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Why Bonsai Styles.

Trees are one of God’s most impressive creations, and bonsai growers throughout the world have been inspired by these masterpieces to create their own bonsai masterpieces. In his book, “Bonsai Techniques 1”, John Naka starts the section on different styles in bonsai by saying that: “It is fascinating to make a study of nature’s trees and visualise bonsai shapes”. Not all trees in nature have enough visual impact to inspire a new style. Although bonsai originated in China, the Japanese have had the biggest influence on the bonsai concept and philosophy as we know it today. Likewise, Western bonsai growers, especially the Americans, have been influenced by their environment and culture to develop a new way of expressing this oriental art-form. Similarly, Charles created new indigenous African styles like the Baobab, the Pierneef, the Flat Top, the Bushveld, the Wild fig, and others as the climate and tree shapes are in Africa totally different from those found in the Northern Hemisphere.

We have been re-potting bonsai trees for many years.

Small living space and busy lifestyles leaves you without space, time, and facilities to repot your tree. We have the facilities and expertise to repot your tree and assist in all your reporting requirements.

All bonsai are re-potted with care and emphasis on improving the root system of your tree using the best quality materials available.

Every tree should tell a 'story' and that story is reflected in the style when a tree is being developed as a bonsai.

Classification of Bonsai Styles

Basic Styles

Despite a multitude of Bonsai styles, only five main styles form the backbone of all the styles.

  1. Formal upright or Chokkan style.
  2. Informal upright or Moyo – Gi style.
  3. Slanting or Shakani style.
  4. Semi Cascade or Han – Kezigas Style.
  5. Full Cascade or Kengas Style

The above styles are identified by the angle at which the tree trunk slants towards the horizontal line.

  • Formal upright or straight trunk style – Chokkan.

Formal upright or Chokkan styleFormal upright or Chokkan styleWhen you think of an upright tree, you will think immediately of a pine tree, although this tree forms the basis of the formal upright style, a few deciduous trees, such as the baobab with its impressive thick trunk and traditional broom, could also be classified under this style. These two styles, despite their formal trunks, however, are not examples of the classic Chokkan style.

As the style dictates, the trunk must be perfectly straight, although the very little movement is allowed in the trunk line.

It is necessary for beginners to learn the basic structure and shape of the formal upright style before moving on to other styles. Once the beginner has mastered the basics of the formal upright, the beginner can apply the same basic principles to most other styles.

  • Informal upright style – Moyo-Gi or Tachiki.

Informal upright style – Moyo-Gi or TachikiInformal upright style – Moyo-Gi or TachikiThe informal upright style is one of the five basic styles, and it is usually very popular in most collections.

As the name indicates, the formal upright style is based on an informal trunk and branch structure. The overall shape is triangular; the shape that nature has conferred on most of the conifers species and their seed-bearing cones. Deciduous trees, trained in this style, have a more rounded crown compared to those of conifers. 

  • Slanting Style – Shakan

ASlanting Style – ShakanSlanting Style – Shakans a result of the wind blowing in one dominant direction or when a tree grows in the shadow and must bend toward the sun, the tree will lean in one direction. With Bonsai, the leaning style should grow at an angle of about 60 - 80 degrees relative to the ground.


  • Cascade style - Kengai

Semi-cascade (Han-kengai)

The semi-cascade falls midway between the slanting style and full cascade. The dominant first branch drops at an angle of approximately 45°. The lower trunk line should not drop below the base of the pot.

Full cascade (Kengai)Full cascade (Kengai)Full cascade (Kengai)


The full cascade depicts a tree overhanging a cliff. A variety of styles is found in this group, e.g. the formal, informal, waterfall, windswept, literati, etc. A cascade can be created with or without a crown.


  • Broom Style

Bonsai Broom Style
Bonsai Broom Style Broom-style bonsai resemble the old trees found along city streets or in orchards. A deciduous species is groomed to form a crown of radial branches that show a great deal of ramification (branching twigs), thereby creating a beautiful reflection of an old tree. Some broom styles have a main trunk line that extends from the base of the trunk to the apex; others have branches radiating from one central point, as shown in the drawing.


  • Exposed Root Style

Exposed Root StyleExposed Root StyleIn nature, rain and weather can erode soil from the base of a tree, slowly exposing its roots over the years. Bonsai artists like to exaggerate this effect and show a great deal of root structure. This effect must be developed over a long period of time by baring only a bit of the roots each year and allowing the exposed area to harden off.





  • Root Over Rock Style

Root Over Rock StyleRoot Over Rock StyleWhen a seed lands in a crack in a rock and finds enough soil to survive, the plant’s roots may eventually grow to spread among the thin layers of soil and moss across the rock. In another scenario, the roots slowly grow over and around the rock to the soil below, partially encasing the rock. In bonsai, this effect is created by spreading roots over a rock and then allowing the roots to develop. One way to do this is to bury the rock among the roots when the plant is potted, and let them grow for a period of years before slowly exposing them over time and allowing them to harden off, as done with the exposed root style.

  • Raft Style

In the natural scenario this style seeks to emulate, a woodland tree is damaged by a storm and blown over, breaking the branches on the downward side. Over time, roots develop from the trunk resting on the soil, and the remaining branches (rising vertically from the undamaged side of the trunk) grow to look like new trees connected by the old trunk. In bonsai, a one-sided tree is wired and laid horizontally on soil, branchless side down. By nicking the bark to expose the cambium layer on the underside of the trunk and dusting it with rooting powder, the growth of roots is facilitated. A straight trunk usually forms a straight line of trees; using a curved trunk creates a more interesting pattern of trees that resembles a small grove.

  • Forest Style

Bonsai Forest StyleBonsai Forest StyleUsing five or more trees, artists can create bonsai resembling small or large forests. Sometimes the forest is styled to look as if it reaches far into the distance. By placing smaller trees in front and progressively larger ones behind, a far-view perspective can be achieved. Another perspective—that of a viewer amid the trees and looking at the forest stretching beyond—is created by placing larger plants in the front. In all cases, use trees of different diameters and heights and arrange them so that no three trees are placed in a straight line when viewed from the front or the side. The trees are all placed at different distances from each other. The overall effect is a canopy resembling a scalene triangle.

  • Literati Style

Literati Style
Literati Style The literati style of bonsai is meant to show the essence of a tree. A literati has a beautiful, thin, and unique trunk line. Branches are kept to a minimum. This style is often thought to be the most difficult to achieve. Only a bonsai artist who has mastered all the rules and created great designs can successfully break the classic rules and create elegant literati.


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