The Slanting Style in Bonsai

The Slanting Style in Bonsai

Trees that are exposed to the wind will often develop a slanted trunk as a result. In the art of bonsai, there is a style that seeks to emulate this slanting of the tree, and it is simply called – The Slanting or Shakan style. When you look at a bonsai that has been styled to slant, it seeks to convey the essence of the fight of the tree in withstanding the buffeting of strong winds, gravity, and storms. The Slanting style is highly popular in bonsai growing.

Slanting is also a common feature of forest trees, especially trees growing on hillslopes. The combination of soil creep, and the quest to obtain sunlight, can cause trees to grow slanted. In bonsai growing, coniferous trees are one of the best types for the slanting style due to their long straight trunks, and Japanese White Pine is a popular species, as are Juniper and Beech.

bonsai slanting style
In this composition, most of the branches are pointing away from the slant. This is a well balanced slanted bonsai.

In the Slanting style, the slanting of the trunk is usually angled at between 30 degrees to 75 degrees. Care is taken to ensure that the tree is fairly straight but slanting all the same. The branches are arranged quite symmetrically. Meanwhile, a lower branch is often left to grow pointing in the opposite direction of the slant. This is to balance the visual composition of the bonsai, and to denote how the tree is still fighting the powerful forces of nature.

bonsai slanting style
This bonsai does not appear well balanced, but that is more to do with the species chosen. Both Juniper and White Pine are best if you want to achieve this slanting look.

Basically, any long limbs and roots are trained/cultivated to grow in the opposite direction of the slant, while the short limbs and roots of the tree are styled to grow in the same direction of the slant. This practice helps to maintain a good visual balance for the bonsai tree.

That said, there are several kinds of Shakan style practiced by bonsai artists, two of which are Dai-Shakan and Chu-Shakan styles. In the Dai-Shakan style, the branches are made to grow away from the trunk, in all directions. In the Chu-Shakan style, the branches are made to curve back towards the trunk.

The Windswept style is another related style although the emphasis on slanting is more extreme here. In the Windswept style, even the branches are made to appear as though they are all blown by wind, all in a certain direction alone.

Both Slanting and Windswept styles are achieved by utilizing 1) strong wiring 2) sunlight from one direction 3) tilting the pot. The tree needs to be trained in one direction for a significant period of time, and it needs to be very consistent at all times. Tilting the pot is an easy way to achieve a slanted effect, but make sure the water doesn’t collect at one end and lead to root rot. When using sunlight, try to block off the sunlight from other directions. Ultimately, your patience will pay off in a nice composition showing off your bonsai tree in its heroic fight against the elements of nature.

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