Trident maple bonsai grow quickly. It’s a characteristic that can yield great ramification in a relatively short amount of time. Daisaku Nomoto, a very talented Japanese bonsai professional and student of Kihachi En, suggested a mere three years can be enough to prepare trident maple bonsai for Kokufu. I asked how this could be possible. Simple, he replied in a matter-of-fact tone. Cutback and detail wiring three times a year for three years provides plenty of ramification. Easier said than done, I thought. Especially in the warm weather of Miyazaki Prefecture where Nomoto lives.
In Northern California, I can partially defoliate trident maples 3 times a year. And while I can’t expect the new shoots that warmer, more humid, weather can produce, I can expect fairly vigorous growth. This year, a cool spring kept growth in check. Here is what the tree looked like in early May.
Ready for the first cutback of the season
The general outline of the tree is ok. My goal for the year is to thicken the primary branches while further developing the fine ramification. To do so, I removed all large leaves and cut back shoots in areas that don’t need thickening. I wired the branches I want to thicken and will let them grow unchecked for a while. The result isn’t quite show-worthy.
Trident maple after cutback
Here’s a shot of the tree as it was just starting to leaf out this spring. It’s clear that the lowest branches on the tree aren’t much larger than the branches higher up on the tree. They also lack the ramification exhibited by the branches that form the apex.
Trident maple – starting to leaf out
Several years ago, during an effort to develop the back of the tree as the front – an effort I’ve since given up on – I let some shoots grow fairly long.
Letting shoots grow to thicken branches
These long shoots quickly produced good primary branches for the “bonus” branches peeking out from behind the stone. Here’s a shot of the back of the tree showing the result of this effort.
The back side of the tree.
Letting shoots grow is fun, but it requires care when wire is in place. The goal is to leave the wire in place long enough to set the branches without letting them cut in excessively. Trident maples recover well from minor scarring, but minor scars can become major in a matter of weeks. I’ll paying close attention to this tree over the coming months – especially if the weather warms up.
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