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Winter is a hard time for me and my bonsai. For the most part, when I arrive home from work it is dark and cold. This makes working on my trees something I only tend to do on weekends. That being said I did get motivated one night after work to do some pruning on my Trident Maple (seen here and here).

Tridents grow quite quickly and within a year they can put on a lot of twiggy growth. A lot of this growth is not suitable to build future ramification on so it must be pruned off. Quite often it seems like you are taking two steps forward and one step back but the removal of twigs that are not formed correctly will ultimately make for a better bonsai in the long run.

Before and after pruning. The red lines show approximately where I made cuts.

At this point in this trees life I am looking to start to build fine twigs. Most of the vigorous growth over the last year has helped to form secondary branches but it has grown with internode gaps that are too long for the tips of a branch. As a result I have pruned to remove these long internodes, reduced all branch divisions to two and generally tried to form a better structure within the branch.

A lot of my trees were grown a little too quickly and as a result their branches do not have as good a structure as they might. I am now cutting a fair amount of  those branches back and trying to correct the structural problems. One of the main problems I have in my trees is that the branches do not have a main branch line with sub branches but instead have several main lines. This makes the branches look full very quickly but in the long-term you do not get the taper and look you would if the branch was grown otherwise. It all comes back to pruning. Sometimes you have to set a tree back a little in order for it to progress.

The tree before and after. (poor lighting care of my kitchen.)

This tree will be re-potted in the coming months and may also have its branches fine tuned a little with some wire which should then make it ready for the start of spring.

This year has seen some dramatic changes to my bonsai. The most major of these was moving house and gaining some backyard space. My trees previously were kept in amongst a lush garden. On one hand this was good in that my bonsai were quite sheltered and there was a good micro climate in which to grow amongst. The down side was that I could never really rid my trees of pests as once the garden was infected everything was. As a result my trees ended up with a number of pest problems. Now I have moved I hope to rid them of these problems, which brings me to the subject of this post, my Trident Maple.

Earlier this spring I defoliated the maple and posted the results HERE. I repeated this defoliation process twice more during the season and was rewarded with much increased ramification.

As it began to change into its Autumn colours I set about doing the final defoliation. Usually I would leave the leaves on a little longer in order to see the full range of colours they would turn but I wanted to remove them before they dropped so I could dispose of them along with any insect eggs that may have been laid on them.

The trident at the beginning of autumn just beginning to show signs of it changing colour.

Starting to turn

I removed all the leaves which revealed the structure of the branches and all the new ramification. All the leaves that were removed were put into the household garbage to ensure that any eggs on them would not end up anywhere near my bonsai.

Defoliated.

Once the tree was naked I was able to carefully look over the tree to assess the amount of pruning that would be required. I wanted to spray the tree with lime sulphur to kill any remaining pests so I did not prune at this stage. I don’t like the idea of lime sulphur getting into fresh cuts. I am not sure if it is actually a problem or not but I choose to avoid it where I can.

What I did prune off was some insect eggs. I found what I first thought were fungal blooms on dead twigs.

If you look closely you can see the small white tufts of damage.

A close up of a damaged twig

Upon further investigation I realised that the tufts lead to a hollow channel within the twig which was filled with eggs around 0.5mm in size. I did a quick search on the net and realised they were the eggs of Passion Hoppers which lay their eggs in channels they make within small twigs. The twigs die soon after the eggs are laid so cutting the twig off and destroying it is a good way to tackle them.

I then went over the tree with a pair of scissors and removed every twig I could find that exhibited signs of damage.

A pile of some of the damaged twigs.

After removing what I can only guess was hundreds of insect eggs I sprayed the tree with a diluted solution of lime sulphur to prepare the bonsai for winter.

It was a satisfying days work. I hope that the work will pay off next season with a dramatic reduction of insects in my collection. Fingers crossed.

This spring is much wetter that what we have become use to over the last 5-10 years of drought. This drought breaking rain that we are experiencing has come as a welcome beginning to this seasons growth for my bonsai. They are all growing like crazy. Judging from what i have seen in the month or so since spring has started i am guessing that we are in for an excellent bonsai year ahead.

One of the trees that has been growing strongly is the trident maple that is pictured below.  It has been growing so well that i have decided to defoliate is a little earlier that i normally might in the hope that i will be able to defoliate two or even three times to encourage far more fine ramification i would get in a normal growth year.

If you look towards the base of the tree you will notice a small seedling that is being grafted into the nebari to fill in a small gap in the root spread.

Trident, Before

The trident before defoliation.

I have been growing this tree for a number of years and it is really starting to become on of my favorites.

This year i rewarded it with this old ‘Reihou’ tokoname pot that i bought on my last trip to japan. I think the blue really suits the tree well. I will make a separate post about this and other pots in a subsequent post.

Trident, After

The trident after defoliation.

This is how the tree looks after defoliating it. I have left leaves on the shoots that were weak in order to give them a head start over the new growth. This ballancing of shoot strength should even-out the energy distribution over the trees canopy.

I also like to add a few more fertiliser cakes to the tree after defoliation to help the new buds form.

One of the other things i am trying to achieve with this defoliation is to pop a bud that is between the first and second branches on the back of the trunk. There is a bud there that has slowly been getting bigger and bigger but has not yet formed a shoot. Hopefully this work will be the catalyst that sees the bud grow a branch right where i want one.

Those who look closely will notice one of the shots seems to have been bent back in towards the trunk. This is a thread graft that i have put in place to fill a gap in the canopy. Hopefully by the end of this season the branch will have grafted onto the trunk and will have begun to ramify.

I look forward to seeing this tree progress over the course of the summer and hopefully it will reward me with some nice autumn colours.

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