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Bonsai Styles - Part 1

Updated on June 18, 2012

Bonsai, which means tree in a pot, is a Japanese art form using miniature trees grown in pots or containers.

Owning a bonsai tree can be both rewarding and stressful. The pure beauty and artistry of what one can achieve is what makes bonsai trees so amazing.

If you own a bonsai tree or think of owning one, I am going to be doing a couple of hubs on the different styles, taking care of them and how to get the most out of your bonsai tree. The most important thing is patience.


The Juniper (2004) is one of my favourite bonsai trees I own.
The Juniper (2004) is one of my favourite bonsai trees I own. | Source

Let us firstly look at the different styles there are when looking at bonsai trees. Not all styles will work on all species of trees, some trees prefer a certain way while others can be experimented on to make it look the way you would want it to.

I will show you just a few of the most basic shapes for beginners.

Source

Formal Upright (Chokkan)

This is when the tree has a straight upright tapering trunk. Branches also progress thickest and broadest from the bottom and finest and shortest on the top.

You will see in the image that the top of the trunk and the bottom are both aligned perfectly diagonally.

Source

Informal Upright (Moyogi or Takichi)

The branches and trunk are much more curvy. The apex or the tip of the bonsai is directly in line with the base of the tree where it enters the soil. It is the same as the formal upright where the shape of the branches progress from bigger at the bottom to smallest at the top.

Source

Slanting (Shakan)

The trunk is grown at an angle from the base but still kept straight as in the formal upright style.The apex of the tree can be to the left or to the right depending on your preference. The branches can act the same way as the formal and informal way where it goes bigger at the bottom and smaller at the top.

Source

Cascade (Kengai)

The apex of the tree extends well below the base of the pot. This method is very difficult to master as the downward growth is against the natural growth of the tree.

Source

Semi-Cascade (Han-kengai)

The apex of the tree extends to the level of the base of the pot. It is the same as the Cascade but the downward growth will never reach below the base of the pot.

White Olive(2002)
White Olive(2002) | Source

How many bonsai trees do you own?

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