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.