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Bonsai Styles. Claude Sciberras. Why Styles?. There are several reasons for identifying a bonsai by a named style: Naming a style provides a graphic description of the tree.

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Bonsai Styles

Claude Sciberras


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Why Styles?

There are several reasons for identifying a bonsai by a named style:

  • Naming a style provides a graphic description of the tree.

  • When one person is talking to another about a bonsai and identifies its style, a mental-visual image of that style is evoked in the mind of the listener.

  • A style provides a direction of purpose when structuring a bonsai.

  • It is a shortcut to understanding.


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Bonsai Styles

  • Upright Styles

  • Cascade Styles

  • Multiple Tree/Trunk Styles

  • Bonsai With Special Characteristics


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Upright Styles

  • Formal Upright

  • Informal Upright

  • Slanting

    • Straight

    • Curved

    • Windswept

  • Broom


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Cascade Styles

  • Cascade

  • Semi-Cascade


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Multiple Tree or Multiple Trunk Styles

  • Two-Trunk or Twin Tree

  • Multiple Trunk / Clump

  • Forest

  • Raft

    • Straight Raft

    • Sinouous Raft


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Bonsai With Special Characteristics

  • Miniature Bonsai

  • Literati

  • Driftwood

  • Weeping

  • Exposed Roots

  • Root on Rock / Root in Rock


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Upright Styles - Formal

  • The essential attribute in the formal upright bonsai is the use of straight lines within the design. It has a straight trunk with clear taper from base to apex. The apex is directly above its base. It is a style of bonsai which presents an image of strength and power.



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Upright Styles - Informal

  • The informal uprightstyle bonsai is the most common style in which trees are designed. It imparts gentle rhythmic movement, balance and grace.

  • The trunk emerges from the soil at an angle, curves one or more times between the base and the apex, and has an apex which is above its base when viewed from the front.



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Upright Styles - Slanting

  • The slanting style bonsai is one having either a straight or curved trunk with the apex above and to the left or right of the base of the trunk.

  • The slanting style bonsai depicts a tree in nature which:

    • May have been pushed by a fallen tree, by a snow or rock slide, or by other environmental factors.

    • May have grown in a harsh environment of windtorn shorelines or rugged mountains where the winds generally come from a single direction.

    • May have grown away from shade, toward the light.

    • Slanting objects are inherently off balance. The slanting style bonsai achieves asymmetrical balance through branch placement.



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Upright Styles - Broom

  • A broom style bonsai:

  • Has a straight, vertical trunk with a foliage mass like an upturned broom.

  • In both bonsai and in nature, this style is usually created from deciduous trees. Zelkova and Chinese elm species make good broom style bonsai.



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Cascade Styles

  • A cascade style bonsai is one in which a major feature extends below the lower rim of the pot.

  • A semi-cascade style bonsai is one in which the major cascading feature extends below the top rim of the pot but does not extend below the bottom of the pot.

  • What determines whether a cascade or semi-cascade is Formal or Informal is the part above the rim of the pot.

  • It depicts a tree in nature growing on a mountain top with all or a part of it hanging over the edge.




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Multiple Tree / Trunk Styles

  • The difference between multi-trunk and multi-tree is in the roots…

  • Trees must always be of the same species

  • They may be created in most any primary style: formal upright, informal upright, windswept, literati however all trees must have a single rhythm or style

  • It is very important to keep all trunks and trees in harmony and balance paying special attention to the height and girth ratios







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Special Characteristics

  • Miniature, Literati, Driftwood, Weeping, Exposed Roots, Root on Rock and Root in Rock are not styles but characteristics as you can have a windswept literati or an informal upright with exposed roots












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Japanese Nomenclature

Classical Styles

  • Formal Upright – Chokkan

  • Informal Upright – Moyogi

  • Slanting – Shakan

  • Broom – Hokidachi

  • Semi-Cascade – Han-Kengai

  • Cascade – Kengai


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Japanese Nomenclature

Non-Classical Styles

  • Windswept – Fukinagashi

  • Literati – Bunjingi

  • Exposed Root – Neagari

  • Root on Rock – Sekijoju

  • Root in Rock – Ishitsuki

  • Driftwood – Sharimiki, Sabamiki

  • Spiral Trunk - Bankan


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Japanese Nomenclature

Non-Classical Styles

  • Forest – Yose-ue

  • Raft – Netsunagari, Ikadabuki

  • Twin-Trunk - Soju

  • Clump - Kabudachi