Non-Classical Bonsai Styles

Less Formal Structures For Bonsai Tree Design

Non-classical bonsai styles are more loosely defined than the classical styles but take just as much skill to create successfully.

Designing the bonsai tree according to a bonsai style is a useful way to achieve a good result as it creates a form and stimulates an idea for the practitioner to work around. There are many recognized non-classical styles that can be used or combined to create a successful outcome. Many of the non-classical styles use or imply a landscape effect. Individual styles are defined by the shape or planting method, though a few of the more outlandish styles are defined around different aspects of the bonsai tree.

Forest Bonsai

The forest or yose bonsai style is created using a group of trees which exhibit similar characteristics and shape but different truck thicknesses. An odd number of trees often works best for small groups, and small-leaved species create the best effect. The larger trunks are usually placed “front and center” to lend perspective to the outcome.

Raft Bonsai

The raft bonsai style looks like a group of trees similar to the forest bonsai but the trunks are actually the branches of a trunk that is buried at the base of the structure, so that the design actually uses just a single tree. Conifers often work in this style more easily than most species due to their straight trunks and branches.

Windswept Bonsai

The windswept bonsai or fukinagashi bonsai style is deceptively difficult to achieve and is recognised in some circles as being the most difficult to achieve well. The tree should look as though it is dramatically windswept in an exposed spot. Pine trees are quite good for this style. The best outcomes are often achieved by letting any branches on the underside of the leaning effect grow longer than those on the upper side, if possible.

Driftwood Bonsai

The driftwood or sharamiki bonsai style is a more abstract design style than most, used mainly with conifers which provide darker foliage. This then creates the contrast with stripped parts of the trunk and bark, which are also sometimes bleached to heighten the contrasting colors. The outcome represents trees in mountainous environments.

Root-Over-Rock Bonsai

One of the most popular landscape styles, the root-over-rock or sekijoju bonsai style represents a tree whose roots have been laid bare by, for example, a stream having washed the soil away. A strong tree with thick roots is the best type to utilize for this style, which takes a good deal of patience and skill to achieve.

Classical bonsai styles evolved from the principles that bonsai artists used centuries ago. Despite their often more formal appearance than the non-classical styles, they retain plenty of scope for the bonsai enthusiast to work within or adapt, especially if the tree is of one of the more suitable species for the classical design.

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