Trident maple conundrum

Wyseguy

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Hey all, Part time lurker, first time poster and only into Bonsai for about 5 years but most of that has been annual maintenance and not much in the way of styling. After I purchased this tree it was recommended that I make it into a broom style. Since then I've been attempting to let it "grow in" but after seeing the tridents of someone in a forum I can no longer find online I figured it was time to reach out for some ideas. The person I'm referring to was cutting his maples flat and they had nice even growth and turned into incredible brooms and I don't recall them having had lower branches below the cut so essentially new shoots formed around where the edge of the cut was. This tree is pretty tough so I have no qualms about topping it now - I live in zone 7 so maybe just a little late. It needs to be transplanted so I'm looking to move it to pot in the late fall after whatever major chop I'm about to do. I'm just a little concerned about doing a flat chop without a lower branch to die back to.

I have considered leaving one of the thicker branches and chopping down and away on an angle to shoot for an informal upright effect rather than a broom but I may have the directions backwards. And yes I know the nebari is not to show standards, but it's one of the reasons I bought it though I am receptive to the idea of a maybe a little cleanup. At one point I did have a front picked up (pic 22) but that just begs for more root work than I may want to consider. No matter which way I turn it, it has gnarly roots.

Anyways, just looking for some thoughts about the two paths I can take with this tree, I don't think there are any others but I could be wrong.

Thanks!
 

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Bonsai Nut

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Welcome to the site!

I think you may have difficulty creating a broom from this tree due to the large prune scar at the top. Hard to tell from the photo, but it appears that the scar is not healing, and potentially the bark beneath the scar is dead/dying. If it were my tree, I'd go down the path of training it as an informal upright, and would chose the single best leader and remove all the others. Then I would let it get much stronger so that some of those scars start to close up.
 

Shibui

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Tridents do not shoot around the edges of a cut trunk. They only make new shots at spots where old nodes have been. After a hard chop the trunks can sometimes produce a bunch of buds from the nodes close to the chop. Because maples have opposite growth that may sometimes seem like new shoots forming around the cut but generally the trunk will need to be cut back to the shoots after they have gained some strength.

Traditional broom style has some quite exacting requirements. Trunk vertical, exceptional radial nebari, no scars, branches radiating out and up to give an umbrella dome outline.
I don't think this tree will meet all of the exacting requirements but more and more we are seeing a modified version of broom and informal upright that you could follow.
Trunks can have slight bends, branches more free form but still rising up and out, scars and hollows are OK, branching still ends up as an umbrella dome.

Branches will need to be developed by pruning quite hard to get better ramification in the lower sections. I would also consider removing at least one of the main branches as too many so close together will make the top of the trunk swell over time.
Some wayward roots could be removed but until you can see what others are under or close it is hard to advise which ones should go and which should go.

I would not do a trunk chop on this one below existing branches. The trunk looks too badly damaged and appears to lack the vigor needed for really good regrowth. I would be worried that this one may not shoot as well as expected but if you are willing to take the risk now would be a good time for you.
 

sorce

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Keep it anti-tradish.

Welcome to Crazy!

Sorce
 

leatherback

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Without seeing the rest of the tree it is a little dificult to judge the health. But as @Bonsai Nut was saying, it could probably do with some strong growth to get stronger. In fact, I would consider removing all but one top branch AND burrying the nebari and then just let if grow for a year. Chopped back next winter should give you plenty of buds.
 

kevinlovett86

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I also have a trident with the same weird sprouts at the top, so I took the long whip and thread grafted it lower down the trunk.
Got more growth this season so I could do a couple more

E14EE8AC-D846-4405-AADE-EFAA914E1231.jpeg
 
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Tridents don't typically make good broom style trees like zelkova, so if that is your goal you may want to reconsider. Plus you usually want the upper broom to pair with a buttressed base with good radial roots, which you do not have. I would consider doing what @Bonsai Nut said and maybe consider carving and hollowing the base scar to make is interesting.
 

Tieball

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I'd research trees styled and worked by Walter Pall to bring curious thinking to the surface. I enjoy his wild flair of taking the unusual and making a breathtaking tree out of it. Your tree has some excellent character. Unusual things. It has possibilities. I would check out some of the trees Walter has created with natural character meeting up with inspiration.
 

JonW

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I would remove some of the deadwood under the wounds and scar the edges of the cambium, then cover with cut paste, to encourage healing. I also agree with burying the plant deeper for a better nebari. You can sometimes even encourage roots by cutting the bark/cambium where you want roots, applying rooting hormone, and then burying the plant with soil high enough above those cuts that it stays moist enough to grow roots (some people using sphagnum to help).

You also already have a couple potential fronts that don't show too much of the wounds. That might be a place to start training an informal upright.

For this tree, that are as many great qualities as challenging ones. If you might a front and style the tree now, you might get a great result. If you work on fixing some of the flaws first, you might have more options when it comes time to pick a front. Regardless, the nebari is the most important thing and I think the roots need some work from every angle. I'd probably start there and left the foliage power some root growth, healing some wounds and building vigor. Cutting the top reduces the resources to do those things, so it would slow down your process to a good foundation for a bonsai - which is fine, but you just need to consider that.
 

Wyseguy

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Thanks all, there's definitely some things to consider but I think moving in the direction of informal upright makes sense. My plan is to move into a pot and and do some root work and bury in soil and sphagnum moss.

I think I know which branch I'm going to use for the leader which should help in choosing the front. Last but not least it sounds like some cambium scraping and cut paste is in order to fix the areas where the cambium has turned black. I hacked away at top a little last year or the year before - that was when I began to question whether a broom style was even possible. I'll post some pics after it's been repotted.
 
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