Trident Maple Clump Style Development


When I returned home on Monday from teaching in California, I was greeted by my Trident maple clump in brilliant autumn coloring. A few other bonsai are also just starting to show color. Hopefully my garden and bonsai will be colorful when I return home from Taiwan next week. On November 11, 2017 at 1pm EST, I’ll be doing a question and answer live broadcast from my garden and hopefully the garden and bonsai will be colorful. Check out Bonsai Empire for the details:


Before removing from the stone about 15 years ago in MAY.

The history of this bonsai and its development is interesting. Several decades ago Philis Wishnick created a rock planting with at least seven Trident maples, Acer buergerianum, in a class under the direction of Yuji Yoshimura. The stone is solid granite which Mr. Yoshimura shaped and glued a small rock on the bottom for stability in the correct orientation for optimum beauty.

She gave me the bonsai about twenty years ago with a few missing trees from her original design. I put the bonsai in my display garden and just watered it (intelligent neglect.) I had the rock planting for many years and simply watered it and did light trimming. Eventually the roots filled the peat much soil mixture and became large, so large that it pulled the anchoring wires Mr. Yoshimura cemented on the stone pulled off. Often I would lift the bonsai off the stone and dunk it in a pail of water to keep it hydrated.




Still not thin enough



Eventually, I had to do something to keep it alive so in mid-May, when the Trident maple was in FULL leaf it was removed from the rock, easy, just lift. My assistants Doug McDade and Doug Taylor helped me with the transplanting. I directed as the two took a reciprocating saw and simply sawed off the bottom of the root ball. It was not quite thin enough for me so we peeled off another layer. The reciprocating saw is a handy tool for me and often used when transplanting bonsai.


Front or back view


Front or back view


Only four of the original trunks remained and had grown together creating a clump style bonsai. I carefully positioned the Trident maple clump in a new container so it would look good from both sides. Since I’m not Japanese using four trunks did not bother my aesthetic sense.

The bonsai grew well and was maintained as a bonsai with two acceptable fronts. This is handy when displaying and a left to right eye movement is needed and also when a right to left eye movement is required for effective display, especially in areas with a solid wall on one side.

The bonsai was only transplanted once since it was removed from the stone. I don’t remember defoliating the bonsai, especially not during this past growing season. This Trident maple naturally had small neat foliage.


By the way, the original granite stone now has a multiple trunk Benichodori Japanese maple growing on it which looks good from both sides, an indication of a well-designed bonsai. It too also needs transplanting.



Enjoy autumn, it does not last that long….