The slanting bonsai style, or shakan, is a popular, elegant style that which emulates the ideals of a tree in nature which has been buffeted by the natural elements such as wind and storms.
In its natural state, a tree may slant and sometimes even topple as a result of being unable to withstand strong winds. The slanting style of bonsai illustrates this weathering effect.
In nature, trees may also grow slanted if that is the only way for them to get light, such as in a thick forest. The slanting style is traditionally considered a way of conveying the quest for light and space.
Although quite similar to the informal bonsai style, the trunk in the slanting style is usually straighter than the informal, and leans at a certain angle, usually around 45 degrees. However, a true straight trunk is not a hard style requirement for a slanted style bonsai.
As the name suggests, the trunk is slanted, usually at a moderately steep angle, mid-way between an upright and a cascade style. The slant will be anywhere from 30 degrees to as much as 75 degrees. The lowest branch is made to point away from the direction of the trunk, lending a visual balance important to the bonsai artist.
Even so, care should be taken to keep the result in balance. Longer branches should be distributed away from the slant, shorter branches in the same direction. Longer roots should be encouraged away from the slant, again for balance. Sometimes artists will create an extreme version of the slanted style, for example in the pic on the left, which is also amenable later on with further training, to transform to a full cascade.
Growing a slanting style bonsai
The slanting style is quite easy to achieve by either slanting the pot so that the tree goes slanted, by wiring, or limiting the direction of daily light (as in a dense forest) so that the young tree grows towards the light in a slanted direction.
When a tree slants, the effect of gravity is increased, and the roots will generally grow outwards in the opposite direction of the tree to balance the gravitational forces, much like with the cascade style and the semi-cascade style.
Consequently the soil type and the amount and location of watering can be used to affect the slant of the tree through adding support to the trees roots.
Within the style there are a few sub-types. Two common ones which refer to the direction in which the branches are trained relative to the angle of the trunk are:
- Chu-shakan style – the branches are trained back toward the trunk.
- Dai-shakan – the branches are spread away from the trunk.
Best species for slanting bonsai style
The species most suitable for the slanting style are conifers, such as junipers and pine. However, this style can look good on other less conventional species.