In the art of Bonsai, the styles that have gradually been imposed over time are about thirty. Each of them reproduces a particular type of posture or a particular situation that finds a direct correspondence in nature. Japanese masters, however, usually divide them into five main styles, classified in relation to the different possible angles of the trunk: – Formal erect; – Informal erect; – Inclined; – Semi-cascade; – Cascade. It is clear that when you start working on a Bonsai harvested in nature or grown in a greenhouse or garden, one of the first things to do is to choose the type of style you want to adopt. Generally, this mainly depends on the type of plant and its natural conformation. Experience teaches, … continues
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continue …, however, that it is not excluded that a style that initially seemed the most suitable may over time no longer be such. To this end, it will be appropriate, at least initially and until the ideas are completely clear, to leave more paths open, avoiding, for example, drastic cuts. In fact, once the education of the plant in adherence to a certain style has begun, it will hardly be possible with satisfactory results.Remember, in any case, that the best rule is always to choose the most suitable style to reproduce the spontaneous and harmonious forms of nature.
Bonsai, in order to be correctly evaluated from an aesthetic point of view, must respect some intrinsic characteristics: its shape cannot be completely random, but must be inspired by one of the existing styles.
There are about forty different styles, and each reflects a particular conformation assumed by trees in nature: it can be a spontaneous form, for example that of the erect style, dictated by the natural propensity of the plant to rise towards the sunlight; on the other hand, it may be more “anomalous” positions caused by the action of atmospheric agents, such as those reproduced in the waterfall style, or in the one whipped by the wind. All styles are united by some fundamental rules that provide for the taper of the trunks, a certain proportion between the branches, the leaves and the fruits, and a good filling of the spaces, making sure that the branches do not intertwine; moreover the bonsai has a “side A” and a “side B”, so the observer’s point of view cannot be just any one, and must be taken into account in the creation of the style.
Formally erected. The tree develops in height, the trunk is straight with a conical section, and the orientation of the lateral branches must show a certain repetitiveness: for example if the first (from below) extends to the left, the second will be oriented to the right, the third facing the “back” of the bonsai, and so on. The “front” of the bonsai remains free of branches up to a third of its height. The lower branches are longer, while towards the top the branches become progressively shorter to recall the conical shape. It is a typical style of conifers. Its extreme regularity makes it one of the most difficult to obtain.
Informal upright. It resembles the Chokkan with the difference that the trunk is not straight but rises in a sinuous way, and the branches are positioned in correspondence with each external curve of the same. None of the low branches must be directed towards the observer, but they must all be alternately oriented towards his left and right. Given its informality and a certain lack of symmetry, initially this style was not recognized as such by the “purists”, however it is a style that gives more personality to the plant.
Trunk wrapped. Its peculiarity consists in the fact that the trunk is twisted on itself, and the bark a little worn, so as to give the plant an extremely old appearance. In recent years it has become a rather unusual style, at least among Westerners.
Cascade. The plant develops in height for the first section, and then falls downwards in the opposite direction to that of the first section of the trunk, until it falls over the base of the container. In some cases, the branches and leaves are present only in the terminal part of the tree, without ever coming into contact with the pot. For this style the choice of the container is very important, it must be high enough to allow a showy waterfall and adequately enhance the plant.
Semi-cascade. It is very similar to the Kengai style, but in this case the drooping part of the plant must never exceed the lower limit represented by the height of the pot. It is a very common style in small bonsai (Shonin Bonsai, up to 20 cm).
Lashed by the wind. The low branches are positioned on one side of the trunk only, oriented outwards, and the tree trunk itself is inclined towards that direction, on average from 30 ° to 45 °; the high branches can also grow on the opposite side, but they must cross the trunk (in this rare case it is allowed!) and assume the same orientation as the low branches. The impression that the observer receives is that of a plant subjected to the continuous action of the wind, which has conditioned its growth.
Inclined. It is similar to the Fukinagashi style but in this case the branches can grow from both sides of the tree; the trunk is inclined towards one of the two sides, right or left, and the first branch from the bottom must grow in the opposite direction to that of the trunk.
With the broom upside down. The trunk is straight, the branches all start from the same height and spread out like a fan around the trunk, recalling the shape of an upside-down broom broom. It is a rather difficult style to make, especially since the branches have to describe a hemisphere that is as perfect as possible. It is often used for maples and elms.
Roots on the rock. In this style the roots of the tree are clinging to a large rock emerging from the pot. To make this type of bonsai it takes a long time because the roots have to grow enough to go through the rock and penetrate the soil, helping to give the impression of an old plant. It is a style with a certain charm, as it gives the idea of the struggle for survival that the tree engages with an inhospitable nature.
On rock. Also in this style we have a rock as a co-protagonist, but this time the roots are not visible, but sink into a cavity of the rock itself. For the Ishitsuki as well as for the previous Sekijoju the choice of the rock is fundamental, it must be in harmony with the tree and with the vase, so as to constitute a natural landscape in miniature.
Raft. This type of bonsai has the appearance of a small wood in which several saplings of the same family grow: in reality it is the same tree, whose trunk is laid horizontally on the pot and from which three or more branches are grown by forcing the growth so that they assume the vertical position.
Bosco. In this case the “forest” to which the name refers is actually made up of several plants, generally of the same family, positioned not in a straight line but staggered, so as to create the impression of a natural grove. To make the Yose-u and the plants most frequently used are the broad-leaved trees.
Literate. It is a rather “minimalist” style, it is a small tree usually with a very thin and elongated trunk, with few branches generally positioned only in the apical area of the plant. It recalls the stylized trees typical of ancient Japanese illustrations, which stood alone and bare on the top of a mountain.
Double trunk. Also called mother-child, in this style there are two plants that ideally start from the same root – although in some cases two different trees, of similar appearance and size, are used, planted next to each other. One of the two grows in an upright position and is slightly larger than the other, which instead develops in an inclined way; the branches of the two trunks must not intertwine.
A stump. It is similar to the Sokan style but has a minimum of four to five distinct plants (if there are only three it is called Sankan), which developed from a single root. For this style it is appropriate to use plants that emit suckers at the base, such as maples.
Trunk washed out. The style takes up a natural condition in which the plant, subjected to particular atmospheric agents, loses some parts of the bark; the progressive action of the sun on the exposed areas leads to their lightening. The “whitened” effect is artificially reproduced by removing parts of the bark using a sharp knife, then treating the part with calcium sulphate which accelerates the lightening process.
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