You may remember this Swamp maple, Acer rubrum ‘drummondii’ from spring. I did the initial styling on the tree and potted it in this beautiful bonsai pot. I then left it strictly alone, except for watering and fertilizing.

Today seemed like a good time to check in on our subject, to see what needed doing if anything.

The first thing you’ll notice is that the smaller trunk is gone. As it turns out, that trunk was a separate tree altogether. Because I had left the specimen in its original soil, only filling in with coarse bonsai soil when I initially potted it, I did not know what was going on beneath the surface. I was to learn a lot more when I decided to pot the tree in this bonsai pot. To do so I had to remove a good bit of root at the base of the two trees. In doing so, I found out the smaller trunk was a separate tree, and when I removed enough of its tap root to fit it in the bonsai pot, I ended up taking off all the supporting fibrous roots. Though I was hopeful it would produce new feeders, such was not to be.

The main tree did very well, as you can see. It’s now sporting some South Louisiana fall color, which is nothing to write home about. On those species that do give us some, it’s generally two or three days of yellow or red, then everything drops off for the ensuing three months of nasty grayness we call winter.

In the initial post on this tree, I noted that it very much wanted to be a “tall tree” bonsai, meaning my styling goal had to be based on keeping the branch structure very close in to the trunk. If you compare this photo to the previous one, you can see I’ve pruned everything back in order to accomplish this goal. This is a tall, slender specimen; yet it looks like a mature tree and is believable.
The only significant design issue apparent in the previous photo is the lack of branching on the right-hand side of the tree. In the first post on this specimen, I intentionally removed any branching on the right so as to prevent shading out of the smaller tree. With this tree now gone, I need to encourage foliage in a more balanced structure. I was able to wire a back branch and bring it over to visually satisfy this requirement. It’s a good temporary fix.
Here’s a more permanent fix. I have a small bud on the right side of the trunk, in just the right spot. Next year, when this bud pushes, I’ll let it run and make a branch out of it. That will continue the development of this Swamp maple as a bonsai.

The big question, of course, is what happens in 2019? Is the end near for this specimen? Maintaining Swamp maples collected from the wild has proven to be an insurmountable challenge for me. By year three, they start rotting from the top down and I have never figured out how to keep that from happening. This time I did two things different: one, I kept the tree mostly in its native soil, hoping that perhaps would be the key to the tree’s defense against viral attack; and two, I avoided any wiring and shaping work in year one. Why would that cause the tree to decline? I’m not sure, except that perhaps the additional stress would be too much for the tree to cope with as it recovered from collecting. Anything’s worth a try, right?

Let me know what you think of this specimen. Leave me a comment below.