but they all have
long thin trunks which can culminate in a small tree top or curve back
down finishing in a cascading form. A species often used for this style
is the Japanese Red Pine, but every kind of conifer is adequate.
The idea behind Bunjingi is that in nature the tree, under adverse environmental
conditions, has found its way to survive, being forced to contortions
and un normal shapes.
In conclusion there are a lot of other styles which finally derive of those mentioned
previously. Also the trunks can grow in many different manners, imagine
single and multiple trunks.
I haven´t either talked about other forms like forests (Yosu-Ue) or trees planted
on or over or clinging to rocks, these are styles on their own, with
their own characteristics, with a lot of varieties.
Before you plant a tree in a pot, it is very important to visualize what the
tree will look like in its new container. No matter how you plant the
tree, which style you choose to apply, keep always in mind that you
are trying to reproduce a natural scene and that is roots showing up
at surface, irregular trunks, dead branches (Jin) etc. You can read
more about bonsai styles in the Terms section.
If you want to read more about bonsai styles please visit the terms section where you can find brief explanations of a lot of other styles.