There are all sorts of styles of bonsai within the recognized standard forms: formal upright, informal upright, slanting, semi-cascade, cascade, clump, forest, sumo, etc. Sizes from shohin all the way to back-breaker. The important thing to bear in mind is that as you approach the styling of a tree, don’t think so much about what form you want it to take as you do about what form the tree suggests it ought to be. After long experience, as often as not upon collecting a tree you already know the form it’s going to take. I think this Swamp maple is a great example of this principle. The official style it’ll be is informal upright. In the end it won’t look anything like the classic informal upright (moyogi) bonsai with the pronounced curves we expect with that style. Rather, it will look like what it is meant to look like given the characteristics of the individual specimen. And spotting this in your trees is the thing that comes with experience.
Here’s the tree with all its “springy” lush growth. You can see the apical dominance on display.
This must be brought under control, in order to achieve our ultimate design goal.
Ordinarily we start working trees from the bottom; in this case I want to take care of the leader first.
But before getting into technique, it’s vital to step back and take stock of the specimen itself and what it’s trying to say to us.
It’s quite tall relative to the basal trunk diameter – no 1:6 ratio here! So it seems more like a forest tree, especially with that small second trunk. And because of this impression on the viewer, certain design principles must be applied in order to create the necessary proportions to pull it off.
But first, let’s take care of the main leader and branch structure.