The bonsai shapes on this page (in addition to the five basic bonsai styles) are among the most popular.
Some appear very different, others are extensions of the basic bonsai designs. Your bonsai doesn't have to be exactly like a style described, it can be a combination of styles.
Included in the list below are both English and Japanese words for the bonsai shapes. If you are a beginner, there is no need to memorize the Japanese.
However, you may frequently see these words used in some bonsai activities, literature and other websites.
The windswept bonsai is an example of a tree surviving in strong winds and/or harsh weather. This style should look as if a dominant wind has blown the branches to one side.
Branches facing into the wind are often purposely stripped of foliage, leaving bare branches. This particular example of windswept is a Chinese version of the style. Read the article about one artist's unique way to style a windswept.
The above picture is an example of a "raft," as it is seen in nature. No doubt this old Tamarind tree in the Florida Keys was knocked over by a hurricane, but it is a survivor. New trunks which were once side branches are growing upright.
When possible, this natural occurrence is replicated in bonsai in a shallow container. Starter plants that have most of their branches on one side are good potential subjects. Ed's interpretation of a raft style, using Australian Pine, was begun with the plant shown below.
The many trees in a forest look unplanned. Just the opposite is true. Staggering the location of trees is part of what makes a bonsai forest look realistic. Also notice the different sizes of trunks, both in height and girth.
You can see from this picture how forests can differ by using different species. In this forest the trees are very distinct. Both can be found in the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, Washington, D.C.
This style looks like its name, a broom.
The trunk is about one third of the tree. The top two thirds are branches which are shaped into a crown.
This bonsai shape is often used for deciduous trees.
As the tree is developed, the wonderful branching and ramification is on full display in the fall and winter.
At first glance, many bonsai styles can be identified by the basic descriptions.
They may also be combinations of shapes, such as a 'windswept - semi-cascade.'
Or they may be something totally unique, such as this pine by bonsai artist Walter Pall (Germany.)
Although a mixture of styles, it may be considered neagari, because of its dominant feature -exposed root.
Read more about neagari.
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