Number of Trunks
- Twin trunk style ?the Sokan style features two trunks from one root, where one trunk is generally bigger and larger than the other. In some cases, the other trunk grows out of the larger, bigger trunk. The bigger trunk is also more upright than the other smaller trunk. The branches and leaves of the two trunks are oriented at opposing sides of each other but form a single crown.
- Straight line style ? another name for this style is raft or Ikadanuki in Japanese. The style mimics a fallen tree with branches from the upper part growing out to become new trunks. The branches grow in a straight line, appearing as a clump or a cluster of individual trees and forming a canopy.
- Sinuous style ? the Netsunagari style, like the Ikadanuki, is composed of several branches that appear as a clump of trees. However, instead of appearing as a straight line, the trees have bends and curves.
- Turtle style ? this kind of style, also called Korabuki, resembles the back of a turtle, the result of several trunks rising from ground-level roots.
- Group planting style ? this style is also known as the forest style or Yose-ue in Japanese. This is similar to the other multi-trunk styles, but while the rest comes from a single trunk, this one is composed of an assortment of trees planted together, creating a mini forest. The trees used are of the same species, although of varied heights and sizes to create a more natural look. The bigger trees are placed in the middle of the pot, while the smaller ones are placed on the sides, creating a triangular canopy
- Driftwood style ? the Sharimiki style prominently features a bare trunk or one without bark. This kind of style is taken after the natural process of decay or damage to trees caused by disease, weathering or age. A portion of the trunk with bark connects the leaves and branches and supplies the needed nutrients.
- Split-trunk style ? a similar style to the driftwood is the Sabamiki which features a hollow trunk. This kind of style depicts the natural weathering in trees or of lightning striking a tree.
- Broom style ? the Hokidachi style is popular among tree species with extensive branches such as deciduous trees. The trunk is upright and the branches extend in all directions and form a circular shape at the top of the tree.
- Literati style ? also called Bunjingi, this kind of style has a distorted twisting trunk and very few leaves. The style inspired by the drawings of Chinese minimalist artists depicting nature in harsh conditions or extreme competition.
- Windswept style ? the Fukinagashi style copies the effect of exposure to winds where the branches and leaves seem to be swept to one side.
- Octopus style ? the Takozukuri style features a short trunk with long curved branches that resemble the tentacles of an octopus.
Considerations in Selecting a Bonsai Type
More than just aesthetics, the selection of a bonsai style also depends on a number of things. One is the maturity of the tree to be used as a certain style may depend on the strengths and defects of the tree. Another consideration is trunk shape as some trees are better for certain styles. For example, trees that grow upright and straight can be used for the upright styles. On the other hand, trees with a tendency to curve or slant may be suited for other styles such as the slanting and cascade styles. Finally, the root system should also be considered. Trees with straight root systems are best for the formal and informal upright styles, while those with secondary root systems can be used for the twin trunks style.
Alongside the choice of bonsai style is the pot or container to be used. The pot on which the bonsai is planted can enhance or downplay the visual effect of a bonsai. For example, both the formal and informal upright styles work best with square, rectangular and oval containers. The slanting style also works with hexagonal and octagonal containers. The cascade and semi-cascade styles are best placed in deep containers rather than shallow ones, while the forest and multi-trunk styles may be used with oval or rectangular pots.
Despite these considerations, it should be remembered that a bonsai is an artistic creation and while these styles provide the basic guidelines, these should not limit the bonsai maker from exploring new styles. You may be able to get more inspiration from observing nature and its diverse phenomena, and the tree itself may determine the kind of style it is most suited to.