Vine Maple ‘Boot’ Revisit-

This composition is from March 2015. We had it in the studio for our annual fall trim and thought it might be fun to compare it with the original styling. 

I’d intended this one to be a bit…awkward. Many paintings, sculpture, or other art I enjoy looking at again and again often have an element of the quirky or odd. I was investigating at the time about not just the visual balance we often talk about in bonsai, the synthesis of the design, but actual physical balance—where something does or doesn’t tip over, and playing along that edge.

This maple came out of a few particularly experimental years in the Crataegus garden, and it’s still one that visitors either pass by quickly as if they wish they hadn’t just seen that, or they stand there for a few minutes and call me over to talk about it. Nice to have a few like that in the garden.

The moniker ‘The Boot’ came about organically, like many nicknames do. We playfully name things in my yard, not as one would name a work of art, but to help communicate which tree we are talking about. For years then this has been the The Boot, as the levitated area off to the right looks like a raised mossy shoe.

A word about the ramification of Vine Maple, Acer circinatum. Ramification tends to progress…slowly. Vine Maple is a species with a genetic lineage closest to Full Moon Maple and Japanese Maple, and they are not predictably defoliated, with equally predictable reflush (a technique used often with more vigorous maples like Trident). The ramification of this maple resulted just from the spring growth, some of which bifurcated naturally, and at its own pace.

The raw, unworked Vine Maple in 2015, from the Cascades of the Pacific Northwest, at the assumed planting angle and front

The secret in the inside…a nylon board support, cut up and bolted together, with the tree ready for attachment

And at the end of assembly day, with the roots surrounded with sphagnum moss, and live moss held in place with wrapped nylon fishing line

Fast forwarding five years to October 2020, before the fall trim. Some lichen is creeping into the moss on the right.

After the fall trim in October, 2020

Try the original photo essay for more about this cantilevered creation.


  1. Mark says:

    Why not take it one step further: hang it from the ceiling. Use clear plastic to minimise the “side effects”.


  2. OH, C’MON NOW !!! THATS RIDICULOUSly cool as hell 😉
    And therein lies the nature of art vs just sticking something in a pot…
    Well done !

  3. Judy says:

    Does anyone else see a Moose? I see a moose! Very inventive.

  4. RAY NORRIS says:

    Love this little tree😎

    Sent from my iPhone

  5. John says:

    Definitely seeing a moose….boot visual is boring.

  6. crust says:

    What a joyful thing to care for. Its zoomorphism immediately speaks to me with a hissing spit tongue.

  7. kiwijaz says:

    I can even see the eyes on the moose’ face!

  8. Thomas says:

    I also enjoy the quirkiness of this one. I like the unexpected.
    I do have a question about your ideas with this tree, and wondered if you’d share about your plans for developing this tree. It seems as though you’ve mostly just thinned the new growth, and really haven’t at all tried to compact the tree at all. I do understand using an enlongated aesthetic depending on the tree, but I was surprised to see that there was no compaction at all in your “after-trim” pic.

    • crataegus says:

      I like this question! Yes, correct, I’ve made very little effort to compact. Though some of the longer original shoots were cut back when ramification down their length popped up, it hasn’t made much of a compacting feel. And the recent trim is only marginally shorter. The answer is I’m curious about the tension between a thick trunk—which usually assumes a compact form, around the trunk—and long airy branches. It shouldn’t work. Yet maybe the oddity of this one lets that slide a bit. Anyhow that’s another edge I was toying with in this construction.

  9. M E WILLIAMS says:

    I really like this maple planting! Do you (and I suppose can/should you) ‘repot’ such a creation, and if so how often do you do do?

    • crataegus says:

      Great question…at about the same timeframe as a tree on a slab, which is a longer timeframe than most bonsai. Often almost twice the time. Slab forests are sometimes ‘repotted’ every 10 years or so. I tend to look at the internode length as a gauge. When they start getting too short then we’ll take some moss away, cut roots, and replace it.

  10. Robert West says:

    I am lichen that amazing sculpture!

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