Bonsai, the Japanese art form of growing miniature trees in small pots, are of many types, the broad classification being based on forms that are natural to the plants and those that are based on special natural environments like wastelands or facing strong winds of a storm etc. Some of these types of bonsai trees are discussed below.
Formal Upright (Chokkan )
This type of bonsai tree rises upwards like a cedar or a cypress tree in a straight line and its appearance is breathtaking. It is one of the basic forms of bonsai trees and is also the most difficult to achieve and maintain. Even if one of the branches dies, the visual balance of Chokkan trees will be disturbed.
The Hokidachi bonsai tree has a broom like appearance with the brush forming a semi circular dome facing upwards. Maples, zelkovas and elms are probably the best choice for this type of bonsai tree but it may be difficult to realize the perfect shape. It may require years of caring and a good nursery tree may not appear even after planting hundreds of seeds.
This form of bonsai tree is a representation of a tree facing strong winds of a storm near a seashore. The trunk is slant to one side while the root firmly stretches on the opposite side in the ground providing the tree a delicate balance. The tree gives an impression of the trunk being whipped around by a storm.
Informal Upright (Moyohgi)
Moyohgi bonsai are probably the most well known among bonsai trees having appeared in many paintings. They also grow upwards like the Chokkan bonsai but the trunks and branches are curved, twisted and bent. These trees have the beauty, dignity and grace of old trees that one can see in hills and elsewhere. Most of the trees except cypress and cedar can be turned into Moyohgi trees.
The specialty of Kongai bonsai trees is that the trunk and branches fall below its roots like a cascade. If the branches extend below the bottom of the pot, the tree is called Kengai and those that do not fall below the bottom of the pot are called Han-Gengai. Evergreen conifer Kengai trees portray the image of a tree shooting from a cliff through its sheer will to survive.
These types of bonsai trees represent trees that are half dead with the trunk stripped bare due to ravages of nature but still have verdant green leaves at the top. A water path through the trunk is still intact and the tree denotes a weaving of life and death. This form is achieved in bonsai trees using knives and other tools to carve and expose the trunk without damaging the water path. Pine, juniper and cedar are some of the trees seen in this form in nature.
Tasteful Elegance (Bunjingi)
The Bunjingi type bonsai trees represent thin trees that grow in sandy and barren soil where water is scarce. The trunk and the branches are all thin and the lower branches are clipped to achieve this bonsai form. Simplicity is the key virtue of these trees and they have been the inspiration for many Chinese and Japanese paintings.
The types of bonsai trees discussed above is only a representation of bonsai types and there are many more like Sokan, Neturanari, Neagari and others not discussed here. Pine, Maple and Juniper are the most popular among bonsai trees with some indigenous types also being suitable. They need to be pruned watered as and when required. They also need to be repotted now and then with younger trees needing it every year while the older ones need to repotted once in 3 or 4 years.