Another technique that can create interesting texture in trident trunks is plaiting several seedlings together.
Plaiting does away with the need to tie the trunks together as the plaited trunks are already held firmly so they cannot push each other away.
As the trunks thicken they will fuse together into a single thicker trunk but some of the original trunk shapes will be preserved in the fused trunk giving added character.
Start with 3 flexible seedlings. Best to use the thinnest ones available because thicker ones are quite brittle and are likely to snap when you weave them round each other. The more flexible the trunks the tighter you can plait.
Tie your seedlings at the base then plait the trunks together as well as you are able. It does not matter how neat you are. Some randomness might even make the final trunk took more natural but a really loose plait will take far longer to fuse together.
Tie the top to stop them unraveling and plant as normal. Use a larger pot or put them in the ground to get good growth. The faster the trees thicken the quicker they will fuse into a single trunk.
These trunks will have lots of character but they are just straight. What about adding some bends for additional interest? Here I have wired the 3 plait and given the trunk some bends. Make sure you remove that wire before the trunk start to thicken!
Lack of taper also affects plaited trunk fusions so don’t plait the full length of your proposed trunk. This time I have also tried some variations on the simple 3 plait to see what happens.
9 seedling plait: For this one I started out with 9, divided them into 3 groups of 3 and started plaiting as a normal 3 plait. As the plaited section grew I started to leave a couple of the seedlings out of the plait until I ended up plaiting just 3 for the last section. Will it give me a better tapered trunk? Will those ones left out lower make good branches?
One unexpected effect of the 9 plait was that the plaited trunk is very flat near the base – 9 wide but only 1 thick. That’s not great for a bonsai trunk so I have also played with some alternative plaits.
4 plait: Quit obviously 4 seedlings plaited together.
6 plait round: This one is borrowed from whip making where they use many strands to plait a round section. It is a little more difficult to make the trident seedlings neat but should give a trunk with all the character of a plait but better depth.
You may be interested to research different plaiting techniques to see if any might make good bonsai trunks.
I don’t have any older plaited trunks tridents to show you. Results have been unpredictable. Good ones have great trunk character with bulges and hollows but quite a few just look terrible to my eye.
If you are interested in trying plaited trident trunks you can order seedlings from Shibui Bonsai right through winter. Make sure you let me know you plan to plait and I will try to pick out mostly thinner trunks that will be easier to plait. I would recommend the small sized tridents – only 50c each + delivery costs.