Trident Forest Re-imagining—

Several years ago I came across this older trident forest being sold at a bonsai nursery, and was interested in its relaxed, natural-looking lines. The trunks all looked about the same size, roughly, and I suspected we’d be fiddling with it some day to correct that.

Earlier this spring we finally got around to correcting the homogeneity of the old forest’s trunks simply by the addition of younger ones.

Photo from last summer, with chopsticks representing where minor trunks might go. This tree ended up being a quick quiz for Seasonal students over the next few months…’Where do the new trunks go?’

David, Garen and Larry excavate areas for the trunks at a Seasonal class in late winter. Sometimes it’s easier to do such simple additions without taking the bonsai out of the pot.

Close up of our excavations. Chopsticks remain in place so we don’t have the squirrel problem of remembering where our treasure is. Or where we want it to be.

Several of the small trunks in place

The finished composition, with seven new trunks. We did change the placement of several of them from our initial chopstick thinking, especially on the right side, adding a bit of space. None of the original older trunk placement was changed. As this was performed months ago, I can report that all the new additions survived; a greenhouse is a great stress reliever for aggressive root work on tiny saplings.

May 2020 Bulletin Board:

  • Firstly, after a fair bit of waiting and fingernail nibbling, Bonsai Heresy has finally arrived at Stone Lantern and Wayne tells me they are busily sending out over 550 pre-orders—so anyone who was impatient and did a pre-order will have theirs shortly, and those who weren’t remotely impatient may still order Bonsai Heresy from Stone Lantern and have it rather shortly thereafter
  • I’ll be revisiting some of the chapters of Bonsai Heresy on this blog, to take the content a step further—just a heads up that frequently a blog post will refer directly to what’s in Heresy, so please get a copy to follow along
  • The inaugural sessions for the new Seasonal-lite online course will be in late May and early June—I’m very excited about this new offering, for details please check out the Seasonal-lite  online course for bonsai study that you can participate in while sitting in your living room
  • Please link up to Ryan Neil’s podcast today—I’ll be his guest on this fun and long-standing interview platform that, again, you can enjoy in your living room
  • Finally, in the present slowdown I’ve been busily writing—more on these books in a separate post (and yes there are several in the works)

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  1. HorseloverFat says:

    Wow, splendid placement! …I have to admit that I was a tad nervous when viewing and attempting to cultivate a mental image using the chopsticks as a form/placeholder.

    My anxieties where, of course, dispelled/put to rest the very second I began to visually feast on the hearty banquet that IS the “finished composition” … as always, OUTstanding!

  2. i saw the group critique with you, Ryan and Matt reel awhile ago which makes me wonder if, as Ryan’s podcast guest today, you will get a word in edgewise ? Good luck navigating the rolling nuances !!! 😉

    (I kid, I kid…)

    • crataegus says:

      Well I’m glad you’re kidding…I think Ryan is a great host and interviewer. If you’ve not seen some of his podcasts I highly recommend them. A few are even with video, so you get to see the guest.

      • KEVIN STOEVEKEN says:

        seen his streams, but havent listened to any podcasts… I like pretty pictures with my bonsai words LOL… But the pretty pictures are what made me have to watch your bonsai empire class several times before I even heard a word you were saying 😉

      • crataegus says:

        Yes I’ve heard that before! The video work of Oscar Jonker was really compelling in that course!

      • KEVIN STOEVEKEN says:

        yes but a thoroughly enjoyable distraction !

  3. Jacob Keller says:

    Any chance there may be a future post about how it was decided on where the new trunks would go? Love the final placement!

  4. Silvia Schmidt says:

    Hello Michael,

    Firstly, thank you for sharing your bonsai knowledge and information. I’ve newly signed up to receive you email and enjoying receiving same.

    Secondly, I am with the Vancouver Island Bonsai Society and am wondering if it is possible to share your emails with fellow club members?

    Looking forward to your response.

    Silvia Schmidt


  5. Steve W says:

    Hi Michael – Love the blog! And also Bonsai Wire. I’ve been unable to source any information in regards to proper pruning and shaping of deciduous bonsai forests in the years after they are created. Clearly you’d want to discourage branches down low, in the interior, etc and promote healthy growth at the canopy and along the sides. But what is the best way to achieve/maintain that as the trees grow from 1-2 year old seedlings through maturity?

    Would love to hear/see your thoughts! Cheers – Steve

  6. Jesse Strong says:

    Great improvement..I’m curious though, did you add trident maples you had previously growing, or did you take cuttings from the existing trees to grow the trunks before you added them. I guess what I’m wondering is are the additional trunks cohesive with the existing? Do they match up in the usual things we look for in group or forest plantings, leaf size, bark color etc?

    • crataegus says:

      Yes, good question; for this group we used seedlings acquired elsewhere. If it were a Japanese maple, I would have taken cuttings, as the bark variation is much greater with Japanese than Trident. Here we likely won’t (I hope) see much difference once they gain some age. Rarely you can see coricosa (bark) Tridents. As for leaf size, another good question. The group was put together by someone else, there are some leaf differences, and so that ship already sailed, and I didn’t worry about it. It is a good consideration when putting something new together for sure. For the most part we’re displaying these when the leaves are off, but still, a good thing to consider.

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