Forest Style Part 1

by Rudi Adam

Planning a forest

Let me say from the outset that I consider Forest Plantings in all their diverse forms to be the ultimate in so-called 'Mood Styles'.

The elements essential to forming a good forest are:

  1. Number of trees used
  2. Trunk Styles used in forests
  3. Branch Styles
  4. Mood Styles
  5. Outlines
  6. Container & ground
  7. Flowlines, space and planes.

In this article I discuss the first few elements.


Only odd and prime numbers of trees should be used, i.e. 5-7-11-13-17 etc.


Upright, Formal upright, informal upright, Leaning trunk, Bunjin, and in special circumstances, Semi cascade. There are also combinations of two or more of the abovementioned trunk styles possible.


The trunk styles will of course be influenced and to a certain extent, dictated to by the branch styles. These are:

  • ascending branches in all their variations
  • horizontal branches
  • descending branches in all their degrees of descent
  • and of course, a combination of ascending and horizontal, or horizontal and descending (never ascending and descending branches) used in the same planting since the two directions are in direct conflict with each other. Rather than harmonize or contrast each other, they create confusion which is distracting and therefore not acceptable.)


In forest plantings, mood styles are not quite the same as in single trunk styles, with the exception of windswept. Some examples are:

Is the viewer standing - In front of; near by; far away from; or is he: looking up to (eg. forest or mountain ledge or ridge) or looking down on (eg. ravine) the forest?

Is the mood to the viewer:

Serene : Trees will be well spaced, with branches almost all round

Formal: trees grouped close together and all strictly upright

Informal: main trees upright, secondary trees leaning away from primaries or separate groups making up the forest.

Wild: natural, trees growing mixed up in all upright styles, to get a place in the sun.

Stark: minimum of branches but strong inclusion of Jin - creating a battered look. Trunks large and often broken.

Bunjin: use minimum number of trunks ( 5-7) and minimum branches, giving an almost unreal, fairy-like but well-balanced feeling to the viewer.


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Sunlight dripping from tree

Slides off the periwinkle

And splashes on ground

Random Bonsai Tip

When a tree has reversed taper or a narrowed 'waistline' above the nebari, you could do an airlayering just above the narrow section; or you could damage the cambium layer by either hammering gently with a mallet or by piercing the bark right into the cambium with a sharp object eg. scissors or an awl. You could also make deep incisions along the grain of the bark, where the healing process will cause scarring which would then thicken the trunk.