Semi-cascade, or Han Kengai style Bonsai are easily distinguishable from Cascade style as the tree does not extend below the base of the pot. In order to create this style of Bonsai it’s necessary to have a tall pot rather than a shallow pot. Also, the weight of the pot and tree has to be balanced and to achieve that the nebari (root style) has to be visually strong and the base of the trunk should be wide to help fill the empty space towards the base of the Bonsai.
This wonderful Bonsai style allows us to be extremely creative. We can incorporate driftwood into the design, to give an aged, well-weathered look. We can give the impression that the tree has been ravaged by wind and the elements. We can also create trees that you may find living in the wild, in extremely adverse conditions – hanging on for dear life to the side of a rock face, waterfall or mountainside.
Once you have created a semi-cascade or Han Kengai Bonsai, and are happy to put it on display, it’s difficult to take your eyes off it! The flowing pattern between pot and apex of the tree is really pleasing to the eye, and a well-composed semi-cascading Bonsai will create a neat circular path that your eye will follow continually.
But there are many things that can go wrong. The pot has to perfectly compliment the drop of the cascading Bonsai in terms of both the height and width. The tree itself must have a large trunk base with a strong root system. And the tree must have a perfectly tapering trunk and should look stable where it stands, and not over-balanced.
Ideal species for Han Kengai or Semi-Cascade Bonsai
Here’s a short list of plant species that are perfectly suited to creating semi-cascade Bonsai, although there are many more. Experiment and you may well be pleasantly surprised with your results…
- Japanese White Pine (Pinus)
- Cottoneaster (Rosaceae)
- Japanese Zelkova (Zelkova)
- Ponderosa Pine (Pinus)
- Juniper (Juniperus)
- Crab Apple (Malus)
- Black Pine (Pinus)
- Cherry (Syzygium)
- Spruce (Picea)
- Beech (Fagus)
- Ficus (Ficus)
- Olive (Olea)