Revisit: Vine Maple Tower

One of the stranger things we’ve made at Crataegus Bonsai is this cascade Vine Maple planted on an internal nylon frame. 

This was designed in a Winter 2012 Seasonal class. With its 10th year creation anniversary just around the bend, it seemed fitting to offer photos of how it looks now.


Vine Maple, Acer circinatum, sitting atop the nylon cutting board that became the cascade support. 


Attaching the tree to the support.


Mostly finished. Next, live moss and licorice ferns were attached to the sphagnum. This was in early spring, 2012. Here’s the original post about making the tower: Vine Maple Tower Experiment.


The maple in 2021, almost 10 years later, in late summer. The top of the tower is now engulfed with lichen. And the licorice ferns are regrowing after trimming with scissors. We frantically beat them back a couple times a year. 

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A few months later the ferns have again retaken the field, and again we say ‘naughty!’ with scissors.

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After pruning away excess ferns. This twice-annual trim is a fun exercise in negative space, and scarcity / density. In fall I like leaving more ferns. Too many in the summer and it’s just too…green. And heavy, with too much visual mass. After leaf drop the ferns help balance a lack of foliage. We missed photographing this in fall color this year. But my favorite time is in winter without leaves. This one was collected from the wild, and has never been wired. As we never expect high branch ramification from this species, an unusual presentation felt fitting. After 10 years only now are faint twiggy pads beginning to materialize.


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  1. P. Louw says:

    Beautiful and very inspiring!
    Do you ever trim the roots of the vine maple or replace the growing medium?

    • crataegus says:

      I haven’t yet, but I’ll eventually take areas and tease away the old sphagnum, replacing with new. Sphagnum last a long long time. Only with deciduous trees and on strange slopes, like the vertical sides here, would I use sphagnum.

  2. Ridiculously beautiful, Michael. Well done.

  3. kathleenod says:

    A This looks like a perfect Vince project 😉

    Kathleen O’Donnell Sent from my iPhone


  4. Crust says:

    One of my fav crat creations and J always feel joy when I see her. A wonderful expression made sweet by its endemicality and a playful but gentle crat hand.


    THIS is one of the reasons I love what you do…. and what makes you one of my favorite bonsai ARTISTS 😉

  6. ancientbonsaico says:

     Michael  That was absolutely super! Explaining in detail the steps you went through to create this vine maple tower.I really enjoyed it. thank youRon Smith

    Sent from the all new AOL app for iOS

  7. David Wheeler says:

    darn……you really take the art to a different level!

  8. Janet I Nelson says:

    How will you re-pot this tree?

    • crataegus says:

      Sectionally——-teasing out the roots in areas and replacing with sphagnum moss. I find soil to be pointless on a vertical planting orientation…

  9. extremely unusual, but so very beautiful…

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