Trident maple (Acer burgerianum) #1
50 cm high
About 50 years old
Pot by Horst Heinzlreiter
From imported raw material
In 1993 I decided to get for myself the big trident of my lifetime. This at least was my plan at that time. After having searched all the possible sources in central Europe I found this one which intrigued me the most. it was not quite a stump as so many of these tridents. it was fat and had all the aspects of what much later was going to be called a sumo bonsai. They have very thick trunks compared to their hight. To look good they have to have good taper and some movement. Fat alone is not enough! This one had movement, taper and very good nebari. What more can one ask for. And it had no apparent ugly scars; at least from the front. There were some scars on the back side. In Japan this is considered a main fault. Not with me though. This was a reason why this tree was affordable. .
In modern bonsai we want quite impressive trees and often trees that impress by proportions. The thicker the trunk is compared to the height of the tree the more powerful it appears. A trick in bonsai styling consists in making the crown s compact as possible to make the trunk appear even bigger. There is an end to everything. If one does this with the fat trident stumps they often become grotesque. So I decided to have a rather large crown in the end to make this one not appear quite that fat and more like a real tree. some of these tridents have great nebari, some have way too much of a great nebari. It is too much of a good thing. My plan was to have a well proportioned nebari that looks good, but not too god,like artificial.
The placement and general shape of the branches was already there when I got the tree. At that time I thought it was perfect. I don't think so anymore. I think this is a typical neoclassical bonsai, or Western classical bonsai. So what exactly makes it one? Well, it is the fact that this maple is structured like an ideal bonsai, like an ideal pine tree: triangular shape, horizontal branches, negative space between the branches for 'the bird to fly through'. All these are sure signs someone wanted to style a good looking BONSAI and not a good looking maple. He did not want to style a bonsai that would look like a real maple or at least like a deciduous non-conifer.
I have disturbed a couple of audiences when giving a tree critique and cam to my own maple. I have declared it a piece of craft, pretty good craft, but not a piece of art. A piece of craft that wants to impress with beauty. This is one of the definitions of kitsch. So this maple is kitsch; at lest according to some qualifications in general art. The bonsai judges, of course, are not corrupted by deeper knowledge of general art theories. They usually judge trees according to a point system. And then this maple usually ends up high. They judge the bonsai according to the absence of faults. High again. So this maple has received quite a lot of awards. I take them quietly. So far I resisted the temptation to say in public that this is the wrong tree, it got the award for the wrong reasons. Well, in the end I like it very much personally. What's wrong with liking kitsch. Or is it really kitsch? Does not matter.
One can compare it to other trident maples which often look too artificial and crossing the border to grotesque. Also most of them are not mature. This one is. Fifteen years of careful development show. but there is always room for improvement. I want the lower branches to still get thicker compared to the upper ones. While the ramification is very good compared to other tridents it still could be better. Restyling to make it look like a maple and not like a bonsai is not on my agenda.
Fall 2002; in teh Bavarian Exhibit 2002
Spring 2006: tree critique
Spring 2006: tree critique
Fal 2006; in the Galerie Teminus in Munich, Germany
FAll 2006: in the Galerie Terminus in Munich, Germany
Fall 2006; this picture was entered fo the 2006/7 Certre Award and the maple came out 2nd in the overall ranks and also in the choice of the general public.
Winter 2006/7; back side - not so bad either.
spring 2007; now this looks way too healthy!
Spring 2007; after it was decided that the maple should go to the Gingko Award the crown got defoliated. I only left the vey small leaves.
Summer 2007; this is how it went to the Ginko Award 2007.