So I’m probably not the first person to use the term “Bon-science,” but on the off-chance I am then I’ll cheerfully stake my claim.

Swamp maple, or Red maple, or Acer rubrum, or A. rubrum “Drummondii” is a very fine species that grows from South Florida north to Canada, and west to East Texas down here and Minnesota up there. Many folks will tell you they can’t be grown as bonsai because of large leaves that don’t reduce. This is not correct. It is also said that even if you get the leaves to reduce the petioles stay long. This is also not correct. As you get the leaves to reduce, the petioles get shorter so the effect is quite nice.

Anyway, my multi-year experiment consists of collecting trees with a good soil ball and the roots that go with it, and retaining that native soil in order to prevent (however it happens) the top-down rot that has plagued me in years gone by. I’ve had some success with this, as I’ve reported in previous blogs. So I upped my number of candidates this year, just in case I’ve cracked the code. Here’s one of them, at the just got home “stick in a pot” stage.

Here we are two months later, in the kind-of-sad “I only have a right arm and it’s been wired and stuck out to the side” stage. Hey, every bonsai starts somewhere. Why’d I do this, you may ask? Just to keep that branch cool while other growth caught up. The last thing I needed was for that one to gain strength and get so thick I could no longer bend it. Pre-emptive bending, I suppose.

Here’s what a month will do for you, if it’s late-March to late-April and you have roots that need to express themselves. Lonely right branch has lots of friends now.

Wire applied, and I’ve got my first two branches on their way.

Then in one fell swoop I cut away most of the top of this tree. Why? Because I had the opportunity to shorten the tree a bit and make use of an existing branch that had already grown upward on its own. It happened to make a good continuation of the trunk line. Swamp maple exhibits apical dominance, as most trees do, so you typically get a bushy top that you have to fight while making the tree structure. Here I’ve taken out 90% of it in one chop. The tree will try to replace what I cut off. I’ll continue pruning and pinching most of it off while the lower branches gain strength. Sometime next year I’ll have a better balance than I do now, though the tree is never going to completely give up on the idea of getting taller. It’s just part of bonsai.

So my goal with this tree is to make a presentable bonsai out of it in 2020. From harvesting to stick-in-pot to designed tree to potted-up-bonsai. I’ll get some degree of ramification but not much in the way of leaf size reduction. But that’s okay. If I get two years ahead of the curve with this specimen, then my experiment will have been a success. The tree and I can then settle into the refinement phase of its life in a pot.