Here’s another neat Acer buergerianum, another gift from my friend Ed.

This was from the same batch where he put CD’s under the roots to improve the nebari root spread. The work today will be a thread graft, repot, and bud selection.

Ed did a spectacular job building the tree to this point.

The roots are great, and using old compact disks was brilliant.

A quick repot into a deeper container since I’ll be putting a graft on it.

It’s just a plastic grow pot for now.

There we go…

Let’s appreciate the work done by Ed.

The root spread, or nebari, as some Japanese nurseries call it, is near perfect in my eyes. Some bonsai artists and people like a more flattened look to the nebari, but I prefer a more natural look myself.

Now let’s get to the branches and bud selection.

First step is to get rid of the ups/downs, and superfluous branches. Below there’s a strong upward growing branch.

And, looking closely, I count at least eight new buds in the same spot.

The great thing about tridents is their ability to back bud. But you have to keep them in check or you’ll end up with unsightly knobs and “hands”, which will take away from the taper and flow of the branch structure. So we have to pick and choose carefully what we allow to grow.

And, importantly, only allow two branches from each split. The word of the day to remember is “bifurcation”, meaning:

the division of something into two branches or parts

Say good bye to that branch.

Keep the before pics in mind, I intend to be very aggressive today.

Like this, below:

Here are some examples of those knobs:

If you allow them to grow, they’re almost impossible to correct.

In this case, I’ll have to cut almost the whole branch off and start over.

Kinda like this:

Now, looking at the top, I’ve lost taper, so I’ll lower…..a lot:

Down to here I think…

That’s good. For now. Let’s see how I feel at the end….

Lets get to the grafting. And I know you’re asking about the need for grafting, since this tree backbuds so much. Sometimes, many times, they don’t grow a bud where you want it to. Especially on the trunk. Here’s an example of an approach graft:

Much needed in that spot, so Ed placed it years ago.

For the thread graft (a thread graft means literally drilling a hole and “threading” a scion through the hole). The scion I have is in this little pot; some cuttings I took a year or so ago.

I try to choose a cutting or seedling with multiple nodes that are close to each other. It’ll develop better with multiple buds to choose from that way.

And you should try to match the genetics best you can too. These leaves are similar enough to match each other, the ones on the top are the big trident, and the leaf on the bottom is from the scion.

I also like that the roots are coming out the bottom of the pot, that’ll help the scion’s growth as it roots into the base trees pot.

I’m looking to have the graft go in this area and general direction.

About like so…

The drill bit should be just a tad bigger than the scions girth.

And we have a hole.

The scion….

The threading…

That should work.

I seal it with, appropriately, grafting sealant. This one seems to me to be wax-based. Very goopy and sticky. I like this kind because it doesn’t dry out and harden off, making it almost impossible to remove like some of those other grafting sealants.

Then I use some wire, for two reasons. One is to hold the graft in place; movement makes the grafting take longer to take or not at all. The other is to give some movement to the branch off the bat.

The idea in using a thread graft is for the scion (the piece you are grafting into the tree) to get thicker and swell, growing into the tree without the need to match cambium layers. It’s an easier way to graft than an approach graft or a bud graft. And that means I want the scion to grow fast. Meaning fertilizer. Lots of fertilizer.

It’s also the area I’ll water first when I come around to it in my watering regimen, if the fertilizer doesn’t get water, it doesn’t work.

And there we go. Bob’s yer uncle!

This was mostly an informational post, but you may have noticed how, lately, I’ve been throwing in philosophy, poetry, things like that. And the ever present bad jokes always abound (here’s a good one, a priest walks into a bar, looks around to see who saw him, and says “ouch”). I’ve had some criticism about the philosophy (and the jokes). I can understand that. Most people want to know how to do bonsai, how to do the work. I understand that. But bonsai is more than just the techniques. So here’s a short bit of philosophizing. You see, you may be working on the bonsai, but, as Ed Trout says, “…..the trees also work on you…”. Bonsai is the only Art that you can’t force. It’s a relationship, a collaboration, almost a dance in slow motion, trading moves that should be in harmony with each other, a give and take, between you and the tree. And that relationship you develop with the tree comes with ideas and philosophies. You have to learn the language of the tree and listen to it.

And understand the language.

Like I said, you can’t force it. If you try to force a tree….well, in that direction lies hubris. It’s easy to become like Icarus, and you’ll lose your wax wings very quickly as you fly too close to the sun. You may have been flying high, but you’ll drop just as quickly when all your feathers (or the leaves of your tree) fall off.

Enough of that for today.

Looking at the tree, letting the work and the trunk lines sink in, I’m feeling I need to reduce the top even more.

How’s that? Maybe even shorter in a few months. I’ll update the trees progress as it needs updating.

Now go work a tree.

7 thoughts

    1. The beauty of a thread graft is so you don’t have to cut the bark off the scion, you just let it grow into the tree. Rooting hormone isn’t used on grafts, and I do not seal the end of the scion, no need to really, the tree does that itself

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  1. Keep up the philosophy, and the jokes. Along with the always excellent information make for a powerful teaching method. It is also who you are

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  2. This makes me think I need to cut my all of my trident maples WAY back.
    As always, it’s a pleasure to learn from you.

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  3. Brice Marden, a painter, said, “I paint the space between the canvas and me.” or something close to that. The idea being, it’s all about give and take when creating. You have to listen to the voice of what you are working with, otherwise it looks forced, and worse, it feels that way, too.

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