Forest Style Part 2

by Rudi Adam

Planning a forest


As if the taking into consideration of Trunk, Branch and Mood styles were not enough, there are also the various outlines to consider -single triangle, double triangle, triple triangle, open umbrella, cloud formations. Bunjin and any other stark styles are the exceptions as their outlines are created almost exclusively by their trunks.


The sloping or lack thereof, of the ground plays an important part in the mood of the forest. Flat ground goes well with the serene, the formal, the informal as well as the stark styles. Uneven or sloped ground can be used effectively with all but the serene style.

Different moods are also created by the choice of container. Where the use of a square container with strong straight lines almost seems to cut out a segment of a larger scene, an oval container will let the eye wander off its edges, and therefore create more space and movement on a wider plane. The inclusion of rock of whatever size and form will have a big additional influence on the mood of the forest, creating anything from a subtle to a drastic change. Planting a forest on a rock/slab will bring further changes, but one must view slab plantings as a whole forest distant or near, but never from the inside out.


In addition to the six foregoing points, comes the consideration of Flow-lines. These flow-lines are the creators of movement within the composition, as well as being the only force that can combine all previously mentioned aspects into a harmonious composition, making it pleasing to the eye or stirring feelings in the viewers heart.

SPACE: Both positive and negative, are the cornerstones of creating a good forest - the creator can say much by doing nothing - in a given space.

PLANES: In their horizontal, vertical or diagonal forms can divide, border and enclose the forest creation. They can visually enlarge or confine, heighten or shrink your composition.

Together, these three aspects will give you your focal point and dimension. Planes on their own should give you the perspective, as when two lines meet.


No matter what styles, number of trees or what outlines are chosen, the arrangement must have:

BALANCE: Stability, unity, movement

PERSPECTIVE: Distance, dimension

LOGIC: Reality


To my mind it is a partially planned happening. When it is successful, it must evoke feelings in the creator and the casual viewer.

Forests are built around UNITS. Small plantings are normally one unit of trees in one group, but sometimes the larger forests consist of one unit. Each unit should be viewed as a single tree, and can consist of 1-2-3-5-7-9 or more trees (prime or uneven only)

The number of trees in each unit should be different if possible.

When planning a forest:

  • It is essential to plan the effect you want to achieve with your planting - the Mood/style. Once you make up your mind on this,
  • Choose a suitable tree species with regard to roots, trunks, which should match in regard to texture, colour and style, branch structure - ascending, descending or horizontal, and foliage - evergreen, deciduous. Buy more trees than necessary. All sorts of hitches and snags may strike you in the preparation for planting - root problems, incorrect pruning etc.
  • Choose your main tree ( or trees, according to the number of units used) for size - large if foliage is large or course, the main tree being rated as 10, the second as 8, the third as 7, in height. All other trees should not only diminish in height, but also in girth, making them look more like a natural rather than a plantation-like forest. In forests with a steeply sloping soil level or where one unit is higher than another, two equal sized main trees may be used, since one of them is already elevated and therefore will be larger in appearance.
  • Large forests are mostly planted in units and therefore one may find that additional trees, especially small ones, are handy to have near in order to enlarge units or as filler for the background. Smaller forests should be carefully planned and usually need more attention to detail.
  • Difficult trees (root-wise) should be planted one or two years before, into shallow training pots so that they will not present a problem when creating the forest.


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Random Bonsai Tip

To improve branch ramification one can defoliate deciduous trees in summer. This method should only be used on healthy, strong trees in their later stages of development.