Species Specific > Trident Maple Bonsai Discussion

Large Trident

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I got this earlier this year from Jim Gremel.  The nebari is about 10" and it has a very drastic taper.  It was field grown by Jim about 25 years and dug up last year.  I know it was dug up several times during those years as he moved in the middle of it.  He had several that were closer to being done, but I really wanted to do a lot of the work myself so I picked this one that has some issues to be worked out.  The lower branches will probably all be replaced, but who knows, so I am wiring them mostly for wiring practice.  I totally defoliated and pruned all the lower branches this year twice.

The running apex has shot up this year, all from a 2" stub, so almost 2 meters of growth on top.  Which I will continue to let run to thicken up the new leader/deal with the huge stump cut.  My guess is that healing the top is going to be the work of 5+ years, maybe more like 8-10.

This gives me lots of time to deal with the back.  While the nebari in front and both sides looks beastly, it is inverted in the back.  I have read about several strategies beyond the obvious of graft in roots.  One was to expose the cambium in the back, hit with rooting hormone and then bury the back above that point which should just encourage roots to grow.  At this point I am going to wait until spring when I will repot it for the first time and see what is under the soil, that may change the whole story.

Dave Murphy:
Great trunk and nebari!  I have a question for you, and if you don't know the answer, I'm hoping those with more experience developing maples will chime in.  As you mentioned, developing a new apex while healing the chop wound will take some time (5 years seems about right, I suppose).  In the meantime, why wouldn't you start developing the lower branches now?  It seems to me that while the apex is left to grow, you could be quite aggressive pruning the lower branches to develop ramification and keep them from thickening excessively.  I ask because I have some trident and palmatum stumps that I will start working on next spring.


I am sure others can answer this better than I can, as this is the first trident I have really grown out from a stump.  What I do know is that I have way too many branches, many of which are too low, and sometimes with multiple branches coming out of the same spot.  Because of this I will be cutting many of them off later, once I see what the apex is going to do.  I want the apex as short as possible, but I am still unsure how large it will need to be to look like a somewhat natural transition.  I am wiring the branches into place, and pruning them back, so treating them like they will be finished branches, but many of them will just get chopped off.  I guess my main worry is that the trunk chop would take so long to heal that the branches would get too large and need to be restarted.  I honestly don't think that is going to happen, my guess is I will use about 1/3 of the current branches on there, but we will see.

at this stage defoliating is the wrong thing to do.  you need to develop stucture and keep the tree healthy. 
first you need to feed it before the buds open.  then let those new buds grow till end of April to mid May. 
wire those new shoots when they are soft. 
wire the base only 4-5 inches then let them grow. 
wire will cut in very quickly.  you need to rewire several times.
fertilize heavily.  do not worry about big leaves.  big leaves = healthy tree. 
the branches will grow long and thick.  cut them back when the leave change color in fall.

leave the straight cut on the top.  keep it seal until the new apex is at least 1/3 the thickness of the part that was cut.  then you go in and clean that cut.  cut it to about 45 degree angle.  it will heal very quickly.
small leaves come after the tree has good structure. 
defoliate = stop the branch from thickening = make the tree weak = make small leaves.
you need strong and well develop tree before you start defoliating. 

you can follow the article on Bonsai Today #32 page 58.  it is one of the best article on developing trident maple.
in the article, the example was a shohin.  large tree will take longer to finish.

have fun,


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