Vine Maple ‘Tower’ as it looks today!

When this tree was first posted this spring it was a weird experiment that looked, I thought, ‘like a mangy dog’. There was just ugly sphagnum moss that had a few spots of live moss attached here and there. So it looked a mess, and everyone was very kind to ignore how dreadful the thing was. Or, at least, I didn’t receive any comments about that part.

For those curious about the original post, and the weird nylon contraption that is underneath the moss, here it is:

I had hoped for some colonization of green moss this year, and I also hoped the maple would agree to life on a tower. Both thankfully seem to have happened. We did have to water it a lot. And it was protected from the strong summer sun, too, to help it get established. Here’s the maple as it looked in April 2013, after our day of putting it together:


Vine Maple ‘Tower’, April 2013


Vine Maple Tower this week, October 2013. The drooping branches are from leaf weight, and they should rise a bit over the winter.


A closeup of the Licorice ferns, a native of the Pacific Northwest, USA, which is deciduous in the summertime but regrows in the fall. The moss is beginning to have coverage over the moss/cheesecloth areas.


The base of the tower, with a bit of the nylon board peeking out of the moss.


A few of the rotty-looking extensions…


The Vine maple trunk…which either you like or you won’t. It’s never been wired, nor will I. It’s a wild child of my bonsai yard and I think it’s a fun counterpoint to some of the others that receive more directed training. I chose this tree because I liked it. Not because I wanted to change it.


The maple two days later than the first October photo, with a bit more color. They change so fast, and lose their leaves earlier than Japanese maple. But, I think I’ll like this tree just as much out of leaf.


And the Vine Maple Tower simply later in the day than the previous photo, with even more yellow in the leaves. Quick color change! Also there’s a Japanese maple on a post, and behind it, another Vine maple that has lost most of the top leaves already, with the bottom part still green and leafy.


I have to include the work today, which was Bobby and Ed (and, periodically, me) putting in a French drain in the back. It’s a bit swampy back there and I’m hoping this will solve the sogginess and allow some benches. I really don’t know what I’d do without these two guys, and others who’ve helped here. You guys rock.

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  1. Zach says:

    Truly an amazing composition. I have never seen anything like that in the U.S. Thanks for sharing!

  2. adamaskwhy says:

    I am really liking this Michael. It is beautiful. Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Bruce Winter says:

    Oh gawd, THAT thing…Who knew a maple could grow on a moose leg? 😉 Do you have to strap it down in a breeze? Or is it weighted on the bottom?
    Actually, I think it’s splendid.

    PS: I wonder what the French call those drains? English drains?

    • crataegus says:

      I’ll have to post a photo of the inspiration for that thing, which is a gondola in downtown Portland…

      It’s actually very bottom heavy. I put a lot of sphagnum down there, which soaks up the water pretty well. And there are five or six bolts it’s resting on, so it’s fairly stable. I was wondering too if it would just fall over in a breeze, but there are others in the yard that I do tie down and not this one.

  4. Monte says:

    Michael, it’s kind of you to allow alien plant based life forms to live in your garden but maybe you should fence it in before it eats anymore of your trees. Just imagine the chaos that would ensue if it escapes and multiplies!

  5. Mark says:

    Very cool. Where can I find nylon board? What type of glue did you guys use?

  6. Ian Willis says:

    Hi. I’m in the UK, and have been interested in bonsai for nearly a year now. I love the idea of weird and unusual stylings, and I’ve been reading through your blog continuously for about 7 hours! I really love the look of this!! Is sphagnum moss the only substrate that you have used for the roots of the tree to grow in? I find this absolutely fascinating!

    • crataegus says:

      Hi Ian, I use muck more often than sphagnum moss, though the muck includes sphagnum. Conifers for instance would not enjoy the uber-moistness of the sphagnum. Glad you’re enjoying the stylings!

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