Fat Little Trident Maple part 2

Nebari Bonsai

This trident didn’t exactly respond to spring pruning as I had hoped. Here is a mid-July photo:

The new leader emerged as a fish hook, and honestly, I wasn’t expecting it to bud back quite as close to the trunk chop…leaving that second section longer than I wanted. All the movement went to the right, and I wasn’t sure what to do next. I asked Al K., a shohin trident aficionado for his opinion. He did the following Virtual rendering, and it all clicked…he simply changed the movement from right to left and suddenly it worked. Thanks again Al.

So I went to work…





Next up was to add a thread graft in the right spot for,the first right branch…using the editing right branch as the scion to replace itself…
Check fit, drill hole, defoliate branch, thread through, tighten it against the exit hole, seal with paste, wrap branch…

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An interview with Bonsai Artist, Sergio Cuan

Nebari Bonsai

Sergio Cuan is a talented bonsai artist, who I got to know through BonsaiNut, where he is known as “Mach5”. I met Sergio at the 4th U.S. National Bonsai Exhibition, where he exhibited an impeccable Sharp’s Pygmy Japanese Maple that won Finest Deciduous Bonsai.

Sharps pygmy Japanese maple
(Photo credit: Jonas Dupich)

It’s really a great bonsai, and just one among many great bonsai that reside in Sergio’s New Jersey garden.

Sergio is launching a new bonsai website, and I had an opportunity to do an online interview with him to discuss bonsai and the new site.

Nebari Bonsai Blog: How did you get started in Bonsai?

Sergio Cuan: When I was a teenager, I received a juniper bonsai from my parents as a Birthday gift. I kept well watered, misted a few times a day and placed it by a bright window in my bedroom. It was dead within two weeks. Although this…

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Thread-grafting arakawa maple

Nebari Bonsai

Grafting is an absolutely necessary skill for bonsai. Practice makes perfect, but I’ll settle for good. This arakawa maple is a layer of a larger tree that is no longer in my collection. It’s been in the ground for the last 2 years, and while the nebari was arranged nicely and is developing well, the branches start very high up on the tree. Last year, I let long branches grow with the intent of grafting them back in, lower on the trunk.

Many methods of grafting exist, but thread grafting is usually the most fool-proof for adding branches to deciduous trees because the scion is not severed from the stock until adherence is complete. It must be done before the buds start to swell, and since this tree is in a fairly protected area, it’s a little ahead of most on the benches. The work was done on 2/8.


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Thread-grafting a Chishio Japanese Maple

Nebari Bonsai

This maple has been in training for about 8 years now. When it went to the US National Bonsai Exhibition last summer, I knew it was still early…maybe too early with regard to the green trunk and developing nebari. I also decided that after the show, I’d evaluate the tree and try to spend a few years really correcting a few flaws and improving the overall quality of the tree.

First, the nebari is radial, on one plane, and pretty flat. The tree has been repotted annually, and the roots get shortened to about a 6″ radius around the trunk. It responds by filling the pot each year. Still, some gaps remain, and I want a more buttressed base. Not necessarily a dinner plate, but better than it is now.
This is last year’s root pruning, just before filling in the soil:


This year I took it to Kathy Shaner’s…

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Japanese Maple Nebari Development

Nebari Bonsai

Repotting is different than typical bonsai styling because the amount of time one gets to see and work on roots is so short and infrequent; quite unlike the rest of the tree that we contemplate each day.

However, root work will make or break a bonsai.   For that reason, and the fact that I have a horrible memory, I make it a point to photograph my bonsai as I work on the roots.  This allows me to make a plan, and (more importantly) helps me remember that plan during the next repotting session!

Here is a quick look at developing a Japanese Maple’s nebari, over the last 3 repottings.

First, 2008 (third repotting)

Looking back at this, 4 years later, I would have cut each of the heavy roots back at least as far as I cut the left two roots shown above.  They are thickening well, but it would…

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Root over rock trident maple project

Nebari Bonsai

I started this project in ’10, with a 2-year old cutting and a rock I picked up a long time ago. It’s one of 3 similar stones I found in the same area…just can’t remember where! They’re all smooth, hard and dark. This one is about 10″ tall.

’10, the cutting:


Sloppily attached to the stone:


It was then planted deep into the orange can in the background, and left to grow unchecked all year.

In ’11, here is the progress after one year:


Roots trimmed and redirected to follow the grain of the stone, then wrapped in raffia:



Tightly covered in Parafilm:



In ’12, worked again, and to experiment, wrapped it in Saran Wrap and taped down (Parafilm is better). The root isn’t attaching very well at the top. Ideally, no daylight is visible between the root and the rock. I cleaned up the roots a little more, and…

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Trident Maple in the ground

Nebari Bonsai

Here is a cutting from a trident maple that came from Gary Wood in ’02. It was rooted in early 2007 about pencil-thick, planted in the ground in mid-summer, and left to grow in place through present time. (The parent tree is right behind it).

Here is a photo of the tree, circled in red and yellow taken in early 2008, after growing for one season; 2007.


Here is the same tree, taken at the end it’s second growing season; 2008. The tree is circled again in red and yellow.

It grew to about 10′ tall in ’08, and ended up up about 1″ thick just above the soil. It had a goofy bend in the trunk that is still visible in this photo, but smoothed out during the 2009 growing season. This one seems to have a tendency to flatten out, so I’m watching it to understand what causes…

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