Leaning Trunk

by Pieter Janse Van Rensburg

Leaning trunk style, also known as Slanting style or Shakan style falls between Informal upright (Moyogi) and Semi-cascade (Han-Kengai) in the five basic trunk styles. The lean of the trunk could be anywhere between 150 and 500 from the vertical.

weeping-angleThe easiet way to describe the leaning trunk style is to break it down into the three elements which make a successful leaning trunk - Roots, Trunk and branches.


The position of the roots would be determined more by counter balancing forces than by heavy branches or by visual mass as is the case, for instance, with Informal upright style. The two main roots would be the side roots. The root opposite the lean would be straight, long and graceful, showing tension as it anchors the trunk to the earth. The root under the lean would be shorter, ideally with a buttress or knee formation to show off the compressing forces acting on it. Remember that a leaning trunk is an imbalance and gravity will tend to pull it down, so the greater the lean the greater will be the forces (tension & compression) on the roots. One or two smaller roots from the front and back of the trunk will add to the stability of the trunk, (see Fig.2.)weeping-roots


Moving from the roots to the trunk, there are a few possibilities that could be incorporated into the design. The slant could start at ground level - here the forces on the roots would show the most The trunk could rise straight up for a short distance and then begin to slant. It could also happen that the trunk starts growing in one direction for a short distance and then turns sharply in the opposite direction. These variations should not show the forces acting on the roots as much as is the case where the lean starts from ground level. Moving further up the trunk, it could be either straight or curved. the Curved trunk is easier to balance visually. It depicts a tree that has been growing in harsh conditions all its life. In times of relatively calm weather, it would tend to grow upwards and in times of more harsh conditions it would be forced back into a lean. The straight trunk on the other hand gives one the impression that it has only been forced into a lean fairly recently, and has re-established itself in a leaning position.


The Branches

We now deal with the branches and their arrangement. The first branch should start approximately one third to half way up the trunk on the opposite side to the lean. It should be horizontal or descending slightly. The first branch should also be the longest branch, as in nature, it would get more sun than branches under the lean of the trunk This branch serves to give a sense of balance. The second branch could be at the back to add to the third dimension. The third branch would be on the side of the lean. It would be shorter than the first branch to enhance the sense of balance. The rest of the branches should be arranged in a similar fashion in groups of three if possible, becoming progressively shorter towards the apex. The apex would of course lean away from the base.weeping-pot

An interesting variation could be created by arraanging the branches as though windswept. Such trees are often found growing on a sea coast where they lean into the wind. Branches under the lean would be short and sparse. Branches on the opposite side would be more protected and therefore they would grow longer and more vigorous.


As far as pots are concerned I can only think of two possibilities, namely shallow oval or rectangular. The tree is potted in such a way that it leans over the pot. For instance a tree that leans to the right would be potted on the left hand side of the container to visually balance the planting. A long narrow piece of slate or slab would make a very natural looking composition if used in place of a regular pot. Same potting rules apply.

Do try a leaning trunk style for adding to your collection. It could be quite a challenge.

Have fun!!

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Random Bonsai Tip

So much time is spent on striving towards perfection in the foliage area of trees but little contemplation goes into the area around the nebari. Consider planting your tree at different heights in the pot which might enhance the existing taper and roots. If your tree lacks roots use moss mounded in such a way to suggest underlying roots, or you can even use sticks of similar appearance to the wood of the tree as 'fake' roots until you are able to coerce roots to fill the void. Use appropriate gravel to complete the scene.