This bonsai was originally purchased in the summer of 2007 as a 'finished' tree. So unlike many of the Bonsai Progressions I have published here, there were relatively few jobs required to make this tree presentable. However, improvements both horticulturally and aesthetically, could still be made.
August 2007. Immediately after purchase from a bonsai nursery in Norfolk, UK. The Trident was the last of a number that had been imported around 8 years beforehand and this particular one had remained unsold since. At 75cm in height, it had an impressive size and judging by the colour of the foliage was in fairly good health. It had a wide if ugly nebari/trunkbase and the trunk had a section of inverse taper when seen from the tree's current front that did need addressing.
Of most immediate concern to me was the state of the soil that the bonsai was growing in. As can be seen in the image above, the soil surface was covered in a weed known as Liverwort. Liverwort is a hard to remove weed that prefers wet organic soils; its prescience is a strong indicator of a soil that is too wet and poorly drained.
After gently lifting the rootball out of the pot, the roots could be examined. The tree had healthy roots however they were all growing around the base of the pot and within the soil itself; another indicator that the soil was airless and too water retentive.
The thin white roots in the upper layers of the soil are those of the liverwort. Without bare-rooting the Trident, it would be impossible to remove all traces of Liverwort as any roots left in the pot will regrow.
So at the earliest opportunity I would need to bareroot the tree and remove all of the old organic soil (and along with it, the Liverwort) and replace with a good quality inorganic soil. With a well aerated inorganic soil, the roots would grow throughout the soil and not just head down to the bottom of the pot as they can be seen to have done in these images!
As it was August when I acquired the bonsai it was not possible to carry out a bare-rooting and 100% soil change, this would have to wait until the following Spring. However, I was safely able to remove a large amount of the surface soil without disturbing any of the roots and replace it with inorganic soil. Not only did this remove all of the liverwort but I was able to remove a large amount of liverwort roots.
By introducing good quality soil, I also gave tree somewhere healthy for it to grow new roots. When I repotted the tree again during the following Spring, new roots had completely colonized the inorganic soil already!
October 2007: the Trident bonsai shows its Autumn colour's as the leaves fall and is an impressive sight. Now that the leaves had started to fall I was able to study the trunk and branch structure clearly for the first time.
The image above shows the new front I decided on for the bonsai; from this direction the trunk is more interesting and has better movement. It also means that a small area of negative taper in trunk cannot be seen from the front. The trunkbase is not as wide from this new front however it looks more natural and suits the dynamics of the trunk shape well.
March 2008: I repotted the bonsai into a new rectangular pot from Erin Bonsai. The roots were cleaned of the old organic soil and root-pruned hard. As can be seen above, I have placed the tree to show its new front and the tree has been fully styled and wired.
An image of the author standing alongside the bonsai in its new pot. As can be seen, it is an impressive size!
June 2008: 3 months later and the bonsai in full leaf and in vigorous health.
June 2008: the tree seen from the left-side. Notice the thick root that had to be severely shortened 3 months previously to accommodate the tree into the pot in its new position (see below: this root previously grew towards the right)
Though the work carried out on this tree has been relatively minimal, when you compare the bonsai in August 2007 and June 2009 its appearance has still improved greatly.
Notice how I have avoided trying to create 'pads' or 'clouds' of foliage. I have also subtly altered the silhouette of the tree creating a more mature rounded shape and a wider crown. These techniques create the illusion of an actual tree in nature. The improved health and vibrancy of the leaves is also obvious; this is simply due to switching to a good quality bonsai soil and fertilizing.
April 2009: The Trident bonsai with its new Spring leaves. Other than a simple pruning and light wiring during the Winter, no work has needed to be done on the tree.
New Spring leaves:April 2009
New Spring leaves:April 2009
Height of bonsai 30"/74cm
Trunk base diameter 8"/20cm
To see a video of this bonsai, please visit here
July 2009: the bonsai after defoliation.
August 2012; the tree has continued to develop well over the past three years. A regime of heavy feeding and watering having greatly increased the density of the foliage.
The tree now stands 85cm/34.5" in height