DCMike
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Newbie questions - Starting All Important First Tree

Greetings from a brandy new forum member.

I have kept a couple of small bonsai trees for a while and have managed not to kill them. Now I want to start my own. I bought a Japanese Maple (Acer Palmatum) about 18 inches tall with what I think is a good looking trunk. I have good idea of which branches I want to prune in order to get it off to a good start.

I have read a couple of books and looked at resources on-line and feel like I’m ready to proceed with:

Branch pruning

Root trimming (shouldn’t need too much)

Repotting

Defoliating

Now for the questions that I can’t find an answer to in the resources I have:

Can I do all these at the same time? Should I prune and defoliate first then wait for recovery before I move on to root pruning and repotting? Other way around?

How about after I do some or all of this, do I continue the same watering, fertilizing and sunning routine or do I need to make adjustments for a while the tree recovers? Stick it in the shade for awhile?

Any other things to consider?

Thanks in advance for any insights. I want my first effort to work out as well as possible.
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IndorBonsai
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I wouldn't recommend a complete defoliation until the tree has become adjusted to its new home/environment for at least a year. Even then a complete defoliation is risky. But if you mean just cutting off some unwanted leafs that would be fine.

Remember if you cut one quarter of the roots off then you need to cut at least one quarter of the foliage.

Also I have found that it is best to trim the roots to fit your new bonsai pot first. This allows you to know how much of the foliage you will need to trim off, giving you a starting point for pruning/styling your tree.

You can prune/style your tree first if you want, some prefer it this way. Good points on this way is after you have the tree styled it helps when you position it in the new pot ( you know which way you want the tree to face or call the front of the tree ).


You can trim , style , re-pot , all in one day and you shouldn't have any problems.

Basically do it how you want to, but have fun!!

don't stress out about styling it wrong, some of my trees I style to a basic shape then let it sit a few days, just looking at it every time I walk past . This helps me do the final shaping/trimming detail work.

P.S. Remember too that its not so much what the tree looks like now, but what the tree will look like a few years from now :)
If your going to have art in your house why not make it living art. :D

Jason

DCMike
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Thanks very much for the insight. I was indeed going to do a full defoliation like I saw in my copy of “The Living Art of Bonsaiâ€
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IndorBonsai
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Sealing the wounds is a good thing, I have never done it tho LOL .

If you take off a large branch close to the trunk sealing the wound would be added protection. But when doing smaller branches just leave about 1/4 - 1/2 a inch between your cut and the next set of branches or leafs on the tree for die back, just in case.

Good Luck !! :)
If your going to have art in your house why not make it living art. :D

Jason

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IndorBonsai
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I forgot after you get your tree in its new pot and styled don't fertilize for about a month , water to keep the soil moist but not soaking wet, every other day seems to work on most Bonsai, and place in a spot that gets morning sun and afternoon shade.
If your going to have art in your house why not make it living art. :D

Jason

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Indorbonsai, a lot of folks do not like sealing as it creates an anaerobic area under the sealant that can harbor bad guys. If you have to seal, might I suggest Liquid Nails? Cheaper than bought sealant, and a built in fungicide...but really , in the arborists course they do not recommend sealing anymore...

HG
Scott Reil

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Mike,

You have missed the opportunity to re-pot it this year. I always re-pot deciduous material just prior to, or even at, bud break in the spring. If you're contemplating removing a larger branch mid-summer is better than spring. In spring Maples have a tendency to bleed. If you prune during the summer slow down the tree won't bleed and the late season growth spurt will help promote callous formation.

Defoliation is a refining technique not usually done on trees still in the training phase. Also, it is never done in the same year as re-potting so I would say you are a few years away from this procedure.

For the short term I don't think you should do much. Learn to maintain it properly and contemplate your styling options.

As far as sealing goes, Scott is correct that arborists now avoid sealing wounds. There is, however, still a lot of debate in the bonsai community as to the advisability/necessity of sealing. I take a kind of hybrid approach with deciduous material. If the cuts are small I don't seal at all. Larger cuts are sealed temporarily until I get a good callous to form then I remove the sealant to expose the wound to the air and avoid the problems that Scott alluded to. I have been using plasticine modeling clay with good results. I like it because it is easily removed.

Norm

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Best of both worlds...nice solution, Norm... :)

HG
Scott Reil

DCMike
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Norm,

Many thanks for the input. I guess I can wait till next year especially if it will potentially hury my tree.

What part of the repotting is the risky part? The reason I ask is that the tiny little plastic pot my tree is in seems too small for a tree to stay in for another year. I can also see roots everywhere.

If it's the root pruning that is the issue I could just plunk it in a larger pot with some regular old soil. Would it be better to leave it alone?

Thanks

Mike
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Gnome
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Mike,
What part of the repotting is the risky part? If it's the root pruning that is the issue...
Yes, extensive root-pruning or even a major effort to rearrange them is not appropriate at this time of year.
The reason I ask is that the tiny little plastic pot my tree is in seems too small for a tree to stay in for another year. I can also see roots everywhere...I could just plunk it in a larger pot with some regular old soil.
If it is severely root bound an acceptable course of action would be to perform what is often called 'slip potting' The tree can be potted up without disturbing the roots very much. Choose a pot a little bigger than the current one and move it up. The roots could be teased out slightly and a similar medium used to back fill the pot. Water it in well to bond the new medium to the old and the tree should not be set back much. It's a judgment call as to whether or not it really needs it though.

Norm

DCMike
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Thanks again Norm. I'd prefer that my first effort work out so I'll take that advice. It sure looks tight in that little pot so I believe I will move it to a larger pot.

Glad I posted here.
Still trying to think of something clever to put here...

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