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Browse Styles
The fundamental styles of bonsi and their variants.


Styles are named conventions based on visual characteristics that influence how people view a tree. The artistic and conceptual expectations of excellence may shift among the different styles. Their associated meanings are often culturally-bound and relate to other art forms as painting, dance, and music. Since styles are expressive and plants have to grow, bonsai artists sometimes shift a plant’s style in anticipation of how best to work with a tree’s potential. This transition requires years of intentional restructuring.

Posture Styles

Formal Upright
Characters include a straight and fundamentally vertical trunk so the tip is directly above the center of the base of the trunk. The trunk should taper gradually from a significant base. Exposed roots should radiate in all directions. Associations relate to the age and scale of a majestic tree as might be found where natures’ ideal conditions have supported a benign and stable life.
Characters include a tapered trunk that leans such that the tip is above and even outside the projected perimeter of the pot. The major roots occupy the side opposite the slant - reinforcing both a sense of stability and a strong ‘negative space’ (void) below the trunk and crown. Associations relate to places in nature where recurrent storms, accidents and even calamities have been endured and overcome. Successfully facing ongoing adversity is fundamental to the obvious scars and rebalanced branches that express resilience.
Semi Cascade
Characters include a twisting trunk such that some branches - and the tip - are outside of and below the rim of the pot. Some of the other important branches will be above both the trunk and the rim of the pot. The exposed roots convey stability and strength against even the fiercest storms. Associations relate to cliff faces, edges of waterfalls, and other rocky-crevice sites in nature where wind, snow and sleet all conspire to force the tree to reach the light by bending down. Endurance against the elements is exemplified.
Characters center on the twisting, descending trunk such that the apex is well below the soil surface and often below the bottom of the pot. Unlike the semi-cascade, here most of the foliage is below the highest point of the trunk as it makes its downward turn. Associations relate to the otherwise almost overwhelming power and direction of the unyielding and at times fierce storms that control these harshly-exposed places in nature, as an ocean cliff or mountain rock ridge.

Environmental Styles

Broom style is almost always a variation on the formal upright but with a deciduous species. Here the branches are delicately subdivided such that they make a nearly perfect dome - both with and without leaves. Broom style plants intentionally suggest their deft training, as is also seen with domesticated trees in orchards and in some street-scapes
Exposed Root
Exposed Root style is usually a variant of informal upright. All the major roots are exposed and often intertwined. Although the inspiration is from places in nature where the soil has washed away, as in dunes and streambanks, in bonsai the effect can be artistically exaggerated. Training to this style can take years - even decades - to fully develop.
Root Over Rock
Root Over Rock style has exposed roots that cling to the surface of the rock on their way to the soil. For visual and physical balance, these are usually informal upright or slanting style variants. The visual interplay of the entire composition has to be balanced - even though the rock may be dramatic. When the rock predominates the style becomes Clinging to the Rock. Both evoke imagined scenes in nature and may imply nearby water, as along a rocky slope or canyon.
Double Trunk
Double Trunk style has twinned trunks coming from the same root system. The two trunks must be of different diameters with the larger one also being the tallest. They usually have few branches between them, but overall the crown creates one continuous shape. Such trees are encountered in nature - the parts have clearly interacted with each other over years to create a unity - much like many relationships.

Moving to Leadership

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