There are many different ways to grow and style a bonsai tree, most of which (though not all), tend to mimic and reflect naturally growing trees in the wild. Some styles accentuate and focus on the characteristics that form when a tree experiences a naturally occurring hardship like heavy winds or severe snowfall, while other styles mimic trees that have aged into full maturity, unburdened by any hardships at all. It is important to note that while these classifications are useful to gaining a greater understanding of the wide range of different types of bonsai, not all bonsai will fit perfectly into one of these categories. Bonsai in an art form and should not be constrained or limited to anything less than the boundaries of an artists imagination.
Formal Upright Bonsai – Chokkan
The Formal Upright style of bonsai is a very popular style of bonsai. It reflects a tree grown to full maturity, totally unhampered by nature’s hardships. The tree has a straight, upright, tapering trunk that is clearly visible. The branches of the Upright Formal style bonsai are thickest at the bottom and progressively become finer as they reach the top.
Informal Upright Bonsai – Moyogi
The Informal Upright style is another popular style used in the art of bonsai. It’s trunk incorporates curves with its apex centered directly over the point where the trunk exits the soil. Branching usually occurs at each curve of the trunk.
Slanting Bonsai -Shakan
The Slanting style reflects a tree in the wild that has experienced a great deal of wind from one predominate direction that has forced the tree to one side. The trunk is straight and comes forth out of the soil at about 55-80 degree angle. The apex of the tree will be located on the leaning side of the root ball.
Windswept Bonsai – Fukinagashi
The Windswept style bonsai mimics a tree that has experienced even more damaging wind that the Slanted style. Not only does it tend to lean in one direction but the branches of Windswept style bend around to the leeward side of the trunk.
Cascading Bonsai – Kengai
The Cascading style bonsai is designed to represent a tree that has grown on the side of a cliff or bluff and has experienced quite a bit of heavy snowfall or potentially a land slide which has forced this tree to survive by growing unnaturally downwards. They are generally grown in taller pots. The apex is usually above the rim with the branches reaching downwards in a curvy manner.
Semi-Cascading Bonsai – Han-Kengai
The Semi-Cascading style of bonsai is very similar to the Cascading style with the main difference being that the branches do not drop below the base of the pot.
Literati Bonsai – Bunjingi
The Literati style of bonsai mimics trees in the wild that struggle to survive in a dense forest where all the trees are fighting for sunlight. The tree competes with other trees for sunlight and must grow tall to reach the top of the canopy. It has a bare trunk line with most of the branches towards the top of apex.
Double Trunk Bonsai – Sokan
The Double Trunk style of bonsai is not a very popular style. It consists of two trunks that stem from one base. Usually, one of the trunk is less dominant and is generally smaller in size. Both of the trunks’ foliage work together to produce a single crown.