Style Classification of Bonsais: Growing Your Own Bonsai Trees

Style Classification of Bonsais: Growing Your Own Bonsai Trees
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Bonsai means something growing in a shallow container, example a tree in a shallow pot. There are many types of styles in bonsais which are adopted. In styling bonsai it will be good to adopt some simple rules. First we have to decide which can be chosen as the front side of the bonsai. It will be nice to have strong roots extending to left and right side of the tree. It will be not be appropriate to have a thick root directly in front of the tree. This will spoil the whole appearance and style. Those twigs and branches that are not matching with the rest of the branches need to be pruned. A simple example is a very long branch standing out when compared to the rest, this can be trimmed to the matching height or can be fully removed if it is separately standing out. Many ways are adapted to style bonsai to the required taste of the bonsai owner / trainer, like wiring, bending, etc.

Bonsai styles classification

Bonsai styles classification is mainly based on

  • Shape of the trunks
  • Number of trunks
  • Shape of the roots
  • Shape of the branches
  • Composition

According to shape of the trunk

This is one of the basic types of classification of bonsai styles. There are seven types of styles that are found according to the shape of the trunk.

  • The formal upright
  • The informal upright
  • The slanting trunk
  • Cascaded trunk
  • Semi-cascaded
  • Coiled trunk
  • The twisted trunk

The formal upright type is where single straight truck tappers in thickness as the height increases, the roots are spread in all direction and the branches are well shaped and balanced. Generally very difficult to get the type in trees other than pine, this style resembles an umbrella planted in the ground.

In the informal upright style, as the name indicates, the trunk can be curved and can also have a slight slant. Many bonsais normally seen fit in this style please see the photos.

The slanting classification has the main trunk slanting well to even 30 degree to the horizontal with branches on both sides. This style is sometimes mistaken for windswept style by many.

In the case of cascaded type of classification the trunk so arched that the trunk goes below the bottom of the pot. The semi-cascade type the trunk does not go below the bottom of the pot.

In the case of coiled trunk, the trunk of the tree is extremely crooked compared to the twisted type where the whole trunk is fully twisted.

According to the number of trunks

There are mainly five types in this classification. The single trunk, twin trunk, three trunks, five trunks and the clump type where the trunks cluster and grow from one root. For a glance the clump style will look like a group planting style, where each tree will be different and of the same variety.

According to the shape of the roots

There are three groups in this style, exposed root, sinuous root and the raft root style. In exposed root style one will be able to see many roots and the tree has a look of years of endurance of weathering. The sinuous root style gives an appearance as if they have individual roots but they grow from one. Raft root style have multiple trunks are actually branches from a buried trunk and they usually grow in straight line.

According to shape of the branches

These are very interesting shapes that can be seen. The first one is called broom style where the branches resembles a broom turned upside down with the tree’s main trunk standing straight or in an informal slant. There are numerous branches that come out from the main trunk. The windswept style resembles a tree near a sea shore. Here all branches of the tree lean to one direction as if they are driven by strong wind. Another style in this classification is called the extended style. Here a single trunk tree has large branches extending in one direction.

According to composition

There are two main classification in this style, one the group planting style and the other rock grown style. In group planting many trees of the same species, preferably, is planted in one tray. In this there is no restriction as to how many trees can be planted, however if it is less than 7 it makes it look good. This again depends on the size of the tray and the type of tree as well as its size. The tallest and thickest trunk tree can be the main tree of the group and the rest can be arranged in a balanced way. It will be appealing to use unequal intervals while arranging the trees and the main tree off center of the tray. The other style rock grown or on the rock is again an interesting style. Here the tree is planted on a rock and the roots are trained to grow on the rock. Please see my photo.

In maintaining all these styles repotting is an important activity and the bonsai trainers must be clear and acquire experience. The wiring technique, bending, tools used for bonsais and other major aspects I plan to write in near future.

Bonsai photos showing a few styles

Rock grown

Raft root style

Coiled trunk

The informal upright

The twisted trunk