Classic Bonsai Styles, Chatper 3.

The tree itself may follow any style, the significance is that a rock is used instead of a pot, with the roots growing in a crevice or hollow.

The rock may stand in a shallow dish of soil or, better still, in a water tray Mixed plantings of pines with red maples or dwarf quince and azalea are particularly successful.

The essence of the root on rock style is the natural landscape that the composition evokes.

The choice of rocks, tree species and various accompanying plants must be carefully made, ensuring that they all harmonise visually and horticulturally, since repotting can be a difficult operation.

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As the name suggests, this is a raft planting where the original horizontal trunk has attractive snake-like curves and is exposed in such a way as to show this feature to its best advantage.

With a style like this it is even acceptable for the old trunk to be above the ground in places.
The natural inspiration for the sinuous raft style is a fallen tree that has sprouted vertical branches and then taken root in places where it has come into contact with the earth.

Although trees of this kind themselves may conform to any style, they should harmonise and all be similar in trunk movement.

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Another obvious one: a raft planting where the original trunk lies in a straight line.

Most rafts created from nursery stock follow this style because of the difficulty of bending a fairly thick trunk into sinuous curves.In such cases the trunk is usually buried in the soil or covered with moss to disguise its unnatural appearance.

The main problem to solve when making a straight raft is how to avoid a straight row of trunks.
This can be achieved by training some branches horizontally forward or backward before bending them up to form trunks.

It is even possible to create a fairly dense forest in this way.

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Most of us have driven down lanes where the steep banks have been washed away to expose the roots of an ancient beech or pine, and this style is based on such cases.

The roots, which must have mature bark and interesting shapes, add a dramatic, rugged appearance, so the design of the tree itself should echo this.

The foliage mass should be kept fairly small so that its weight or wind resistance doesn’t cause the exposed roots to bend over.

You might find wild specimens that lend themselves to training in this style, but more often than not, growing from scratch is the easiest method.


Two trunks, one smaller than the other, joined together at the base.

Trunks which divide significantly above the base are unacceptable.

The smaller or secondary trunk should be slightly to the rear of the dominant one to enhance the perspective.

The trees themselves may follow any appropriate style. These bonsai can sometimes be difficult to maintain in the long term, because as the trunks thicken with age, the fork between
them inevitably begins to fill.

This has the effect of raising the junction until eventually it is too high. When starting a sôju, make the angle between the trunks as wide as possible.


This most unnatural of all bonsai styles has heavy Chinese in uence. It became popular for a time last century and was grown in large numbers.

Although still popular among some hobbyists, it is seldom accepted in classic circles. The trunk spirals from base to apex while the branch structure follows that of the informal upright.

Unfortunately, the majority of commercial, mass-produced small bonsai — intended for the gift market - are bad examples of this style.

Far Eastern growers seem to think that this is what Westerners believe a tree looks like

Any (odd) number of trunks, which must be in a variety of sizes, all growing on the same roots.
This may either be created from suckers (shoots arising naturally from the roots) or by cutting off a thick trunk at the base and using the new shoots which spring up from the stump.

The trees can be any style. The horticultural advantage of using a clump rather than separate
plants is that the ‘trees’ do not compete for water and nutrients.

As with the raft and group styles, the trunks should have similar movement and characteristics but must also vary in thickness.

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This style may incorporate any number of trunks from seven up to as many as you like.
The main interest is in the interplay between the trunks, which should be of different sizes and should be arranged to give the impression of depth and perspective.

No three trunks should form a straight line and no trunk should be obscured by another when viewed from the front.

The trees in the centre of the group or forest should be the tallest, with the thickest trunks bearing the most foliage.

The trunks on the perimeter should lean outward, reaching for the light.


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