Hey folks! It’s Danny Coffey, back again with another post about trident maples. As stated in the title this is Part 2 of the Maple Madness series. That being said, I urge you to read or re-read Part 1 of this series. I wrote it in July of 2013. It’ll get you up to speed.
In the first post of this series I showed some initial set up work for root-on-rock trident maples that had recently been harvested from one of Mr.Tanaka’s grow fields. At the end I showed a few other examples, one being the tree in the photo below with a caption that said “not enough branches” This is the tree we will be focusing on today. In the photo below you can see how it looked last July just after I finished the initial set up.
11 months later, here’s what we’ve got!
As you can see, this tree wasted no time getting itself together and putting on a lot of new growth. For extra photo drama I raised my work station high enough to bend the tree’s apex on the ceiling of the workshop. Really though, it grew a lot!
So you can see from the photo that the main branch (lower right side) didn’t grow much. That was caused by the growing location. This tree is growing in one of the worst possible locations in the nursery. It’s on the ground and gets full shade most of the day. The main branch was almost entirely in darkness, reaching under one of the bonsai benches searching for sunlight. Such as life, there is not much room here and tree’s at this phase get the worst seat in the house.
Time to make some cuts and get it back in shape. At this point there is not very much work to be done on this tree. However what we will do now is very important preparation for the next step in the process.
The apex really put on a lot of growth and now we have some new branches to cut back to. This is the case with many of the branches in fact. There are several areas where we can cut back to a better option. While the cutter is in hand, might as well cut of everything else that we don’t need.
Now the tree is starting to look a lot more like it did in the photo from last July. Slow gains here, nothing happens instantly. The important part is that we are making progress. Now the structure is free of un-wanted branches. Additionally, I de-foliated the tree. Well, mostly de-foliated actually. I left a few leaves, though it would have also been perfectly safe to de-foliate completely. Leaving some on there just keeps things moving along with less lag time. That’s what I’ve been told anyhow. Curiosity and skepticism pushed me to test the theory. Last year I did some of the trees in the group with complete de-foliation and some with partial de-foliation and observed no difference at all in recovery speed and overall progress in the last 11 months. That being said, I think the outcome may have been different if the test group was in a more ideal growing location. There are several variables that might produce different data. Maybe I’ll re-open the file on this research once I finish my apprenticeship.
Next step is removing the aluminum wire.
With the wire off you can compare this photo to the above photo with wire on and notice that all branches stayed in their position. This is exactly what we want. However, setting branches like this on deciduous trees comes with a small cost. Wire marks on the branches. Luckily, it’s really not a big deal. Many of the marks will eventually become much less noticeable or grow out completely, especially in the really strong areas. Some marked areas will soon be cut back as new branches grow in and the few marked areas that remain will just be there forever. I’ve heard some folks say that wire marks can completely ruin a tree. While it is true that they don’t increase the appearance, I think it is important to remember that there is a big difference between a few wire marks on branches and ugly wire marks that span the entire length of the trunk. Lets take a look at some of the recent damage on this tree.
Damage such as this looks way worse than it actually is. In fact, by the time this tree gets closer to its long term state of refinement, most of those marked branches will have been reduced quite a bit and many marks will have grown out. While we are on the topic, I’d also like to add that the only important part of the branch at this point of development is the first bend. That first inch or so where the branch exits the trunk, that was the area of focus with last years wiring work. Getting that nice downward bend is the key. The rest will likely be cut back in time. Knowing that, I put almost no movement in the length of the branches last year, focusing only on the first bend.
So what about that big looped branch near the apex? That branch was bent last year to get it ready for an approach graft this year. We don’t have to set grafts up in two phases like this but it’s a good way to increase the chance of success with the graft. Last year it was bent into place, this year it’s grafted.
First I made a cut on the bottom of the branch. This cut is exactly the same size as the area I will open on the trunk. It’s important to get the cut sizes right to increase the chance of success. I want them to fit together like puzzle pieces.
This cut on the trunk is exactly the same depth and just a hair wider than the approach branch.
The two pieces fit together perfectly. The branch is in there tightly and held in place with two plastic coated staples. I really don’t like these staples because they always bend, but its what we had here at the time… they work. Your local hardware store has plenty of stuff like these staples. Search around, get creative, find something that works well for you.
Once the graft union is finished I seal the deal with some cut paste, this part is important! If things go as planned, that big looped branch can be cut out in a year or two and the remaining branch will continue to grow directly from the graft union. This is how we get branches in all of the right places for many deciduous bonsai.
For the rest of the summer we will let the tree grow freely. Probably around this time next year we will re-visit this group of maples and do some more work. The next phase will be another round of cutting, wiring and styling. Along the way its also good to focus on healing up all old cuts on the trunk. These trees have been cut back to just a trunk (all branches removed) a few dozen times during their life in the field. Luckily, with the right cut technique and use of proper cut paste we can heal a lot of damage on trident maples.
One last comparison. Last year and this year. Sorry for the angle change from last years photo and this year. I think I was trying to display the pre-graft set up or something, I can’t remember. Real professional journalism here, right folks? What do I know about blogging anyhow, I’m just a bonsai apprentice.
Ok, this job is done! I’ll try my best to do Part 3 of this series when the time comes back around.
Thanks for reading!
Until next time…