A Tale of Two Fusions
I originally began this blog as a real time document of my attempts to fuse seedlings into large tapered trunk bonsai. This quickly morphed into a broader based tree blog and will probably continue to morph into what I don’t yet know. I would spend much more time studying and writing about trees, however I have to work to support my other hobbies, namely food and shelter.
In this post I will introduce two readers who have also experimented with trunk fusions (we are not alone). This is not meant to be a competition, but to highlight the similarities despite radical differences in construction.
Shane is from down under in Australia. 23 years ago Shane, without using a frame, tied Trident maple seedlings together around a rock using raffia (a biodegradable string). He had several seedlings die and having no replacement seedlings to fill the gaps just let the tree grow. It took quite a long time to close the gaps naturally but he now has a great tapered trunk to begin developing branches. The nebari (exposed roots) have a good start and can be further improved with root grafting. The scars on the trunk should heal by the time the branches are completed. This tree is 15 inches tall to the base of the leader, which should now be removed, and has a whopping 12-inch diameter at the base of the trunk.
Will is from Maryland, USA. He used Doug Phillips approach of attaching Trident maple seedlings to a heavy gauge copper wire frame using paper coated twist ties. Will also had several seedlings die off and also chose to let the gaps fill in naturally. In the first photo we can see how Will used Styrofoam peanuts to push the excess seedlings away from the trunk allowing them to grow and fuse with adjacent seedlings before their removal. In the second photo we can see the tree is beginning to loose it’s taper because the sacrifice branches have been allowed to grow too large, but look at that incredible nebari. Will’s tree is 4 years old.
Both Shane and Will have encountered the major flaw of the trunk fusion technique, seedling die off (I have also run into this problem with my Trident maple, although I have not had a die off problem with my Dawn redwood, more on my trees in a future blog). Both men purchased their seedlings and that could be part of the die off problem. I have found that growing your own seedlings greatly improves their survival rate. It also adds one year to the growth process.
Doug Phillips, Shane, Will and myself are a small but growing subset within the bonsai community. We are eager to experiment and try new techniques. I hope others will join us and some day in the near future we will be considered mainstream bonsai enthusiasts.
I recently asked my friend Shane Martin how his Trident fusion was progressing. Shane’s trunk has completely fused and he has started building branches. It is early spring in Australia and the tree has just leafed out. Here in Shane’s own words.
Hi again Greg
Here is some extra info on the maple. Like I said, we had a shocker of a growing season last time, and the tree didn’t throw as many shoots on the trunk as I’d hoped, so I tried some creative inarch grafting on the left side as there was one shoot I’d let grow, low down near the base which was perfect for what I had in mind. I carved a segmented channel starting about a third up, sort of like a dotted line, and laid the whip shoot in it at varying spots up the trunk, securing it at each contact point with grafting tape. My hopes were that each little sub branch on the shoot would become new branches off the trunk. Well I’m truly getting my money’s worth from the one shoot. As you can see from the pics, it is growing well. This was out of leaf 2 weeks ago, so it should be a bush come summer. I am going to try and resist any pruning in favour of getting as much vigor back into the tree as possible. There is also a small sacrifice branch at the apex to improve the final segment of taper, which will be the only pruning this season.
I also changed the original back of the tree to the new front due to the better nebari thanks to watchful eye of another bonsai friend of mine. The last pic shows the new front, but I just topped up the soil level in the grow box which hides the nebari a bit unfortunately. Next year when I repot the tree I will also rotate it clockwise in the pot about 5 or 10 degrees to correct its new orientation.
Well I think that’s about it Greg…. let me know if there are any other details you need.
GRAFT AREA BELOW… NICE AND VIGOROUS
BACK VIEW BELOW
I agree with the selection of your new front view. The nebari is much more powerful and the trunk has more character.