There are many styles of Bonsai and all refer to natural styles in nature. Many have Japanese names such as Ikadabuki, Netsuranari, Nebari and Shari. These terms have become generic although originating in Japan and they work in the same way as Latin terminology works with garden plants. It allows everyone, no matter what country he or she is in to understand each other.
In China where the other great art of Penjing, the Chinese name for Bonsai, originated they have many styles reflecting the landscape in the many regions that these styles are commonly seen in nature. The five main regions of China have within these regions a number of forms.
My point is that while we grow Bonsai or Penjing outside Japan or China, we have to work with our own native trees and try and reflect the styles that we see around us in our own countries landscapes. This means that we should be taking the opportunity to create unique styles of American, Australian, African or Scottish Bonsai and not just Japanese or Chinese styles.
John Yoshio Naka, a great American Japanese teacher and authority on styles and size definitions, identified both the major styles and heights, which help us, determinate the style descriptions. John is no longer with us and like many others having studied with him over the years, I was taught these styles by John and I have put his descriptions in the following chart. This is a good start to the understanding of the names in both Japanese and in English. Chinese styles have their own terminology. I teach in many different countries where English is not the prime language so the terminology is useful as everyone will understand Chokkan rather than Formal Upright. I prefer using the English terminology in English speaking countries though.
|Formal Upright No curves or bends in trunk
|Informal Upright –Trunk changing direction.
|Very coiled trunk
|Old coiled trunk
|Exposed deadwood on the trunk- Shari miki dead wood with dead branch stumps like fish bones
|Twisted in wind trunk and- or – branches
|Lumpy trunk, gnarled with age
|Straight cascade, extreme or long.
|A tree that is on the edge and cascades with a round Ju Shin, apex.
|A cascade changing direction
|Multiple thin cascades
|Twin or more trunks cascade
|Raft style from roots
|Raft style of trees from fallen trunk
|Raft style from a fallen tree, branches takes root.
|Two trunks of differing size from single root
|Forest / group style
|Octopus style. Very twisted branches and trunk
|Root over rock
|Exposed root style-erosion exposed roots
|Broom style. Fan shape with even growth
|Literati. Similar to elegant Sumi paintings long trunk with slight growth at top. Not heavy
|Some Trees in Japanese
|English Names. I have listed just a few here for general reference
|Momji or Kaede
|Japanese Grey Bark Elm
|Shide or Soro
|Five needle white pine (also Pinus pentaphylla)
|Japanese Black Pine, two needles
|Juniper. The most popular Juniper grown as Bonsai
|California Juniper. Also Utah and other similar species such as Western Juniper and Common Juniper (communis)
|Buttonwood. Silver Buttonwood. From warmer climes in America, Florida etc.
|Oak. Many varieties
|Flowering Azalea. Kurume Azaleas
|Spruce, Japanese. Jezo, Ezo or Yezo spruce
|Yew. Japanese, American or English
|Box. Stiff when old but great for Bonsai
|Ara-kawacho & Arakawa
|Top of a Bonsai tree
|Collected Bonsai that is well established as a Bonsai
|Collected Natural material for Bonsai or Natural Bonsai not yet refined into a Bonsai
|Bonsai material or material good for making Bonsai
|A tree in a tray or container-From the Chinese Pentsai-later Sung Dynasty.
|Landscapes with other plants, animals figures, buildings etc. In China its Pentsai.
|Landscape planting but no figures Only rocks, moss and trees.
|Hole in trunk with healed edges
|Bark split from trunk
|Shari, * & Shari Miki
|Exposed areas on trunkDead trunk areas with jinned twigs sticking out like spines
|Jin, & Jinn * Jinning
|Exposed areas on branches or tipsTo remove bark and create dead wood
|Table to display a Bonsai
|Shaped Table or a base for a Suiseki
- · common terms
Bonsai heights and names
Many years ago John taught us that we need to have a structure of size descriptions as well. Bonsai come in a variety of heights ranging from one inch up to six feet. Essentially the larger Bonsai are known as Garden Bonsai or Yard Trees while most Bonsai are of a reasonable size around a maximum of 40 inches. In some instances trees that require two persons to carry it are simply big trees in pots and not accepted (in some quarters) as true Bonsai. Nothing is fixed as to what is a Bonsai however and this size chart is a guideline.
Sizes are measured from soil level to the Apex of the Bonsai. The right size of pot to enhance the tree acts as a frame to a picture. It should be seen but not seen. A pot should not take over from the tree but have a quiet elegance in its own right. A pot should not be a distraction.
One inch = 2.5 Centimetres
|English or other Name
|Thimble size –Within the Shohin category
|Mini size-very small-Within the Shohin category
|Mini size –Within the Shohin category
|Katade –Small Size also Gafu-Bonsai, or Miyabi-Bonsai. (Gafu is a term for excellent small sized Bonsai)
|Sho or Kifu – Small to medium size
|Chuhin Medium Size
|Also Oomono – Both terms mean Large Size but Oomono means a large size that can be carried by one man.
|Very large sized Bonsai. Sometimes termed as Yard Bonsai. Needs two men to carry this size. Not always accepted as Bonsai in Competition (subjective)
Article by Craig Coussins©[hr]