Michael Murtaugh & Alan Murakami Demonstration – Trident Maple Repotting

On March 27, 2018, at our monthly meeting and demonstration, Michael Murtaugh and Alan Murakami gave an informative and beautiful slideshow of their travels in Japan. They, Michael, Donna Moriki and Alan went to Japan in November 2017 to see the annual Takkanten Bonsai Show in Kyoto. The slideshow lasted about 15 to 20 minutes and included photographs of the bonsai show, famous temples, gardens and other wonderful and historic sites in Japan.

Upon conclusion of the slideshow, Michael conducted a demonstration on the repotting of a urban collected Trident Maple (Acer buergeranum). The Trident Maple was dug up by Michael about two months ago from the home landscape of the late Frank Bardella of Sebastopol, California. Age was unknown. It was grown in the ground for a long period of time due its trunk and height size. Michael had placed the tree into a plastic nursery container which he made by cutting the container in half and inserting the two halves into one. Michael cut holes and slits in the bottom for water drainage. He also used aluminum rivets to secure the two halves together. The tree was easily lifted from its container. A sizable root ball and large roots were apparent. He combed the surface roots, uncovering the nebari and girth of the trunk. There were actually three trunks, two large trunks of unequal diameter and a small trunk which appeared to be dead. Michael cleaned most if not all of the original soil from the root ball. He proceeded to remove downward growing and large protruding roots which were unwanted for a bonsai. Michael received quite a bit of suggestions from the members in attendance on the front view and whether or not to remove a large root growing from the lower trunk. He decided to leave the large root alone for the time being. Once the root ball was cleaned and large roots removed, Michael was ready to fill the container with a drainage layer of Akadama, lava rock and pumice. This layer was larger in size than the other bonsai mix on hand to completely fill up the container. The drainage layer is functional for bonsai in that the larger particles allow for water flow and more oxygen for the root growth.  Michael then inserted the root ball into the container and played with various angles of the trunk. Finally, he decided to have the trunk in a formal upright position. Of course, tie down wires were added to the bottom of the container which are so important to securing the root ball in the container. He added more bonsai soil mix. Chris Ross assisted at this point and the two gently poked the bonsai soil mix with chopsticks to remove any air pockets in the soil mix. The next step was for Michael to prune some of the foliage. He carefully removed cross branches, multiple branches, weak and unwanted branches by cutting them away from the trunk. Michael said he wanted to keep a balance of foliage to roots, and so it was important not to remove too much branches and foliage. The repotting only needed water to flush out any fines and give the roots a fair amount of hydration.

The repotted Trident Maple was raffled at the conclusion of the demonstration. Chris Garrett won his first demonstration tree.

The photo depicts a large Trident Maple dug up from the landscape of the later Frank Bardella (“Mr. Maple”).

Here, Michael discusses his repotting plans for the demonstration tree.

The Trident Maple is sized to fit the container.

Chris and Michael share in the delight of winning the demonstration tree.

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