Projects with Trident Maple seedlings

Here at Shibui Bonsai we have a few large trident maples in the garden. As a result we also have a plentiful supply of trident maple seedlings every year. These provide an abundant resource for bonsai projects for both me, other members of out local club and Shibui Bonsai customers. Trident seedlings are available each year from June until I get tired of digging and packing them………………….

Here are some ideas for bonsai projects using small seedlings like the ones that come from our garden.

  1. Group style bonsai.

    Trident maple group – August 2016

    Groups look better when all the trees have similar characteristics so I sort the seedlings to have straight trunks together and another pile with twisted or bent trunks. Plant your pre bonsai group in a seedling flat or similar large, shallow tray so the trees can grow together and develop for a couple of years. More details here:  Start a bonsai forest

  2. Clump style bonsai: Some of my original clumps were developed by simply planting a few seedlings together in a bunch. The intertwined roots will hold them together as they thicken and the trunks will gradually join into a single fused base. More recently I’ve been threading seedlings through holes drilled in sheet metal. As the seedlings thicken the sheet constricts circulation causing the seedlings to produce callus and new roots just above the plate. They quickly join together and the roots merge to form an impressive nebari.
  3. Single seedlings threaded through similar sheet metal will also grow new roots which will usually help the base of the trunk to flare out. Develop great nebari #2 This method reliably produces trunks with good taper and impressive nebari.
  4. Fused trunk tree: gather a bunch of seedlings together and bind the whole bunch together. Duct tape works well for me. It is slightly elastic so helps to compress the stems together and it is durable enough to last a couple of years in the weather.
  5. Root over Rock: If you are lucky enough to get some seedlings with plenty of long roots they can be draped over a rock and wrapped in aluminium foil to grow your own impressive root over rock bonsai. Growing Root over Rock bonsai                 If your seedlings don’t have long roots just cut the tap root at a point just below a cluster of lateral roots then plant the seedling into a tall pot for a year to develop plenty of long roots for next year’s root over rock plantings.
  6. Root Grafting: It is common to have a maple with at least one gap in the nebari. A few roots missing can make the difference between an excellent bonsai and a mediocre one but it is quite easy to add extra roots just where you want them. Seedlings provide the needed roots, you just need to thread graft or approach graft in the desired location. This post covers adding roots by both approach grafts and thread grafts – Grafting for Bonsai
  7. Add branches: Pruning can sometimes stimulate dormant buds to grow but they often don’t appear just where you want a new branch. Grafting can put a branch exactly where you want it. New branches are usually grafted with a long shoot from parent tree so you can be certain the characteristics of leaf and growth habit are identical but sometimes grafting a seedling is the only option. Thread graft is often used to add branches. I’ve also seen examples where mature branches from one part of the tree have a seedling grafted on to sustain it while it is cut off and grafted back onto the trunk in a different location.

There seems to be no end to uses for trident maple seedlings.

Trident seedlings are still available from Shibui Bonsai this year. Small seedlings: 20 for $10, 3-6mm trunks: $1 each + shipping costs. Email to order.


Those roots

Some of you may have noted the evenly spread roots on the trident maples in the previous post. Those of you who have been following for a while or who have been back through earlier posts will already be aware that nebari like that is not just a coincidence.



Here’s the same trident maple from below. The original trunk that was threaded through the hole in the aluminium plate is still visible and functioning. As it grows a little thicker, circulation will be further restricted and it will gradually die off but the new roots above the plate are now strong and healthy enough to support the tree.


More pictures and a full description in the 12-Aug 2017 post – Develop great nebari #2

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Another twisted shimpaku

The recent workshop with Joe Morgan-Payler has re-inspired me to keep developing these small, contorted junipers.

While not everyone appreciates this style of bonsai, especially here in Australia where our relatively mild climate does not produce such trees in the mountains, they seem to be valued by Japanese bonsai artists. These trees simulate the types of trunks that the severe winters and harsh growing conditions in the Japanese mountains naturally produce.

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JBP first styling

Today I worked on a Japanese Black pine. It was grown from seed about 10 years ago and I kept it because it has a really good 360 degrees root system that should develop into great pine nebari. Despite having such a great root system the top has not developed particularly well so I have not given it much attention so it is a good candidate to show how I go about making initial styling decisions. Continue reading

Autumn at Shibui Bonsai

The warm weather has gone on way longer than normal in our area this year but many of the deciduous trees at Shibui Bonsai have finally decided it is time to shut down for the winter so we finally have some colour.

Autumn colour is best with cold nights and fine sunny days so this year’s leaf colour is nowhere near as strong as usual but still worth sharing some photos with you. Continue reading

Layering for bonsai

Layering is the term used when we grow new roots on the stem of a plant so that we can produce a new plant.

There are 2 main methods: Air layering and Ground layering. There are also many variations of each of these methods.

Layering has many uses in bonsai:

  1. It can be used to propagate a new plant that you can then train as a bonsai. Because you can layer large branches you can start off with a nice thick trunk.
  2. It can be used to grow new roots at a point on the trunk that is better than the current root level.
  3. If a bonsai has poor nebari, a modified version of layering can be used to get new roots to fill in, and improve the nebari.
  4. When you have a bonsai with a really nice top but poor base you can layer and remove the good upper part as a new tree.

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