The 2010 BonsaiNut Maple Project

Brian Van Fleet

Pretty Fly for a Bonsai Guy
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B’ham, AL
I love this idea! I've been working on trees for quite a few years, and have never once had a trident maple in a bonsai pot. I've always figured that they were so easy to grow, that I wouldn't have one unless it was a damn good one. I have several trident maples in the ground, and so far, they've just been growing and serving as cutting stock. We've also moved enough times that they haven't had the benefit of staying in the ground for a long-enough stretch to really take advantage of our long growing season.

That stated, here is my candidate. It is a 3-year-old cutting from a tri (ironically) that came from Gary Wood about 7 years ago. It was rooted in early 2007 about pencil-thick, planted in the ground in mid-summer, and left to grow in place through present time. (The parent tree is right behind it).

Here is a photo of the tri, circled in red and yellow taken in early 2008, after growing for one season; 2007.


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Here is the same tree, taken at the end it's second growing season; 2008. The tri is circled again in red and yellow.

It grew to about 10' tall in '08, and ended up up about 1" thick just above the soil. It had a goofy bend in the trunk that is still visible in this photo, but smoothed out during the 2009 growing season. This one seems to have a tendency to flatten out, so I'm watching it to understand what causes it to flatten, and how I can compensate; maybe by rotating it when I dig it up to do root-work.

The parent tree is right behind this one. I had higher hopes for it, but a pruning cut made probably too early in the year resulted in the tree drying up on the front, and I'll have to end up cutting it back to ahead of the first cut again. The base and roots are good, so it shouldn't be a problem...just lost the movement for the time-being.

It's FREEZING cold outside right now, so I'll take photos tomorrow of the present state.


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Here is the Tri as of today; tried to circle it in yellow. The trunk diameter is about 2.75" just above the soil level, and the height is about 16'. I will either dig it up in the spring to do some root work, and cut it back to a few inches tall, or leave it alone for 2010. It really depends on what the nebari looks like (once the soil thaws, I can poke around). I suspect it is pretty coarse, and in that case I will dig it up and cut it back hard. Until spring...


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I really wish I could grow those in my area. :(
I really wish I could grow those in my area.

Tridents in Utah? Why not?
Update, 3/13/10

Since I'm in the process of digging up everything I own and doing root work, here is my Trident Maple project update.

Dug, bare-rooted, pruned, and stuck in a 3-gallon pot. It will go back in the ground when timing is right...either this fall or next spring.

The trunk is coming along nicely, but it lacks any real taper and movement. If the nebari develops nicely, I might style it as an upright. If it's irregular, I will chop the trunk again and try to get some movement in a way that accentuates the look of the nebari.


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Update 10/18/10

So here it is 7 months after doing some serious root-work and developing some closer-in feeder roots in a nursery still grew to 6' tall in a 3-gallon can, and the trunk did put on a little diameter, but most notably are those fine roots developing from the cuts made in March. It's back in the ground now, where I'll leave it for a couple years.


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Thanx for the update and I enjoy reading through this post everytime you update it. I had some trident seedling from Matt O last december that spent the summer in grow pans and now are in the ground. I have a cutting from last year that grew tremendously where I planted and I hope these do the same. Good luck with yours.
Mojoson tridents aren't fully hardy in our zone 5a here we need to give them decent winter protection.
At the end of '12 growing season, it's 7" wide at the soil level, and 3" wide at 1.5" up the trunk.
The eaves is 12', and its clearly grown higher than it in the last 2 seasons.


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I think I need an emoticon for that one too

seriously, I love the flutes in the trunk!
Beautiful trunk. Are you going to chop while it is in the ground, or dig it up first ?
Thanks Dave, it will stay in the ground for a few more years. I might layer off a chunk in the spring, chop it down lower and try to grow another section before digging it up. The heavy root work done in '10 should (famous last words) be enough to keep things from going crazy underground for another couple years.
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Nice. The base looks like the muscular hornbeams that grow around here.
Cool progression Brian. I had one in the garden this yr. that dev. a flat side to it. I threw it away. Any reason for this that you've come across?
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