Just a little layer off the top please   10 comments

Ah…California. Living here has its perks, for a gardener its a dream come true. Plants grow fast and bonsai techniques that take years in other parts of the country can be done in months instead of years. It has its pitfalls too. Summers are hot and winters can be cooler. We don’t have appreciable snow for most of the population centers so growing is year round.

While tridents are diciduous and do lose their leaves, they continue to grow during the winter here. Many times I have had tridents keep green leaves well into December and even as late as January before turning yellow one day and gone the next day. The tree just doesn’t know when to quit. This small tree is still pushing new growth in December.


I decided to take the top off this tree I bought at the swapmeet. It is a big trunked trident of about 2 inches across the bottom. The flare and rootage seem pretty good, but I wanted it for the base and not the entire tree. If only we could just buy what we seek and not have to mess with all this “work”.

I cut off all the branches so that I could have a clean work area. I did leave three extremely small branches below the area that would be latyered to keep that portion alive while I take the top off.






This small area here would be cleaned up with a knob cutter and cut out like usuing an ice cream scoop.




The trunk was cut and the bark and cambium carved away exposing the heartwood.





I didn’t get a picture of the base of the cut before covering, but I wrapped a double wire around the top of the cut to help in keeping it from bridging and directing the roots outward. The tree was then covered in long fibre sphagnum moss and I prepared a cup by cutting out the bottom just a tad larger for the trunk and splitting the cup to get it around the trunk. Packed the moss tight to keep constant contact with the trunk to keep it moist and wired the cup in place.




10 responses to “Just a little layer off the top please

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  1. Wow the portion right above your layer looks very dramatic.

  2. What swapmeet do you go to that has tridents that big for sale?

  3. Hello, just type in swapmeet in the search here and you can read all about it with pictures. Thanks for looking, Al

  4. see, this is awesome. since i’m a little further up in the sacramento valley, i can learn more about the timing of your techniques than i can from any other source. love it.

  5. Hi Al,
    I too am a Trident Maple junkie…. this little air layer looks to be a chunky little sucker… going to be very nice one day soon.
    I’m down in Australia, on the eastcoast in a sub tropical climate, and have just entered into our summer, and already getting some serious daily temps. When I do my cup method like yours, I completely seal the whole thing in heavy duty cling wrap which keeps the moss from drying out. Using the open top method, how often do you water the air layer?…. Only when it needs it or every day regardless.

  6. It will get watered everyday just like the trees. The water just pours right thru. I have used soil filled pots in the past also but I seem to get faster and better results with the moss. I think there must be something in the moss that creates the perfect environment for growing roots. Maybe a sort of hydroponic atmosphere of sorts.

    Thanks for looking, Al

  7. Hi there Al, almost a year since this last post…. wow where has this year gone? Just wondering how this little air layer is going. Should be well and truly on its way by now….. any update pics?

    • It had stalled early in the spring when the cambium braidged and stopped the formation of roots. I cut the bark again and switched to soil instead of moss and was able to root the top. I decided to let stay on the plant and will remove it when repotting. I will wait untill the last minute and saw it off as the buds pop. Should be OK, the pot is full of roots.

      • Can’t wait to see it Al.
        I have just severed a 4 inch “chunk of trunk” air layer from a large trident in my ground growing patch that got far too big for bonsai, as an experiment trialling a new method (for me anyway). It worked a treat and had 360 degrees of roots within 45 days. I had always had trouble with not only tridents, but chinese elms callusing over even the largest gaps, but with this method I’ve had brilliant results every time.

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