Here’s a big tree. Acer buergerianum .

The much (in bonsai) coveted Trident maple. I seem to recall that there’s a town that tried them as street trees. (Ah yes! Gainesville Florida).

You’d be surprised at how little I paid for this it. But I won’t tell you because it’ll just make you jealous and weep at all the bad decisions you’ve made in your life. Like that one time you decided to ignore your belly and eat just one more burrito before getting on the road and getting stuck between rest areas on the highway…..oh yeah….never trust a fart.

(Here’s an early development blog of the tree)

This last year, I had removed all the wire (actually I had a client do it during a lesson, I even charged him, but I felt bad making him work on my trees. He said it was cathartic and soothing working on a big tree, but I still felt bad about charging someone to work on my stuff).

Then I just let it grow.

Let it grow.

That’s a lesson there.

You can tell how much I left it alone by how much the branches are reaching up.

And up!

And up! That’s ok, the strategy was branch thickening and taper improvement, and I think I got that.

I’ll do some structural pruning in a little bit.

It looks like (hopefully) the dieback from my initial carving has stabilized. I’ll revisit it later in the year, for now I’m just dressing the live edge with a sharp blade.

Interestingly, on those places where I hollowed out the carving, the callous is rounding over the wound (the rear branch).Where I left the carved edge even with the bark the callous has not moved or it even retreated from the carved edge.


Almost like a ficus. Trying to keep a wound is a different concept than just healing it. Healing is simply a matter of smoothing (on a maple) and sometimes sealing the wound. Or, in a case of bad rot, you add a product that hardens (like water putty or bondo) so the tree can heal over it.

But keeping the wound is not quite the same. Maybe an email to Dan Robinson might be in order….anyhow, I’ll be years working this tree, so I’ll learn how it responds, eventually.

I like the idea of big hollows on a deciduous tree, though it’s frowned upon by many. And yes, I know and understand the why’s and why not’s, but I’m not interested in many people’s aesthetic opinions.

I do appreciate the horticultural objections. But my aim is to make an old looking tree. A dark, mysterious hollow, which is called “uro” in Japanese, adds to that aged look. You can’t deny that.

Anyway, let’s get to that structural pruning.

And some plastic surgery. My family has been watching that show “Botched” on cable recently…it’s time for some scar revision.

As they used to say in my youth “fugly!”

Easily remedied. Chop!

Since I let it grow out, I now have pruning points I can cut to as far as movement and taper are concerned.

Choices are a good thing.

Places I had only one branch, that I had to use and abuse, can be gotten rid of

I had wired it to the left, I have a branch right beside it that will take its place.

Escape branches that I allowed to run can be pruned out, again, giving taper.

And it’s early enough in the year that I can try to propagate every branch tip.

For me, in Florida, I’ve found that if I take a hardwood cutting just before the leaves emerge, I have a pretty good rooting success rate. And a cutting grown trident has the best nebari, far superior to a seedling, in my opinion.

That could be a good batch. We shall see.

Back to the tree. It seems as though the roots are escaping too. A repot is on the agenda.

This is the soil it’s in now, basically an organic, mixed half and half with perlite. A good mix for nursery pots and growing things big and tall.

Terrible for growing ramification and branches.

Looks like I even have some worms.

Worms are ok for plants in the ground, but not for plants in pots, by the way. The tunnels they make in soil aren’t good for pot culture as they cause air pockets that hurt roots.

The training pot. Or three.

Ben Agresta and I had found these at a place that was liquidating everything (NO OFFER REFUSED!!!!) as they were moving the store.

They’re not really high quality, but they’re better than plastic.

Made from fibreglass reinforced concrete and painted brown.

Good drain holes……two fingers….

They’ll do.

First step, prepare the new pot.

Then rake out the root mass…..

Not a bad root pad.

Wow, the mess…..I seriously need apprentices to clean up after me.

This incredibly blurry pic shows the profusion of nice healthy roots.


My hand for scale.

Looks like it almost fits.

Just a bit of root needs to come off.

There we go. This is how you handle a large tree alone. I got a hydraulic cart from Harbor Freight Tools and welded on bits for Some big old garden friendly wheels

And this was a phlebotomists chair, which I modified, welding a base plate and attaching a round wooden top for turntable use. It goes up and down as well and spins (ME RIGHT ROUND BABY RIGHT ROUND…..)

The hydro cart raises the tree up to the turntables height.

And, after some small grunts and a little slide to the left, the tree is on the turntable.

You can get a hydro cart from SuperFly Bonsai. I don’t get any money from them but tell ’em I sent you over.

Now for the real lesson, after all the scissor and root work……

Some fertilizer…….

I know, I’ve said before that you shouldn’t be fertilizing deciduous trees in the early spring. I say that because your internodes will be too far away to make for a compact tree. But in this case, the nodes I’ll be using are already close, and the rest………..and all this will be pruned off anyway.

Because the next step is….

let it grow some more. And that’s what I’ll do.

And that’s what I did!

This was about two weeks later…

It’s amazing.

No wonder our ancestors believed the trees died in winter and were reborn in spring.

Even after all the crap I just did to it, it still pushed that much growth in just two weeks.

The next work will be in June, so stay tuned.

See ya’ wouldn’t wanna be ya’!

4 thoughts

  1. I just looked at Superfly, and I think your Harbor Freight purchase and Adamengineering paid for you a new welder. Great idea – I’ve been needing something like that for a while, but I couldn’t see putting out that kind of $$$. Thanks; you may have saved me what I would have spent in future Dr. visits, Rx bills and muscle relaxers! And what do you do with a (once beautiful) 20 year old Trident that has died back to only three long limbs – probably because I didn’t seal the wounds, after pruning a few limbs a couple of years ago. It just started dying back a limb (or part of a limb) one at a time. I quit cutting out the dead, trying to save it or help it recover. The ones that are still living are doing great. But now, at the crotch, about 2-1/2 feet up from the ground, I’ve got a circle of more shoots and little limbs than I can count. It looks like a porcupine gone fishing with some long cane poles!


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