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The Art of Bonsai Shaping

Aug 6, 2008
One of the key characteristics of a bonsai tree is its shape. Bonsai gardening is not only a hobby, it is an art form, and this is demonstrated by the way you choose to guide and shape your tree. Bonsai trees can be shaped into almost any form that you desire. However, there are several profiles that are more widespread than others when it comes to bonsai gardening.

Literati

The most common shape of bonsai tree is the literati style, and this is what most people visualize when they think of a bonsai. The literati shape consists of a bare trunk and hardly any branches. The branches of this style are all positioned near the top. The lower part of the trunk, which is bare, is usually elegantly twisted.

Formal and Informal Upright

Upright styles, both formal and informal, are another familiar approach to bonsai shaping. Trees in these forms are guided into an erect, upright position with a tapered trunk. The informal style features the well-known curves and bends which distinguish it from the formal shape.

Slanting

This style starts out the same as the formal upright shape with its straight trunk. The only difference is that the trunk slants at an angle, either to the right or left of the base.

Forest

An advanced form of bonsai gardening is the forest style, which consists of artistically grouping several bonsais in one container. The trees are of varying heights, which gives the perception of depth. It is typical for three or more trees to be used in the forest style, usually an odd number. However, four trees are never used in one pot, as the number four has implications in Japan.

Cascading

One of the most striking shapes of bonsai trees is the cascade style. The cascade style imitates the trees that grow on mountains or over the water, and is very beautiful. The top of the tree flows to one side and grows to the foot of its container or just beneath it.

Although these shapes are the most frequently used for styling a bonsai tree, you may discover a new fashion that you prefer. However, it is always advised to begin with a common style when you first attempt to shape a bonsai tree. Once you have mastered this, then you can begin to add your very own personal touches to lend uniqueness to the tree. Remember, it's an art, not just a plant.
About the Author
If you're looking for information on bonsai trees, you can find more articles by Sarah Duke at All About Bonsai Trees. Learn about the different varieties of bonsai, their care, the accessories you need, and more.
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