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Joined: Mon Nov 07, 2005 6:29 pm
Location: Australia

bonsai, bonsai

hello all
I was just thinking, in my garden I have a japanese maple and every year it in the spring I get little sapplings underneath the large tree. My question is can I grow one of these sapplings as a bonsai and if so how do I Start this process. Any help would be very greatful.
Thanks :?:

The Helpful Gardener
Posts: 7492
Joined: Mon Feb 09, 2004 9:17 pm
Location: Colchester, CT

Sure you can, but Japanese maples have some special techniques that need to be followed to get the branch ramification that gives maple bonsai that special look. They are kept in a different soil in Japan, with a clay pellet called akadama that simulates the volcanic soils of Japan, but as long as the soil holds moisture while draining freely (sounds counter-intuitive, but it's when the particle holds the moisture and the spaces between particles allow for air), then the tree should be fine.

There is the usual pruning for shape, but then there are two other techniques, one exclusively for maples, that you need to know. First in spring, when the leaves are first breaking, they come in pairs. Wait until the second pair is coming out (the first pair will be in between the next two leaves that sprout). Everywhere that we want to slow the rate of the branches growth and start new twigs, we pinch out those first two leaves in between. this keeps the foliage tighter to the branch, developing the "clouds" or pads od foliage that one sees on better bonsai. This is exclusively done to maples (at least as far as I know).

The other technique is not a yearly thing, but every few years when the tree is healthy. While the tree is in high growth (mid-summer usually), you take a pair of scissors (they do make special leaf scissors, but good ikebana shears will do) and cut off every last leaf. That's right, ALL of them. This will be followed by a mass of new, smaller leaves and trigger many advantitious buds (sleepers that wait for other leaves to die off), again helping to tighten those clouds.

If you meet the trees cultural requirements, and use the first technique from the start (defoliation is best left to more mature trees), you should soon have a nice maple bonai. Look for dwarf cultivars to make great maple bonsai; I have a little tree called 'Kashima' , and there are other good cultivars like 'Chiba', 'Beni Hime', 'Sharp's Pygmy', 'Tiny Tim' that lend themselves easily to pot culture.


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