sbound
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Japanese Maple

This is my first attempt at a bonsai so I bought this Japanese Maple as a way to grow skills without damaging the pocket book too much. I don't expect this guy to be a thing of beauty, but I do hope to learn a lot from him.

The tree is 35" tall from the roots to tallest branc and has a graphed trunk. About 3.5-4 inches.

What would you do to turn this guy into a bonsai? Cut it down? If so how much and when? After it goes dormant? Now?

Thanks for any advice you might have.

[img]https://www.helpfulgardener.com/images/japanese-maple-bonsai.jpg[/img]

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bonsaiboy
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If you are keeping the tree inside, the first thing you must do is get it outside ASAP!
הדמיון הוא יותר חשוב מאשר ידע

sbound
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No worries

Bonsaiboy, The tree was only inside for a 2 minute photo-op. It's happily outside.

alexinoklahoma
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You need to learn how to simply keep the tree alive - and forgo *any* thinking of doing anything other than that. 'Turning into a bonsai' is not something that happens when you get home, LOL... That tree is prolly 10-15 years minimum from being anything worthy of even 'displaying' as bonsai. Minimum (!) and this being rather generous, trust me...

Start reading the stickies here and also all the articles at [url=https://www.evergreengardenworks.com/articles.htm]EvergreenGardenWorks[/url] And that will just get the thought process started with you - not trying to be offensive at all, but you have a loooong way to go. It is not even advisable to do anything with that tree right now other than to slip-pot it into ground or just protect roots over winter until you can get it into proper soil, etc. But the best thing you could do would be to put it in-ground so it can establish new roots so you can air-layer the upper-portion off that graft I think I see down low (?). If its grafted, its about worthless for 'bonsai' ;-) It takes a concerted effort to get 'bonsai grafts', and those do not come with 'commercial labels' on 'em; gotta buy those off of the 'bulk-market' system, so to speak.

Seriously, start reading and asking for clarifications (of course) and definitely start practicing patience with watering/ferting, etc as I bet you will be eager to do *something* right now (right??). Too much sogginess would be off to a terrible start, so keep it barely moist, and only re-water when its almost dry for ~ 1" deep or so - then water thoroughly, repeat as needed and *not* on a schedule (!) ;-) Just start with that for now...

HTH,
Alex

sbound
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Alex,

Thanks for the helpful tips. I suppose my enthusiasm for learning gives the impression that I think I can make this tree in to a majestic bonsai in just a day. Truthfully, I know that is not going to happen. For me this is a journey of learning and that p-word, patience. :D

The tree definitely is graphed so it will never be a bonsai to anyone but me. I like to think of him as my rusty Chevy. When you first learn to drive, it's rare that your parents hand you the keys to a brand new car. Rather you get the rusty Chevy. You have to learn responsibility, good driving skills, and how to take care of your car first. That takes time. But over time you can learn to appreciate and take care of that rusty car, and may be even fix it up so it's a little less rusty. (Then you can buy that new car on your own. ha ha)

That's my hope with this tree. I want to learn what and when to do to keep it growing and how to slowly transform it. I've already taken one step in learn what good stock is by know what a graft looks like. And the tree has survived two nights in my backyard. Two down out of a lifetime of nights.

Today, I will read over the link and stickies you provided, check the trees soil, and think about where in my yard the tree show be "planted" for the winter. Then tomorrow, I will rethink that location and plant if it still seems the best. Since I will be getting it ready for winter, should I hold off on fertilizing it until it's been in the ground a few weeks?

For the distant future, when do you think I should pot the tree in a non-nursery pot (not bonsai either), pruning, etc. E.g. Fall 09?

Again, thanks for the tips and sound advice!

Thanks,
Sue

alexinoklahoma
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Now is probably not time to be ferting A palm's in your 'zone'. If other trees are starting to go dormant, then forgo ferts until Spring. Read up on dormancy and ferts and you will understand. It would not really harm anything to go with ~1/2 strength typical 'balanced' fert, like 10-10-10, or 20-20-20 or such; as long as those numbers are fairly even then one dose is not big deal, nor will it help much either ;-) If the leaves are turning-color-for-Fall, then tree is going to sleep (basically).

What is "tree is graphed"?? That's a new one to me.....

The issues with that particular tree are the graft bulge and that there are huge internodes 'down low' which is where you want 'em tight for future development. Plus, iirr, that particular type tree is 'fast-growing' which makes ramification rather hard - it'll always look gangly when kept smallish in 'bonsai style'. You are picking a VERY difficult start here, and just being honest with you ;-) I just don't want you to think that that tree will be a tight compact 'bonsai'; its not in the genetics most likely.

A suggestion: let it go dormant in pot, then 'plant' it in-ground while spreading root ball out, possibly over a tile' to get experience on playing with root balls. Let tree grow for a few years with trimming as needed, etc. Read up on airlayers and debate whether you want to separate tree off of that graft.

You mention 'distant' future as being Fall '09. That's more like 'next season' - 'distant future' in tree terms in more like 10 years from now ;-) Just saying that for perspective....

Alex

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Sue,

Hello and welcome to the forum. By now you are probably getting the idea that there is more than one strategy you could consider. As has been noted there are some problems with this particular tree but each tree is an individual and that does not mean you cannot use it as a learning vehicle nor that it might not make a good bonsai some day. It will take time and patience of course but if you are interested in bonsai then you must (I hope) already realize this. I agree wholeheartedly with your idea of learning on nursery stock or other reasonable priced material but this tree presents some challenges that you are probably not ready for yet.

If I may give my opinion for the short term. Simply slip pot (do not disturb the roots) the tree into a sheltered spot in your garden, water it in well and let it go to sleep for the winter. This allows you all winter long to begin to refine your strategy. You have choices to make.

For instance; will you be layering the top of the tree from the understock or are you willing to live with the unsightly graft union. This will dictate where you go from here. If you intend to utilize the tree as is (no layer) then the roots will surely need to be re-worked fairly extensively and this is not the best time of year to bare root and root prune it.

Extensive root work is best performed in the spring just prior to bud burst. If you simply 'slip pot' it now you can lift it next spring and begin the root work. Planting it in the ground, on a tile, then would be appropriate. Read the sticky thread about 'growing a flat nebari' to see what I mean about root work.

If on the other hand you will be layering it then the existing root-ball is of no consequence and you could plant it now as you would any other tree, gently spreading the roots, but no extensive work.

Another choice might be; where to layer it. You could conceivably get more than one tree from this material if you have the inclination.

Does the tag give a cultivar name, Bloodgood perhaps?

Norm

alexinoklahoma
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And *if* you choose to put it in-ground to await Spring and plan on leaving in-ground through this next growing season, it'd be a good idea to leave the stake until some (new) roots go out laterally to support the tree. If Spring is rather 'wet', the tree can kinda fall over without some roots grabbing on - make sense? Usually, within a month or two of new growth emerging, things start getting more stable underground, IME :-) No biggie...but it sucks when you find a decent 'new' tree on its side from wind/rain; it never stands back up happily until replanted.

Alex

sbound
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Wow! I certainly have a lot to consider here and a lot of areas for learning. I like the idea of getting two trees from one, and I like the idea of getting rid of the graft bump. The more I look at it, the uglier it gets. :oops:

Given all the options, I'm going to follow Norm's advice and simply slip pot the tree. Then I will have time to do some extensive reading over the winter and start forming a plan of what I want to accomplish/learn. There is a bonsai show coming up in Oct. that I can go to. It might help to see some real bonsai trees before making any decisions on my tree.

Norm, you are correct it is a 'Bloodgood'. Is that a poor choice?

The tag says average H & W is 15' x 15' and slow-growing. I thought that would be good for keeping it small. However, reading Alex's comment makes me think the grower's idea of slow-growing and bonsai slow-growing are not the same concepts.

If it is too fast a grower for a bonsai, then maybe it's a decent tree for learning about watering, fert., root development and layering to create two trees from one. Am I correct in thinking, that I could take a few years (3-5) to work on these things and later plant the tree as a regular outside tree with no harm so long as the overall size of the tree stays smallish (not bonsai small, but the size it is now).

alexinoklahoma
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I have no 'hands-on' w/ Bloodgood, but have heard that it is much like a basic A palm atropurpureum with better 'colors' and maybe a bit hardier (?? on that part). It would be fine overall to play with / learn / etc...

However, to clarify a bit more, your particular tree was not raised w/ bonsai in mind whatsoever and now that it is well into 'hard growth', the odds of getting it manageable without layering and starting with a node or two (ie big-time start-over) to get the internodes a tad closer than 6-12" for the first two feet of trunk ;-)

You bet you could 'field-plant' what remains of that tree after you practice/whatever. I'd bet that that is a very hardy A palm root/stump that would do nicely all on its own, IMO, but I like green/red-leaf 'basic' Japanese Maples myself while some do not think them worthy. Part of playing with such a tree is that chopping/pruning-hard just may stimulate below-graft growth big time (not certain on this species doing this - anyone??). Such a stimulation would benefit the end result you seek, but would also make playing successfully frustrating w/ tree not doing what is expected/etc... The graft may swell way outta proportion to the cultivar trunk (??again not sure here) making for more frustration.

Then again, you may get some great new growths worth layering-off in a few years or so...but I would not count them chickens just yet ;-)

And saying that commercial growers and bonsai 'special grown/grafted' folk define differently - oh yeah, most definitely. Commercial places/nurseries can sell bigger trees for more dollars so they aim for fast 'long' growth, and rightfully so. Its the other end of rainbow for bonsai. In your future 'studies' and perusing different sellers' URL's, you'll see how much better-for-bonsai stuff is when attention is paid to details we seek in 'specimen'-stock, especially when the first 6 to 12" of a trunk makes or breaks many a 'specimen' early on in development Dig around the site www.evergreengardenworks.com and the 'blogs'/articles and you'll see what I am talking about (Brent's stuff on Japanese Black pine root-work/grafting is notable, fwiw)

Your attending a hands-on kind of meeting would be HUGELY revealing for you, I bet. Certainly not a waste of your time! Enjoy :-)

HTH,
Alex

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Sue,

Just thought I clarify what all the fuss about nodes and internodes is about, forgive me if you are aware of these concepts. A node is the location of previous, or existing branches. If you look at the trunk you will see that all of the branches emerge from areas that exhibit a different texture and make a sort of ring around the trunk, these are nodes. The space between the nodes are the internodes.

The reason Alex is concerned about the length of the internodes is that Maples have a strong tendency to make new branches (bud back) only at the location of previous nodes. If the internodes are long your new branches will obviously be farther apart than if the nodes were closer. One of the 'rules' of bonsai design is that as the branches ascend the trunk the internodes decrease in length. The distance between the first and second branch is greater than the distance between the second and third, etc.

This is why Maples can present such a challenge. Not all trees behave this way. Elms, for instance, will bud back anywhere on the trunk so this is not a consideration with them.

Another concept in bonsai is that the distance from the roots to the first branch represents one third of the finished height of the tree. So if you were to layer at a node and the next node is six inches above that then the finished height of the tree would be 18 inches. Everything above that (6 inch) node would be cut away and all you will really have is a six inch section of the original trunk. The second branch then must be less than 6 inches from the first, and the third even less, until you reach the apex of the tree.

If you truly get the bonsai bug you will be looking for some more trees eventually. If you have more than one tree to work with you will be less likely to pamper any one to death. Chinese Elms are an excellent choice for beginners. If you are intent upon working with Maples then I strongly suggest that you purchase the volume 'Bonsai with Japanese Maples' by Peter Adams, as well as a more general volume.

https://m.amazon.com/tag/maples/products

Norm

alexinoklahoma
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Exactly, Gnome :-) If it was pretty much any other species (non-Acer, per se) I wouldn't be so adamant about that particular tree being a possible (probable?) disappointing 'beginner tree'. No way am I denigrating that tree, but it just wasn't pointed in bonsai direction when it mattered most (hope that is evident now, LOL)...

No matter what, enjoy that tree - its seems to be at least a decently healthy tree with lots of potential no matter the direction. Its the time needed to get it back to 'bonsai' path that would most likely cause gnashing of teeth a few years from now. I have been there and done that, and more than once, LOL. I just hope to point those aspects out when extreme-sounding motivations/intentions appear in newcomers - happens to most everybody, 'eh?

On a different Forum, I can't count how many folk have lost entire trees when they chopp an Acer down low to try and make a decent low-trunk and it never back-buds for them (ie death of tree). Acers just are supremely unpredictable/unreliable on making new buds way down low when trying to taper the trunk for 'bonsai rules' appearance (rules are debatable, of course) but keep tree looking appropriate/non-silly, so to speak.

We making sense yet?? So much of this is much easier to explain by pointing at stuff instead of using words. I will attempt a loose example of growing diff's:

[url=https://picasaweb.google.com/AlexInOklahoma/AcerPalmatum#5245237413069936530]Image 1[/url] and [url=https://picasaweb.google.com/AlexInOklahoma/AcerPalmatum#5245237617704867634]Image 2[/url] are of some of my 'potensai' A palm's while others I am raising are much more vigorous and tall with nodes that are 6-12" apart; hopefully the differences are apparent with nothing to really show scale. Not the best pics but get the idea?

This weather sure is keeping *me* busy - ain't it nice outside lately?!

Alex

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