Kengai style or Cascade Bonsai are created to mimic trees that are struggling against gravity and the elements as they cling to dear life against the sides of a waterfall, a sheer rock face or a mountainside. Often, in nature, these trees try desperately to find natural light, bending and winding their way in varying directions so gain the maximum amount of light for its leaves.
This is a very difficult style of Bonsai to master due to the awkward nature of the composition. Firstly you have to create a firm, strong and wide root system to give the impression that the tree is clinging firmly to the soil. Then the tree must sweep away from the pot itself, so there will be an area of empty space underneath the arching and bending trunk. This should be balanced by at least one branch and an abundance of leaves. Then there’s the problem of the tree growing downwards – training it to do so defies nature; the tree will always want to grow skywards.
The basic idea behind Kengai Bonsai is to create a downward-pointing trunk, downward-pointing branches with upward-facing leaf pads. So many people get it wrong and their ‘finished’ tree looks awkward and haphazard.
But get it right and the rewards are endless. The bend and curve of the trunk will attract the eye, allowing it to flow from the pot, up the curved trunk and down the tree’s bend finally ending at the pot to repeat the motion again and again.
Kengai style Bonsai gives us plenty of scope for experimentation, allowing us to use our imagination to a limitless degree to create stunning trees that look as though they have been plucked straight from a cliff face immersed in the mists from a adjacent waterfall.
Ideal species for creating Kengai or Cascade Bonsai
The list of species that are suitable for creating Kengai or Cascade Bonsai is extensive, giving us countless ideas and means to experiment, but here’s a handful that many Bonsai experts deem as the most suitable:
- Japanese White Pine (Pinus)
- Ponderosa Pine (Pinus)
- Juniper (Juniperus)
- Wisteria (Fabaceae)
- Black Pine (Pinus)
- Oak (Quercus)
- Spruce (Picea)
- Olive (Olea)