Bonsai Styles

Styles, some pointers

The problem with providing a set of styles for folk who are new to the hobby is that it is easy to lead them to believe that, if their tree doesn't conform to one of the styles it's a bad bonsai when it's not!. Some of the most interesting trees I've seen barely look like the common perception of trees, let alone fall into one of the styles listed.

Many years ago I said to a friend of mine "The thing is Bob, all of your trees look like trees!". I don't believe, at the time either of us understood what I meant by that, however we do now. It isn't necessary for a bonsai, or penjing to look like a tree. A bonsai can be an icon, a symbol used to evoke what we all know a tree should look like, without following rigidly the shape of a tree, or fit into a style pigeonhole.

Indeed the Chinese who started the art form as penjing tend not to classify trees in this way.

Children simplistically draw trees as a green blob of foliage, with a trunk. Yet both adults and children understand and translate that 'icon' into a tree.

A stylised tree, but instantly recognisable as one.





The tree illustrated, for example (drawn from a photograph) has most of its major components, growing on what may be described as a cascading branch. Does this make the tree a bad bonsai?. Well I for one would swap my kids for it you will need to kep an open mind about styles

Every tree should tell a 'story' and that story is reflected in the style when a tree is being developed as a bonsai.

A lone seedling in the open may have grown up tall and straight (in the formal upright style). A tree growing on a cliff top buffeted by wind may have all it's branches growing on the leeward side of the trunk (Windswept Style). But the basic storyline should be of the tree's struggle to survive and the beauty and power that the tree has acquired in that struggle.

When attempting to style a tree you will need to know a little about the growth characteristics of the species you are using, as not all trees suit all styles. The Maidenhair tree (Ginkgo Biloba) for example, makes a good bonsai but its growth habits are such that it will not respond well to wiring and it tends to be best trained in its natural shape, which resembles a candle flame.

Conifers don't grow in the broom style and few, if any deciduous trees occur naturally in the formal upright style.

Don't be afraid to redesign a tree. Here we see a Forsythia. I decided that the tree would make a good semi-cascade, if on repotting its angle to the soil was changed. This would also require it to be put into a cascade pot.

Allen. C. Roffey 18:42 14/04/2018