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Introduction to Bonsai; What is a bonsai?

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Introduction to Bonsai

What is a bonsai? A bonsai is a potted plant!

the meaing of bonsai

This is the most simplistic definition that you can have the bonsai and that in some cases could create a kind of ambiguity.

Coming from a western, “potted plant” has a meaning; it seems that all potted plants are bonsai, but not so, hence the ambiguity.

Coming from a Japanese “bonsai” has a charge of wider significance, because of the ideogram in bonsai there are a number of symbols that give much more information.

As you may already know a character, the name says it, it must convey an idea, a situation, an event or a well-defined concept.

Usually the characters were created by scholars or intellectuals who, with their great knowledge of it achieve new, inventing them from scratch or by combining simpler characters that share achieve a new thought or a new concept.

Let’s go step by step: if you ask a Japanese translation of bonsai or if we look at a dictionary translation result “potted tree”. In fact, looking in detail the character in question, we can note the presence of the following elements.

The tree: this certainly could not miss as it is the main protagonist.

Tray: The tray item indicates that there ‘a vase, but something more refined, which is a tray. In fact, bonsai pots look more like a tray with a vase of flowers, just look at the shape colors, legs, drawing.

The plot: This concept may suggest that the ground is not the only medium in which they sink and anchor the roots, but also a beautiful thing to see, and the micro-environment of the forest in miniature where the moss is simulated and the grassy meadow a few pebbles here and there is to represent the rocks at the foot of the tree.

Ancient symbol, this symbol comes from the character of China and may represent a cutting tool (e.g. sharp blade or knife), perhaps indicating the need to use tools to make the bonsai.

The three symbols tree, soil and ancient symbols combined mean cultivation, especially “read-it in a manner graceful. This means that there is human intervention, so a bonsai plant-made, not made alone, but man-made. In summary, the set of concepts embodied bonsai certainly much broader meaning than simply “potted plant”, you could almost think that referring to a Japanese bonsai intends to say something like: “miniature tree grown in pots with elegance “.

Origins and evolution

The bonsai comes from Japan; the idea of the tree in the pot comes from China.

You cannot be dated exactly the year when the man decided to grow trees in pots.

History and legend are mixed: some say that the first bonsai subjects were collected in the wild, chosen for their small size, and then cared for and grown in pots to keep them so.

Another hypothesis that humans nomadic wanderings in the territory in the wake of the cattle had need to bring their own herbs and aromatic herbs or small trees which were planted in pots.

These and many others are the assumptions and evidence that suggest ancient origins. One thing is for sure, all these routes are converged toward the cultivation of the tree in a pot. A potted tree was used to adorn the entrance of the temple, the palace garden, or the scene of a play. A shaft mounted against the stones, and the whole place in a low container could be a living landscape, and from this derived the idea of the miniature landscape in pots.

All this happened in China, perhaps a thousand years ago, then, with the flourishing of cultural exchange, about seven hundred years ago, the idea of the tree in pot arrived in Japan where apparently liked it so much as to be further developed and improved.
Since then it’s been a long time, from the first idea of the tree in the pot, this miniature tree has changed, for example, name several times, which with subsequent amendments and arrived at the condition of today’s “Bonsai”.

Characteristics of a Bonsai – How to Observe it

After you have seen in a very general way it is: a bonsai, if you want to delve a bit more into an argument, we can understand it better by dividing it into different parts which have, or at least should have known, of the peculiar characteristics.

These features, which we will see later, the various components of the tree bonsai are more detailed and constructed more refined increase the value of the subject.

As can be seen a bonsai? The plant should be at ‘eye level of the observer, that is, the focal axis of the beholder bonsai must hit the tree at about the mid-height

Please note that a bonsai has a front and a rear. We will develop this concept more lately, for now let’s just say that the bonsai should be noted that the side is determined to be the opposite. If we need to set a hypothetical path that our eye must follow to observe a bonsai we can say that the sequence of observation from the bottom upwards.

Looking at it judges. Judges his bonsai for self-criticism, is judged to take a lesson from observation, is judged to improve, it is judged to give a value to bonsai.

Key points and the features that give the spirit and value of a bonsai is not much, but it must surely be very realistic and natural, perhaps exacerbated in some cases to achieve certain effects, however, never grotesque.

  • Roots are to be emerging, which is gradually sinking into the ground.
  • Trunk:
    a sturdy trunk and conical, and conical, means a body that narrows in diameter as you approach the apex. A rough-looking bark that gives an impression antiquated and gives the tree a strong personality.
  • Branches:
    the main branches should be distributed in a very natural. Few branches well distributed, not too thick, so that you can scan with a look inside the foliage. not a collection of little messy their shape must be a succession of increasingly shorter internodes between them as is found in nature.
  • Hair:
    the hair must be a set of small branches, just a continuation of the shrinking of the secondary branches, dense and light at the same time so as to easily filter out light and air.
  • Overall design:
    the overall design of the tree must be guessed at first sight; must be balanced as a whole, should look natural and realistic, ie it must represent “the tree”!

Worth mentioning is the terminology used by the Japanese to frame petty at first glance, in terms of size, a bonsai.
Instead of talking about bonsai top ten centimeters or two feet to their classification sounds something like this:
The bonsai small up to 6 cm. are called Mame.

They are very minute and four or five of these can be in the palm of your hand like peas or green beans from which their name.
The size and later called Shoin, and it gets to about 15 cm. One shoin fit on the palm of your hand.
We then move on to the bonsai “hand” and the “two hands”; this means that to move and necessary for the first type a single hand and two hands for the second type.

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When one man is able to move without too much difficulty a bonsai called this “bonsai from a man”, then you go to the bonsai by two men, three men, and so on.

Style Basics

Before you learn how to make the bonsai. We must be clear about what you want to achieve.

For now, we have already had an idea of what a bonsai and what are its main features.

As the generic term to describe a dwelling house or a building, as a general term for a bonsai and miniature tree.

As the architect or engineer to design the house already knows exactly what to accomplish in terms of shape and size, depending on whether it’s a house, a building, a building or a skyscraper … so the bonsai creates a second well-defined style.

The styles bonsai, invented to classify and frame in a certain pattern according to the various types of bonsai their features.

Are vital in order to immediate utility for the subject, describe it, analyze it and judge it. Of course, the classification according to a certain style is not a random but reflects performance and forms of models of trees which are found in nature.

Many times they have funny names to bring a smile to the most malicious in his sleeve, but these names are nothing but the translation from Japanese to English. The jump between languages and cultures so different sometimes curious effects.

There are five basic styles and the unique characteristics that distinguish them are obvious.

Style erect (CHOKKAN)

style of bonsai tree ; erect

The most obvious characteristic of this style is represented by the main trunk perfectly straight. At about a third of its height branches off to the right or left of the fulcrum on the first branch, to a third of the remaining height, that is, between the first branch and the apex , departs the second branch in the opposite direction to the first.

The third branch, positioned at one third of the remaining portion of the trunk above the second branch grows towards the rear.
The growth alternating right, left and back is repeated with the same rules until the top of the tree, increasingly diminishing the distance between the branches themselves.

The branches of a tree will be right too ‘these rights. With regard to their inclination, the first branches will be more inclined downwards. to simulate those branches which, in nature, by the weight of the foliage or to the weight of snow have this natural trend, those in the central part of the shaft will have a horizontal course, those towards the apex will be facing upwards, as young branches are all in search of the light.

The length of the branches starting from the bottom upwards must gradually decrease so that the overall design of the canopy remains inside a hypothetical triangle, as well as decrease the diameter of the branches must hand in hand it approaches to ‘ apex of the tree.
This style of tree what naturally represented mainly by conifers, such as firs, pines and oaks.

Informal upright style (Moyogi)

bonsai style informal upright

Unlike the previous style, it has the main trunk and branches strictly rights but runs. The performance curves of the trunk may have more or less pronounced, or even a hint of winding sets it apart from the formal upright style.

The vertical line from the tip of the tree to the ground, falling to the center of the base of the tree.
Also in this case the character of the branches should follow the trunk. The dictated by the distribution of the branches on the trunk follows the same rules.

This style, by far the most used, is the vast majority of trees which are found in nature; they are trees growing trend with erect. But it’s not perfectly straight, as the stately elm that lonely in a plain, in a place full of water and nutrients, are developed with wide form and globular; or the pine of the Alps that snow and blizzards are modeled with troubled silhouette.

Style inclined (SHAKAN)

bonsai tree stye ; inclained

If at a formal or informal upright style give a considerable slope, we get the style inclined.
The vertical line from the apex of the tree to the ground falls out from the base of the trunk.

A branch that grows in the opposite direction to the ‘slope of a sense of balance and visually physical. in nature we find this type of tree, weather events have shaped the form and structure changed significantly. For example, a landslide change the morphology of the soil where it grows the tree, or a large mass of snow forces the slope of the shaft.

Semi-cascade style (HAN-KENGAI)

semi cascade bonsai tree style

A further tilt brings us to the semi-cascade style

The appearance is that of a tree with a trunk lying. The branches and the apex which are lowered on the outside of the vessel so conspicuous. in some cases, almost touching the ground plane of the vessel. Trees with these features in nature are found in places at the edge of habitability, such as the last outpost of life at the top of the mountains, where the trees have almost prostrate creeping trend and shape flattened at the edges of the rocks.

Everything that grows vertically during the short growing season is lowered and flattened by the large amount of snow in the long winter.

Cascading Style (KENGAI)

bonsai tree style ; cascading

A further downward inclination, up to bring the apex of the tree below the lower edge of the vessel leads to the cascade style or sagging.

The leaf mass virtually the entire outside of the vessel and resembles a tree growing upside down.

Of course also this style has been observed in nature; the response we find in the trees that live on cliffs or in the grooves of narrow and deep valleys: where in a small rocky ravine and a handful of earth were offered the option of a seed to germinate.

The increase in the volume of the crown towards the attainment of the light moves away more and more from the rock face and gaining weight causes this typical trend sagging.

Powerful air currents, rock falls mutilate the tree ripping out some of the branches. That made the scene where Mother Nature builds trees in cascading style.

These are the styles fundamental. the forms and rules that govern them are essential for the success of the subject. Many times, the rules do not apply to the letter, but its worth it used and respected, at least in the beginning. To some it may seem academic or academic use of these rules for fear that their application leads to make bonsai repetitive; not true, you can be assured that despite the repetitive movements and the rules applied, you will achieve more and different bonsai.

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Variations to the Basic Styles

So how, starting from the tree perfectly straight and making subsequent changes to it we went through the five basic styles, so starting from the first five and making their variants will have a range of styles derived from those principles.

Style Scopa (Hokidachi)

scopa bonsai tree style

So called because it looks like a broom upside down

We can think of it as a variation of the upright style inherits from the right main trunk, which branches into a number of branches that grow at an angle sufficiently close to vertical.

These branches are divided into secondary branches always smaller with the same trend of the major ones just as the broom used for brooms.
Unlike the formal upright style, branches radiate roughly the same point and are more or less the same length

Vertical wind (ETUKINAGASHI)

vertical wind bonsai tree style

If the styles erect or inclined we force the growth of all the branches in the same direction, we get the style wind.

This style features a tree that lives in the particular situation of being constantly hit by the wind.

A clear example given from the tree that is located on a cliff: all branches that are in the wake of the wind can survive or at least are modeled according to that line; branches grow into the wind are inevitably slowed growth or torn.

A style tilted beneath wind will therefore be the main branch on the same side of the rake that extends in the direction of the wind.

Style on the Rock (ISHITSUKI)

on the rock bonsai tree style

The style of rock is a tree that was born near a small rock or on top of it, has its roots entangled with the rock.

In a nutshell, the base of the trunk and roots has incorporated the rock making it an integral part of the tree.

Style Clinging to the Rock (SEKIJOJU)

clinging to the rock bonsai tree style

When the rock so large as to become the focal point of the composition, the tree planted on it or juts outwardly from a recess of the same.
How the name did suggests, this tree lives clinging to the rock.
The rock provides a ravine, a concavity or a slot where the roots are hosted just as they do in nature.

Trunk Drifting (SHARIMIKI)

trunk drifting bonsai tree style

This picturesque name the translation from driftwood, a term that Americans have in turn translated from Japanese.

A tree that has essentially a large piece of wood bleached and dry, just like the drift wood worked by the waves and bleached by the salt, especially in the basal part of the trunk, a bonsai to great effect, both for the contrast of the black stump with the green foliage that overlaps both for the message tree lived tenaciously against the adversities of nature that have thus forged.

Wrapped Trunk (BANKAN)

wrapped trunk bonsai tree style

This style is, with the main stem, the trees that have suffered severe circumstances but to continue to survive them.

Strong sunlight, long press on a snow cover, strong wind swirls are managers of these picturesque forms

Trunk Spiral (NEJIKAN)

trunk spiral bonsai tree style

The vein of the cortex that spirals irregular on structures now dry and bleached wood characterizes this style.
Typical shape of the high mountain juniper or those of windswept cliffs.

Carved Trunk (SABAMIKI)

curved trunk bonsai tree style

Style, quite unique and typically made with deciduous and which at first glance seems only derived from human manipulation represents the kind of trees that unfortunately for them they lost an entire side of their structure.

The dead part with the passage of time and dry deteriorates. Deteriorating rots and flakes leaving place to a cavity within a structure of fibers lives that continue to support and feed the remaining branches that constitute the crown.

E ‘achievable digging with a gouge the trunk of those subjects who already have a crown unbalanced and therefore hardly usable in another way. One other way, a little more drastic, to remove half of the shaft in the longitudinal direction and then empty the trunk.

Literati Style (BUNJING)


The literati style, so the translation called literary = erudite style was loved by the people of culture, such as painters, poets, scholars, writers. The tree is represented in its essential elements, in other words, the translation of living material that thin tree.
Or rather the idea of tree that we find in the ancient Japanese paintings.

Trees in Group

trees in group bonsai tree style

If we put together more trees with each other, we get the Forestine or compositions of trees in groups. These compositions, apart from the style mother-child composed of two subjects, usually comprise an odd number of elements, by groups in limited number, for example three, five or seven elements or groups consisting of more than twenty elements.

It is worth mentioning that it can happen that the number of subjects in a Forestina is equal to, for example, you are, it will be difficult to find one with the four elements!

The number four, as well as for us Westerners numbers 13 and 17 are avoided by the superstitious, rarely found in Japan because it has the same sound as the word for death.
There is no room number four in the hotel, the numbering of floors of a building we pass from the third to the fifth floor, there is the table number four at the restaurant, there are four trees in Forestine bonsai.

Style Mother-Son (KORABUKI)

mother son bonsai tree style

So called because it consists of two entities with the same sinuosity and trend growth, a larger one, and a little more, giving the feeling of a mother holding her son close to him.
The base of the two logs is very close and sometimes can be the same.
In this second case, we realized planting the subject so close that after a few years at the base blend.



When all the drums are joined by a same root, the Forestina takes the name of the raft.

The analogy with the raft that the logs have somehow related between them is obvious, in this case also apply rules king views previously in terms of proportions of trees and scenographic aspect.

Forestina This can be done lying down with a tree, where the trunk will act as a main root that connects the various drums (ex-branches).
Another technique is to use a root ascent: to exploit the various suckers to form the various drums.

This page is often found with these terms
are English Elm related to juniper  |  bonsai kengai  |  bonsai literati  |  bonsai on the rock  |  bonsai shakan  |  bonzai pet names  |  Literaty bonsai  |  mimpi kotoran 4D  |  


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