Three’s A Crowd

Triple trunk trees can often be a welcomed challenge.  At least for me.  Getting one trunk or two trunks to look balanced can be tricky enough.  Add a third or even more and a little bit of company really does become a crowd!

Luckily, I love a challenge and Mr. Tanaka always has a way of pushing my skill level (if we can call it that yet) a little bit further with each job.  In this case, the job is an old triple trunk Japanese Maple.  Mr. Tanaka purchased this maple several years ago.  At the time of purchase the tree had recently lost a few really important branches and was in need of a good re-build and several years of grow time.  Since it has been here at Aichien for several years (and growing as a bonsai for a really long time) much of the difficult aesthetic work of getting the three trunks to look good together has already been done.  At this stage in the trees re-development it is ready to be wired again to further improve the structure and get everything looking nice.  So let’s get started!

I’ll get things going with two base line shots of the tree.  One with leaves and a second after de-foliating.  The tree itself is quite nice, however the leaf characteristic of this particular Japanese Maple is not the most desirable.  Simply because the leaves tend to grow large.  This does not make it a bad tree, just part of its character.  The good news is this tree has great bark, so with the leaves off it really shines.

with leaves

With leaves




With the leaves off it is easy to see just how nice this tree really is.  After several years of rebuilding it has come a long way and is getting very close to a full, complete shape.  The hard work and grow time has already been done.  Now, my job is just to wire the tree, bring the branches down and get things organized.

Thought I'd toss in an arial shot.

Thought I’d toss in an aerial shot.

After de-foliating, the next step in the process is to go through the entire tree from top to bottom and remove any branches that will not be used in the final design.

Here is an example of what the majority of the tree looks like up close.  Just growing wild, things get a little crowded and a nightmare to wire.  Lets cut some of this stuff off.




Ok, this we can work with.  The wire will install nicely and there is plenty of room to spread these branches out.  At this phase of development its important to give the branches a wide spread.  Doing so allows plenty of room for new, good branches to grow in and also helps supply an ample amount of light to the lower branches.  Now that this branch is done, let’s make the rest of the tree look the same. After the cutting is done, it will be time to wire.

To save this article from dragging on and on I’m going to fast forward through wiring.  After I get a few dozen more trees under my belt and my wiring skills get better, I’ll dedicate a post entirely to wiring.  For now I’ll just cut to the finish line.  To sum up the wiring, the general idea is to get the branches down and spread out.  This is partially Aichien’s style and partially just common practice to prepare for the future of the tree.  Here at Aichien we tend to push the branches to their limit in terms of how far we bend downward.  Deciduous trees are pretty consistent when it comes to snap back upon guy wire removal.  To compensate we bend a little more than necessary.  It all works out in the end.

finished!  Looking forward to seeing how this tree develops during my time at Aichien.

Finished! Looking forward to seeing how this tree develops during my time at Aichien.

How about a few more shots of the details?

Medium trunk

Medium trunk

Small Trunk

Small Trunk.  I should have removed the fertilizer bag for the photos. What an amateur!

Main trunk and apex.

Main trunk and apex.

Some branches.

Some branches.

More branches.

More branches.

I’ll close it out with a quick before & after.  I like being able to A/B the work to see if anything productive was actually accomplished or if the tree looks worse than it did before I put my hands on it.  :p


Before.  A back drop would be good here, don’t you think?


There it is, another Tree The People article completed.  I’ve got a few more in the hopper, but they need a few finishing touches. Trying my best to stay consistent with these things.  Thanks for sticking around and reading!  Also, are you following Tree The People on Instagram?  I’m consistently putting a new picture and quick caption up about 4 times a week.  Be sure to check that out, it’s a great way to keep up with the goings on here at Aichien between these articles.  While you’re there, look up my buddy Aarin Packard by searching @capitalbonsai He’s doing a great job of keeping us up to speed with his daily life at The National Bonsai & Penjing museum.

Thanks again!  Until next time…

Danny Coffey