Bonsai is a miniature of a tree in nature. Bonsai styles have been
developed to represent the different ways trees grow in nature. Not
all trees can be grown in all styles but should follow the styles
that most closely match their natural growth habits. These styles
are useful for all trees grown as Bonsai - conifers, deciduous,
flowering, fruiting, etc.
are five basic styles with some variations:
Formal Upright – These
trees have a very straight trunk with the apex (the top of the
tree) directly above the base of the tree. The shape of the tree
is typically triangular and branches on either side of the tree
are roughly equal in length as you move up the tree. This tree
can require more skill to do correctly than some other styles
since mistakes in the trunk and branches are readily spotted.
Informal Upright – This
tree, like the Formal Upright, has its apex, for the most part,
over its base. In this style, however, the trunk will typically
have some curves in it unlike the straight trunk of the Formal
Slanting – The Slanting style can have a straight
trunk or curved trunk but what typifies this style is that the apex
is no longer over the base but off to one side or the other. These trees tend to look
like they have been blown off vertical by the wind, or the earth
sank on one side tilting the tree. These trees can show a lot of
motion since they sometimes look like they are falling.
Semi-Cascade – These are
trees that emulate those on the sides of cliffs or mountains
where the majority of the mass of the tree is hanging over the
edge of the cliff or growing down the side of the mountain. A
Semi-Cascade tree does not hang below the bottom level of the
Cascade – These are the
same as the Semi-Cascade except the tree extends below the
bottom level of the pot.
addition to these five basic shapes, there are variations that fall
into several other main categories:
Broom – These trees have
an upright trunk with branches growing up and out with foliage
in a fan or umbrella shape.
Windswept – As the name
implies, these simulate trees growing where the wind blows in
one direction for most of the year forcing the branches and
foliage to grow with the wind in one direction. Often trees such
as this are found on beaches, cliffs, and mountains. The trunk
is often leaning in the same direction.
Driftwood – These trees
are found where conditions are very harsh, such as on cliffs or
mountains where winds are high, snow is deep and heavy, and dry
conditions or hurricanes may prevail. They epitomize survival
under very difficult and stressful conditions. Typically, a
large portion of the trunk has died with only a small vein of
living bark to feed the foliage that remains.
Exposed Root – The idea
is that as a tree grows the soil is washed away through erosion
and, after some time, exposes the roots. These roots then harden
to form an extension of the trunk, which happens when roots are
exposed to sun and air.
Literati – Considered by
some the first Bonsai to be kept and trained long ago, this tree
has only a couple of guidelines – a long, thin, interesting
trunk with a minimum of
branches and foliage. It is a somewhat esoteric style guided
more by a philosophy than guidelines.
The above hand sketches
are copyrighted and were graciously provided by HBS member Alex
Leong. The images are not to be printed, transmitted, stored or
reproduced in any way without written permission from the artist.
Much thanks to Alex for his excellent work and dedication to the
Houston bonsai community.