Styles of Bonsai

Since a bonsai symbolizes a larger tree, the most popular styles can be anticipated by recalling how trees grow naturally. Most grow upright, of course, but under various environmental conditions trees are seen to cascade over embankments (perhaps as the soil erodes away from their roots), lean away from a strong wind, or clutch a mountainside. They are also found as single, perfect specimens or in groups in which each indi­vidual’s appearance is lost in the larger shape of the grove (Figure 12-13).

Beginning and Wiring the Bonsai

The plant should be shaped before it is placed in the container. The shallow root system does not permit pruning of the plant until it has time to establish itself in the container.

The bonsaist first selects the style that the plant is to attain. Branches important to the shape are retained; others are pruned away. If cuts are extensive, a wound paint may be used. If the formal, upright style is selected, the branches will need to be evenly distributed around the plant with closely spaced internodes. Branches must be pruned so that they are largest and longest at the base and get shorter and smaller as they approach the top of the plant. The central branch must be straight and strong. In informal uprights, the tapered branch selection is the same, but the central branch can be crooked.

Slanted or cascading styles often have three major branches, rep­resenting heaven, earth, and man, a relationship that is spiritually ingrained in the Oriental tradition. Heaven is always the uppermost branch; earth is the lowest branch; and man is the middle branch. Other branches may exist on the bonsai, but they are not permitted to com-

pete with the major three. Cascade styles of bonsai are one-sided styles, so the branches should be selected with that in mind. Other styles are not so flat, although many will have a preferred direction or side for viewing (Figure 12-14).

figure 12-14. A young bonsai receiving its first pruning (Delmar/Cengage Learning)

It is unlikely that the plant will have the desired shape, with each branch in its proper place, after the first pruning. Wiring will be needed to direct the plant’s growth as the style develops. Copper wire of differ­ent gauges is used because copper is pliable and weathers quickly to a neutral, unobjectionable appearance.

Wiring should be started at the bottom of the tree and worked upward (Figures 12-15 and 12-16). Heavy-gauge wire should be used to direct the trunk. The end of the wire should be anchored by insertion several inches into the soil ball. Then evenly spaced and parallel coils of wire should be wrapped around the trunk at approximately one-inch intervals. The trunk wire should stop just short of where the branches meet the trunk to allow the thinner wire used for the branches to be anchored around the trunk. The branch wire should first be anchored to the trunk, then wrapped in coils that match and parallel those on the trunk. The finest gauge wire should be used to direct the thin twigs. It should be anchored to a branch before beginning the coiling. Not all bonsais require the wiring of all three parts: trunk, branches, and twigs.