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.


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