The goal is to create a tree, in miniature, that resembles its counterpart in nature, within the bounds of a pot. This tree is trained and treated in such a way; its final impression is that of an aged tree. There are bonsai that because of their training over many years, are considered family heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation.
Four most Common Styles of the Bonsai
Upright: There is the formal and informal upright. Both have a single trunk, which is wider at the bottom and tapers to the top. These forms are often found in nature and are good styles for beginners to start with. The trunk needs to be visible from the base to the top. While the formal style has a straight trunk, the trunk of the informal style is allowed to turn and twist. Popular choice sources for both of these styles are the juniper, pine, spruce with the maple added for the informal style. These styles are often put in a round, small diameter pot.
Slanting: Nature, especially the wind, often has a hand in the formation of trees. The slanting style leans to one side at about 60-80 degrees to the base. Always have the first branch projecting opposite the way the trunk is leaning. There can be slight twisting of the trunk or it can be straight. Again, the above-mentioned species may be used, but the conifer is the most popular. A shallow depth pot with a larger dimension is needed here.
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Cascade: Like the upright there are two versions, the Semi-cascade and the Cascade. Where these styles would be found in nature is on a cliff, bent down over time from the elements.
The training for both requires wiring to create the cascade effect. The full cascade style uses a tall pot and the bonsai is trained to extend below the bottom of the pot over time. Creating this continual downward growth takes patience and persistence, as it is not natural for a tree's growth. The semi-cascade would be put in a pot that is not quite as tall and it is not allowed to extend below the bottom of the pot. The juniper adapts well to this training and these forms. A flowering species used for the cascade styles include the, azalea, cotoneaster and pyracantha.
Multi-trunk: The multi-trunk has one main trunk, and smaller trunks forming from the side. There are also the species such as the arboricola that are used to re-create the banyan tree that has air roots extending to the ground. Over time the air roots become trunk-like. Another specimen is the ficus tree. The multi-trunk styles can be planted on a flat rock surface. There are those planted on an actual rock and even trained to grow from within a crack in a rock. The rocks for this latter group, in placed in a shallow round pot. All these forms have their distinct names and training methods.