Lazy Trident Maple, or Don’t ever give up!

This one took a snap frost last November which zapped all the leaves,

And I didn’t think much of it at the time. But by mid-March, all the other trees were growing except this trident.

By April, everything was ready for a haircut (including me…after a month of Corona quarantine)

A cambium check suggested the tree was still alive, so I kept it in shade, and treated it like it was still alive, watering and feeding it. Until finally, on April 25, fully 6 weeks later than the torch tridents, I noticed suddenly the buds had broken:

April 30:

Strange to see Kurume azaleas finishing blooming, Satsukis starting, and a bare trident a month them.

May 15…breathing a sigh of relief now…

Stewartia Update

I repotted the Stewartia this spring into a shallow container…maybe too shallow. But I think it will be ok. I wanted to correctly orient the tree so the new front would be, well, out front.

My short history of this tree spans about 16 months now. Here is a post on the collection through first styling:

New Front:


Freshly potted, checking the position:

Close-up of the base, which will be covered with sphagnum moss to retain moisture:

And watered in:

It really didn’t skip a beat.

And on May 1st, it was time to prune back and check wires.

Not biting in yet.

Directional pruning is particularly important in trees that grow in an alternating leaf Pattern. The grower can direct the next shoot’s direction by pruning and result in a more organized branch structure; something for which Stewartia are appreciated.

Prune at the red lines to direct future growth outward as shown by the blue arrows:

Like this:

And the end result for now:

Kurume Azalea after the show

I’ve been cooped up with the rest of the country, so this tree got the full spa treatment. Removing blooms is getting to be a big task, as the tree has grown to about 32″ wide. So let’s start off with a few money shots at peak bloom before we jump in.

And now the work begins.

Remove all flower parts, down to the husk of the flower:

A close up of spent blooms:

Cut here:

To end up like this:

Then, prune back fairly hard. As azaleas age, the branches constrict and the cambium becomes thin, so it’s important to prune hard to keep renewing the tree with young growth. I cut back branches to pairs of evenly-sized shoots, and replace heavy branches with finer branches.

Here is a close up example of pruning back a typical branch with multiple whorls, long internodes, and upward growth:

Cut here:

To end up with this:

Another example where outer growth is getting old and weaker:

See this area, how it hasn’t really started moving yet?

Prune back, leaving balanced new growth to replace the older growth on the ends:

The end result is a little rough to start with, but with a few weeks of growth, the tree will look renewed, and I can hope for strong new growth throughout the tree.



Closer shots, before and after of some branches.

Upper left:

And lower right:

Underside the left trunk shows taper of branches, pruning back to pairs, and fairly even spacing to allow for balanced growth:

I have grown this azalea in a bonsai pot for 15 years now, and never given it a break from blooming. I think this year, I’ll remove the flower buds as they form and give it next year off.

At some point, I knew I’d have to address the rot at the split in the trunks on the back. It had become soft.

So, using a long drill bit, I bore a hole through to the bottom of the pot to help drain away water.

Then, clean away all the soft wood using a gouge.

Apply a preservative, I use water-based PC Petrifier.


And a video walk around:

Next year, I’ll repot, and prune more conservatively. For now, the tree is returned to the bench, with a heavy dose of acidic organic fertilizer, and allowed to grow for the summer.