It is no wonder that newer bonsai growers are a bit confused and have to post so many online questions about dealing with relatively undeveloped stock. That’s what you have to work with but experienced growers only ever post and talk about techniques for working with well established bonsai.
So here’s some ideas and technique that I use on much younger trident maples. Please be aware that young trees like these can be developed into almost anything and different techniques could be used depending on the desired outcome.
Starting with really young seedlings:
These are typical 1 year old trident maple seedlings that I’ve just dug out of our garden so have never been trimmed top or roots. Please ignore the leaves on the left hand seedling. these were dug a little earlier than normal for this post. Usually tridents are root pruned while they are completely dormant (July – September here)
My first step is always the roots. Good nebari is important for bonsai, even more important in maples. Many trees are far more tolerant of root pruning than we give credit for. Tridents are among the hardier species so roots can be trimmed quite hard. Try to cut strong down roots just below a good layer of lateral roots that will form your future nebari. If there are few laterals just cut the main root a little below soil level and most trident seedlings will respond with plenty of new lateral roots. Luckily these seedlings already had quite good roots. you may be able to pick up where I’ve also removed a few higher roots which were growing just on one side.
Finally I usually prune the tops. This will force several new shoots next year which should give me more choices for trunk movement and for creating taper.
Now just pot your seedlings up in your preferred bonsai mix or a good commercial potting mix. These little sticks could go into either 11cm or 15 cm pots.
More starter stock in the next post.