Friday, 15 December 2017

How to Kill a Trident Maple

In October 2007 I bought a small Trident Maple at our club's annual show. I wasn't a member back then, but that was the day I signed up for the club's beginner's course and I attended my first meeting a month later. So you could say attending that show changed my life. It also changed my little tree's life, though certainly not for the better!

Although my Trident Maple was a nice little tree, I immediately set about redesigning it to make it truly mine. It would have been okay if I'd stopped after the first pruning, but worse was still to come for that tree.

One day I was browsing in the bonsai section of a local bookshop when I came across Peter Adams's book "Bonsai with Japanese Maples". I was tempted to buy the book but as I didn't own a Japanese Maple back then, I didn't see the point. (I did eventually buy it several years later.)

However, while looking at the book, I noticed a technique for growing fat trunks quickly. It involved cutting a tree back to a short stump, then letting all the new branches grow long and thick to fatten the trunk, cut them back and repeat... I couldn't resist the temptation to try it and the victim was my little Trident, the only Maple I owned at the time.

Unfortunately as a bonsai newbie I didn't realise that I needed to ensure that I left some buds below the chop site and I made the chop far lower than I should have. Then I waited impatiently for those new branches to grow, but sadly they never did.

The crazy part is that, even months later, I could see that my tree was still alive and with the benefit of hindsight I'm sure that it could have been saved if only a branch or two had been grafted onto it, but instead it was left to die a slow and painful death.

I now have several Japanese Maples, including three which I grew from thickish cuttings a few years ago, and I can't help feeling that this little tree (the ugliest of the three) would be a perfect candidate for that technique.

Japanese Maple grown from cutting.

The trouble is I've never had the courage to try again. I was tempted to try it this spring, but instead I've kept the height of the tree while trying to encourage the low branches to grow and keeping the top growth short.

I'll have to do something more drastic eventually, but it's the middle of summer now, so it's probably not the best time to do it.

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