Basic Styling The Triangle
The Gardener|June 2020
Most bonsai trees are styled to have a triangular silhouette. This is more obvious with traditional bonsai styles, i.e. Northern hemisphere trees, but is still relevant with our African styles like the baobab and the flat crown. However, sometimes you need a fair bit of imagination to see this triangular shape – it is a bit like seeing the constellations in the stars. Sometimes the shape seems invisible until somebody points it out, and after that you can’t help but see the triangle.

Here is how it works. A miniature tree that has not been styled is simply a small bush. The branches grow out in arbitrary directions, and there is a whole lot of foliage. Our task as bonsai growers is to create a beautiful, stylish miniature tree out of this bushy material. The way we do this is by removing a fair amount of plant material, and what is left is our artwork, or what will become our masterpiece once it has grown out a bit.

For most upright-growing trees the widest points are the two lowest side branches. They are generally the oldest branches and consequently will be the thickest and longest. The other important point in our triangle is the apex or top of the plant. The apex is, by definition, the highest point on the tree and the most prominent. These are the three points that define our triangle. Essentially it can be any shape of triangle, but the important part is that the triangle of foliage must appear well balanced on the trunk.

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