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Types of Bonsai Trees

By Danita Fausek, eHow Contributor Types of Bonsai Trees thumbnail

There is little more mystical and meditative than the creation of a Bonsai tree. While originally created from regular size trees in the gardens of Japan, they are now mostly created in miniature. The art of creating a bonsai tree can be done on most any type of tree; however, there are some that are recommended for each specific style of bonsai due to the growth characteristics inherent in the each species. Understanding the art form is just the first step in this rewarding practice.

  1. History

    • Tree PunsBonsai, or pun-sai, first became popular in China in the late 11th century. The early bonsais were made from trees with rugged and gnarled trunks and branches that often took on the look of animals, birds and dragons. When Japan began to adopt some of the cultural ideas of China, the art of bonsai became a practice used in Zen mediation and became tied to the spiritual aspect of the connection between earth, heaven and man.


    • By the late 14th century, bonsai began to make an appearance indoors for special occasions. Small trees were being taken from the wild that displayed certain characteristics desired by the artist and planted in containers that then were used as centerpieces of many Japanese gardens. They represented an understanding of the simplicity of nature by the artist. The removal of all but the most important areas of the tree symbolized the Zen philosophy and study of the natural coexistence between man and the elements.


    • Different species of trees are more desirable than others as the artist considered the style of bonsai they wished to create. Each style has a definite look to it, and the plants themselves are not only chosen to enhance this look but are trimmed accordingly.

      Formal upright: The trunk of this tree is perfectly straight, and its branches are symmetrical or spaced so they balance when viewed from all sides.

      Informal upright: This trunk can slant slightly to the right or the left. Branches are symmetrical; however, they are balanced according to the slant of the trunk.

      Slanting: The trunk of this style leans at an angle and generally shows the roots growing from the side. The branches are grouped in threes and should begin 1/3 up the trunk, lending a natural look to the slant.

      Cascade: The tip of the this plant will cascade below the base of the pot. It will appear as if gravity is making it to grow downwards, and yet the leaves are turning up towards the sky.

      Semi-cascade: The tip of this cascade will extend past the rim of the pot but not below it. Roots will be exposed but will appear to provide balance to the wandering trunk.


    • Once the artist has decided on the style of bonsai he wishes to create, the plant itself is the next decision that must be made. Since part of the design of the bonsai tree is to make it look as natural as possible, choosing a tree, plant or shrub with the characteristics needed for the style desired is extremely important. Each species has intrinsic characteristics that can make it a wise choice. The following is just an example of trees, shrubs and plants that should be considered for each style:

      Formal upright: junipers, pines, spruces

      Informal upright: Japanese maple, trident maple, beech, almost all conifers, crab apple, cotoneaster

      Slanting: conifers, junipers

      Cascade: ivy, maple, most species that are not strongly upright

      Semi-cascade: flowering cherries, cedars, junipers

    Expert Insight

    • While the above trees and shrubs are recommended for use as bonsai trees, there are many plants that can be trained properly and will eventually become bonsai. A huge consideration when researching possibilities is the plant's ability to adapt to a shallow pot and growth restrictions. They should also offer pleasing features such as flowers, interesting bark and attractive leaf and foliage patterns. Plants such as azalea and fig can take their place right alongside juniper, cedar, Japanese maples and birch as traditional species used by artists for centuries in the creation of bonsai.


    • While the plant or tree itself is the main component of any bonsai piece, there are also additional items that go into making a creating a genuine bonsai. Consideration must also be given to the size and style of the pot it will be placed in, the type of moss or ground cover it needs to keep moisture and the use of accents, whether live plants or constructed figurines. Remember, a bonsai should be considered a piece of art and should reflect the ideals of the Japanese zen thought process. As a bonsai is created, it should be designed in accordance with the thought that it is a reflection of heaven and earth as well as balance. Tradition dictates that truth, goodness and beauty are the virtues that are necessary in the creation of a bonsai tree.

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    Danita Fausek

    Based in Wisconsin, Danita Fauseks 30-year working career includes jobs in administration, construction, remodeling, teaching quality processes and art classes, and event planning. With a degree in photography, she ran her own business for more than 15 years. In addition, Fausek has immersed herself in various hobbies including gardening, needlecraft and jewelry making. She brings all of this expertise to her writing.


    Original article published on eHow.com

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