It’s important for you to remember, as a beginner, that no single bonsai style is the”right” style. Bonsai is meant to be a representation of a tree in nature. Crafting a bonsai masterpiece is tantamount to how YOU view that tree. You aren’t learning from a bonsai master, you’re simply being given instruction on how best to create your own bonsai. What you make of it lies simply in your own mind.
You should strive to make your bonsai trees seem as natural as possible. Allow the tree suggest its possibilities. If the back bends to the right, let it bend like that. Work with it to make it a main feature of your bonsai. You have to hear the tree and listen to what it is telling you. Then you will think of a gorgeous creation!
Bonsais should simulate age. You should try and project the appearance of maturity in your tree — just in a tiny form. Even if your tree is relatively youthful, you can groom it looks like it’s been growing for a long time.
Two features that provide the appearance of age to trees would be the caliper of the trunk and the degree of taper of the trunk. The trunks of bonsai (in many styles) will be very wide at the base and taper very easily to the top of the tree
There are two general styles of bonsai: the classic (koten) and the casual or’comic’ (bunjin). In the former, the trunk of the tree is wider at the bottom and tapers off towards the surface; it’s just the opposite from the’bunjin’, a style more challenging to master.
When you start a bonsai, always remember that you’re working with a living plant. Look carefully at its natural characteristics and you may discern in them a suitable style, or styles. Frequently it’s possible to train a plant into several styles, even if it’s basically upright as a beech or elegantly slender like a walnut. Even if one design only really suits a specific plant, you still can interpret this in many different ways.
More than anything else you ought not try to train a bonsai to grow in a fashion it is not accustomed to. Study the natural growth patterns of the tree you’re going to grow and enhance on the pattern nature gave it.
The five basic bonsai styles are formal upright, informal upright, slanting (or windswept), semi-cascade and cascade. All have their own individual beauty and serenity.
A tree with a style such as formal upright occurs when it has grown in the open under ideal conditions. The most important requirement for this style is that the trunk should be perfectly straight, tapering naturally and evenly from base to apex. The branches should be symmetrically spaced so that they’re balanced when seen from any direction. It’s quite a demanding style to attain.
Junipers, pines, and spruces are great to attempt to grow in the formal upright style.
To achieve an effective formal upright style, be certain that about one third of the back is visible from the front. This may be in the base to the first branch or cumulatively, as seen through the tracery of its branches.
Generally, the placement of branches follows a pattern. The first branch upward from the bottom is the longest and in proportion usually is trained to rise to an equivalent to a third of the total height of the tree. This is the’heaviest’ branch virtually making a perfect angle to the back.
The next branch directly opposes the first branch and is higher on the trunk. As the branch structure ascends, they taper assuming a somewhat cone-like form.
The top of the bonsai is usually very thick with foliage – so complete and closely ramified that it is hard to see its internal structure throughout the mass of needles or leaves.
The tip of this style of bonsai also has a small curve, to lean forward and effectively’look at the viewer’. Based on what species of tree you’re using, the whole tree does not have to be symmetrical but rather the branches could ascend by alternating on every side.
The branches and trunk of a formal upright bonsai always take on a very distinctive imprint. This is achieved by cutting off the growing tip of the trunk or branch with each new year and wiring a new branch into position to form the apex. This is something quite tough to do, however it produces a stunning result once the trunk starts to mature and the taper starts becoming prominent.
In nature, such trees bend or change their direction away from wind or shade other trees or buildings, or towards light. In an informal upright bonsai the back should slightly bend to the right or left – but not towards the viewer. This applies to all types of bonsai. Neither the trunk nor branches should be pointing towards the viewer when the bonsai is seen from the front.
For this style, try a Japanese maple, Trident maple, or any conifer and ornamental tree. You will have a dramatic result with a pomegranate or other flowering tree.
An informal upright bonsai essentially uses the same principles of the formal upright bonsai only that it is informal. The style still takes a tapered trunk, however the trunk direction and division positioning is more casual and closer to the way a tree would look when exposed to the elements from an early age. The back usually takes on an unexpected curve or set of spins and the branches are thus positioned to balance this effect.
Just like formal vertical, the crown of this tree is mainly very full with foliage and despite the informal trunk, is most always located right above the base of the tree. This is an attribute of the informal upright style, if not done like this, the tree would be slanting.
Jin (carved remains of dead or unwanted branches to look like dead and rotting limbs of a tree) is also more appropriate and effective with the informal upright style.
Trees that slant naturally occur as a consequence of buff setting winds or deep shade throughout early development. Whether straight or curved, the whole trunk leans at a definite angle. The more powerful roots grow out on the side, away from the angle of the trunk lean, to support the weight.
Almost any type of tree will work well with this style.
This style bears a great similarity to the informal upright. The trunk can be either curved or straight, but must be on an angle to the left or right (never to front), with the apex not directly over the bottom of the bonsai.
This style is rather an easy one that can be achieved by many methods. At an early age, the bonsai can be trained to an angle by way of wiring the trunk until it’s in position. Alternatively, the tree can be forced to grow in a slanted style by putting the actual pot on a slant, causing the tree to grow abnormally.
With formal upright, informal upright and slanted styles, the number three is important.
The lowest branches are grouped in threes, and this group begins one-third of the way up the trunk. The bottom-most few branches almost encircle the trunk, with two branches thrusting forward, one slightly higher than the other. The third branch, emanating from a point between the first two, is set at such an angle as to make the foliage look lower than the other two.
This pattern presents a simple way to tell front from back and sets the tone of the whole composition.
The growing tip of a cascade bonsai reaches under the base of a container. The back has a natural taper and gives the impression of the forces of nature pulling against the forces of gravity. Branches appear to be seeking the light. The winding main trunk is reminiscent of a stream meandering down the side of a mountain.
There are various kinds of trees that can be used to achieve a cascading bonsai. The important thing here is to make sure the tree is not naturally straight and vertical. You ought not try and coax a naturally straight back tree into a cascading bonsai.
If done correctly, this style of bonsai can be quite aesthetically pleasing. The trunk, which can be tapered, grows down beneath the container and gives the impression of this tree being forced down by the forces of gravity. The tree trunk usually also twists like to emulate a meandering stream with tasteful alternating branches protruding from it.
All that is required to create this design is a tall, narrow pot which will enhance the style and adapt the cascade and a species of plant that will willingly embrace this style if trained.
The main trunk ought to be wired to spill down and over the edge of the pot, with the major focus on the major bend (forming an upside-down U shape). Emphasis also needs to be kept on keeping the branches horizontal and uniform to the nearly directly vertical trunk. Another major element to keep in mind is that both cascade and semi-cascade ought to be positioned into the middle of the pot, the contrary to what you would do for any other style.
The tip of a semi-cascade, such as the cascade, projects over the rim of the container, but doesn’t fall below its base. The design happens in nature when trees grow on cliffs or overhang water. The angle of the trunk in this bonsai is not precise, as long as the effect is strongly flat, even if the plant grows well under the level of the pot rim. Any exposed roots should balance the back.
Flowering cherry trees, cedars, and junipers work very well in this style of bonsai. Lots of people feel this style of bonsai is the epitome of beauty in the art.
In general, bonsai cultivation is considered an outdoor art. Since bonsai is the miniaturization of trees and means tree in a pot, one may wonder which is better — inside or outside bonsai gardening. The opinions vary.