While there are many bonsai styles available for bonsai enthusiasts there are five basic bonsai styles. Although there are many variations to the five basic styles, they are the foundation for all other bonsai styles.
FORMAL UPRIGHT STYLE – Chokkan
The most basic of all bonsai styles is the formal upright. It is the easiest and most suitable style for beginners because it requires minimal pruning, less vigorous wiring and experimentation. The formal upright bonsai style is as its name suggests, the tree trunks stands straight with the branches in a horizontal position at the side. Usually, the tree has a conical shape and the longest horizontal branches are at the base tapering off in length higher up the trunk. In choosing a bonsai for the formal upright style, it is important to find one that has a straight trunk and an even distribution of leaves and branches. The best option is to select a tree with the biggest branch, which should also be the lowest one starting approximately up at a third of the tree’s height. Any branch that is lower than the one-third position must be pruned because these will divert from the general style. While the aim of the formal upright style is to achieve some balance with the tree, it does not mean that it must be balanced. Several of the most popular species for Chokkan bonsai style are Junipers, Pines and Maples.
INFORMAL UPRIGHT STYLE – Moyogi
The Informal Upright style is similar to the formal upright in terms of the arrangement of the branches. The lower branches are longer but they taper off at the top. The difference is in the position of the trunk where the trunk at the top bends somewhat towards the front. The bend gives the notion that the tree is moving and swaying slightly in the wind. The majority of bonsai trees are usually slanted, which makes the informal upright the most commonly used bonsai style. The slightly bent trunk augments the look of the tree and this makes it the ideal bonsai style for most deciduous trees, though Coniferous or even fruit trees. can be used. This style is similar to the formal upright so the biggest and lowest branch should start at about one- third up the height of tree’s trunk and followed by pruning of the foliage. I like Maples and Pomegranates in this style. Japanese White Pine, Black Pine and Beech and Crab Apple are also well suited to the Moyogi style.
SLANTING STYLE – Shakan
In the Slanting Style, the trunk has a sharp slant in one direction, with the biggest and lowest branch spreading out in the opposite direction of the trunk. In nature, many trees grow slanted and are sometimes called leaners. Many factors cause trees to have a slight bend. These factors include the tendency of the tree to grow towards the sunlight or the effect from the wind or gravity. The slanted bonsai style gives the impression that the tree is old and strong. Similar to both formal and informal style, the lowest branch in the slanted style begins one-third up the trunk’s height with the branches usually arranged in sets of three. Species suited to the shakan style include Juniper, Spruce, Olive, and various pine including the Japanese White & Black Pines
FULL CASCADE STYLE – Kengai
The Full Cascade Style creates a beautiful and distinctive look resembling a tree growing downwards on an embankment or on the face of a cliff. In the cascade style, the trunk begins to grow vertically but changes its position abruptly by turning downwards to touch the bottom of the pot or even below the pot. To get the cascade style, the pot with the tree is usually placed at the edge of a stand or a table so that the branches can grow down creating a cascading look. In general, all the leaves of the tree are below the edge of the surface of the soil. Training in the cascade style usually takes a longer time than the slanting because the cascade style requires training that defies nature, i.e. we train the tree to grow downwards while the tree will always want to grow skywards. Many experts deem the most suitable species for the Kengai style are Wisteria, Oak, Ponderosa Pine and Conifers.
SEMI-CASCADE STYLE – Han-Kengai
The Semi-Cascade style is similar to the full cascade but the bend in the trunk is less dramatic. In this style, the branches fall below the surface of the soil but they never fall below the base of the pot. It is easier to train your bonsai tree in the semi cascade style than the cascade. Though there are many species to suit the Han Kengai style, some of the common species are Juniper, various Pine, Crab Apple, Cherry and Ficus.
With the availability of so many bonsai styles, how do you pick one? Quite simple, you have the option to pick and shape a species to a style of your own preference, which gives you the opportunity to create your own unique bonsai art. Since a bonsai style depends on the shape and look of the tree achieved by means of training, you should pick a style that matches with the tree’s natural design. Choosing one of the top five bonsai styles discussed here should make your first bonsai experience a more enjoyable one. For more information, feel free to contact us! Happy Bonsai Growing!