During Part 1 of the 90th 2016 Kokufu Bonsai Exhibition four bonsai received a Kokufu Award, the highest award presented in Japan for distinctive quality bonsai. Among the winners was an unusual Trident maple, root-over-rock style. The upright shape of this stone is distinctive and unusual and I know I’ve seen an old photo of the bonsai. While looking through my bonsai reference library I found a photo of the same bonsai taken in 1965 from an old book. It’s important to remember that probably 30 years were spent to get the bonsai to the stage of development shown in 1965. Fine bonsai require time, as well as technical skill and taste to develop into masterpieces.
Comparing the two bonsai the twig development in the past 50 years is outstanding. The fine delicate twigs completed the triangular silhouette established with a few branches in 1965. However, more amazing to me is that the artists were able to maintain this Trident maple bonsai in the same size for 50 years. Trident maples are perhaps the most vigorous maple species used for bonsai. They can grow quickly, even for me in the frigid north were they are not winter hardy. In a container I can grow a Trident maple branch to about six feet in one season. This means that the trunk and twigs quickly develop and thicken. Very often Trident maple bonsai trained in the root-over-rock style rapidly thicken and completely cover the stone with their thickening roots. By the way, when the “roots” reach the soil the upper parts act as trunks, while the sections under the soil are the absorbing roots which keep the tree alive.
Tremendous care was provided to this beautiful Trident maple bonsai and I admire the decades of training, probably from several different artists, to develop such a fine specimen. I also congratulate the owner for the Kokufu Award, however the bonsai received the award. I could sit and admire this bonsai for hours and would if I had the time and opportunity.
Fine quality like this outstanding Trident maple bonsai require decades to fully develop, along with the technical skill and taste to maintain health and bonsai beauty.