Vine Maple Bunjin on Rock-

I collected this tree about five years ago, and put it in a nursery pot to recover from the indignity. It was deep in the back of the bonsai yard, nearly forgotten (John, my apprentice, assures me it’s been watered at least every September), and every month or so I’ve thought, ‘Really have to do something with that…’ This week we had some extra muck at hand and this composition was the result.

 Enjoy our mini-photo essay of creating a maple planting on a rock.

Vine Maple, Acer circinatum, removed from its pot, with a lava stone. The smaller trunk was removed.

Discovering a bit of nebari on this collected maple. Always a surprise to find surface roots on a collected tree. Sometimes the best inclination of a yamadori trunk minimizes surface roots; in this case, we could show them off.

John and Travis also discover a big ball of wood beneath the base

Our approximate location on the stone

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And the finished composition. The root mass was attached with wires snaked through drilled holes in the rock. This has a pretty big wingspan, about 4′ / 1.2m . At this juncture we didn’t do much pruning, though the branches will come in slightly later. Vine Maple is a species that tends to be loose and airy, hence not much effort to contain that feeling. We rubbed live moss over the muck (the light brown area), which usually colonizes completely in about a year. Mounded surfaces like this are the only situation I prefer the creeping moss, which not only holds together soil best, but is also low in height and doesn’t add to the visual mass of the soil / container unit. For a skinny-trunked bunjin like this, keeping that mass minimal while having enough roots to keep the tree happy is a tricky balance. 

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  1. tgbonsai says:

    Out of curiosity- Why the decision to remove the smaller trunk on this specimen? It seems like it could have added quite a bit to the composition… At least from the far off “ balcony seating” of the photos you included. Thanks for the post. Cheers from WI. -Thomas

    • crataegus says:

      It’s a good comment—often multiple trunked trees should be encouraged / kept because they add complexity. Only in the case of bunjin do I prefer simplicity…and with all other bonsai styles, complexity. That’s just a general comment though. In this case, the small trunk was in the back, and it didn’t seem like it could be coaxed into harmony with the main trunk at the preferred inclination and front. Had it been anywhere else I would have at least given it a run for its money before cutting it off.

  2. Silvia Schmidt says:

    Hi Michael,

    I follow your posts with great interest and on occasion share my newly acquired knowledge with my bonsai friends. I am both Treasurer and Secretary of the Vancouver Island Bonsai Society. Our club has approximately 60 members most of whom are just beginning their bonsai journey and those of intermediate skill level. I’ve enjoyed both of your books and have gifted them to our Club members as prizes.

    As I have taken it upon myself to create our monthly newsletter, would it be possible to share the information you send out in your email. As the author, credit would certainly be noted in any material I use.

    Thank you for sharing your extensive knowledge.

    Silvia Schmidt


    • crataegus says:

      Hello Silvia, most certainly, feel free to republish!
      Appreciate the credit-
      I would suggest going back to the website as it will contain any edits—some of them important—that are sometimes done a few days after publishing.
      Thanks for the thought, and for asking!

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