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Bonsai is a Japanese word, which basically means a plant, tree, or a group of trees or plants growing in a container (Bon = 'basin & Sai = 'to plant'). Bonsai is a fascinating living art, about growing miniature trees in the way of full-size mature trees. Mostly bonsai trees are grown using the same species from which the full-size trees are grown.

Bonsai styles

Bonsai styles are based on the way trees grow in the nature. Styles can range from single trunk, multiple trunk to group and forest plantings. Style depends upon the chosen plant specimen. Each specimen will suggest a particular style.

Bonsai styles

Chokkan (Formal upright Bonsai style)

Chokkan style trees are straight, upright and formal in appearance. This shape occurs frequently in nature, when a tree is grown in ideal conditions i.e. constant source of suitable nutrients and water, and no severe weather conditions. Many coniferous species of Juniperus, Larix, Picea and Pinus are suitable for the style.

Moyogi (Informal upright Bonsai style)

This style will have a trunk that bends and curves, and has changes of direction, which resembles the most common style in nature of a tree whose trunk bends and curves due to buildings situated near by and competition from other trees.

Shakan (Slanting Bonsai style)

This style of bonsai tree resembles a tree grow in nature on cliff tops and in mountainous areas which has been exposed to strong winds and growing at angle slanting away from the prevailing winds and redirect its branches growth to suit the new growing angle of the trunk.

Kengai (Cascade Bonsai style)

This Bonsai style resembles a tree growing in nature, on a steep rock or cliff, with a downward bend as a result of snow, falling rocks or avalanches. It can be difficult to maintain a downward-growing tree because the direction of growth opposes the tree’s natural tendency to grow upright. kengai Bonsai are planted in tall pots, and branches stretch down below the roots.

Han-kengai (Semi cascade Bonsai style)

This style reflects a tree growing in nature from the side of a rock face or on a riverbank, who's efforts have gone into growing towards the light. The trunk grows upright for a small distance and then bends downwards and will never grow below the bottom of the pot. The crown is usually above the rim of the pot while subsequent branching occurs below the rim.

Sokan (Double trunk style Bonsai)

This popular style resembles a tree growing in nature with two trunks from ground level, in result of seed germinating close together or two plants growing together are combined by natural grafting at the base.

Hokidachi (Broom style Bonsai)

The Hokidachi (Hoki = 'broom' & Dachi = 'sticking upwards') bonsai gets its name from having a form that looks similar to a broom with the brush end sticking upwards. The trunk is straight and upright and does not continue to the top of the tree, but the branches start radiating outwards from clustered points of origin midway up the trunk, thin out as they climb upwards, and form a fine semi-circle dome at the top. The broom style is suited for deciduous trees with extensive, fine branching, like elms, maples, and zelkovas. Broom style Bonsai has stunning sight during winter months.

Bunjingi (Literati Bonsai style)

The Bunjingi or Literati style is the best example of trees that have to fight for their existence. In nature, this type of tree is found in places where competition from other plants is so great that the only way to survive is to grow above all. The trunk snakes up and is bare because only the top gets enough sunlight. To make it appear even more tough and strong, bark from some dry branches is removed (called Jin) or are removed from one side of the trunk (called Shari). These trees are usually planted in small, round pots.

Fukinagashi (Windswept Bonsai style)

This style of Bonsai resembles a tree in nature, which is struggling to survive and its branches as well as the trunk grow to one side as if the wind has been blowing the tree constantly in one direction. The branches grow out on all sides of the trunk but will all eventually be bent to one side.

Kabudachi (Multitrunk Bonsai style)

The Kabudachi style is actually same as the double trunk style, but with 3 trunks or more. The trunks grow all from a single root system, so it is a single tree. The trunks have a collective cup with a single apex formed by the thickest and most developed trunk.

Yose-ue (Forest Bonsai style)

The Yose-Ue style is very much like the style of multiple trunks, but with one important difference: the forest consists of loose trees that form a group. The most developed trees are usually found in the middle of the pot, which is usually large and flat. The smaller trees are planted more to the sides so that a single glass of leaves is formed. Avoid planting trees in a straight line, so the forest looks much more natural.

Seki-joju (Growing on a rock Bonsai style)

On rocks, the roots of the trees are forced to look for the fertile soil that is in the holes and fissures. The roots are bare on the rocks, so they cover a trunk-like bark to protect them from the sun. As the roots that grow on the stone later sink into the earth of the pot, the care of this type of tree does not differ from that of other styles. In principle, Bonsai can take many forms, but some styles seem more natural than others.

Ishisuki (Growing in a rock Bonsai style)

In this style trees grow within the gaps or fissures of a rock, which means that there is only a very small space where they can develop and absorb nutrients. Therefore, trees that grow inside a rock should not give the impression of being healthy plants that grow quickly but on the contrary must give the impression that the tree struggles to survive. Obviously it is necessary to water and to fertilize regularly since the capacity of storage of water and nutrients in the ground and inside the rock is very small. The rock within which the Bonsai grows is usually placed in a flat pot containing water or gravel.

Ikadabuki (Raft Bonsai style)

Sometimes an old felled tree can survive by growing its branches upwards. For this to happen the roots of the old tree must provide enough nutrients to these branches to make this effort. After a time, new roots grow from the bottom of the fallen trunk, assuming in the end the function of the original roots. The old branches that grew upwards gets bigger and thicker turning into multi-branch trunks, thanks to the nutrient flow of the new roots. The new trunks end up forming a unique cup, just like in the Yose-ue style.

Sharimiki (Shari Bonsai style)

Over time, in some trees arise areas of the trunk without bark due to inclement weather. These areas usually start in the lower part of the trunk, close to the roots and ascends by it becoming thinner and thinner. The intense sunlight comes to whiten those bare parts and give them a very characteristic look of this style. With respect to Bonsai, this process can be emulated by removing the bark from the trunk and treating with calcium polysulphide to bleach it more quickly. This technique is called shari.