Geniusdudekiran
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BONSAI SHAPING - How to Shape this Japanese Maple?

So, I bit the bullet and bought a Japanese Maple bonsai, I've been wanting one since I got my first bonsai (Chinese Elm). So I essentially bought this particular tree because 1.) the foliage and potential it has and 2.) the price ($21.95 shipped!)

[img]https://i1211.photobucket.com/albums/cc440/geniusdudekiran/Untitled-Copy.jpg[/img]

So tell me guys, how would you start with this? Obviously I plan to trim that weird shoot at the far back right; I'll post more of my own pics when it comes in sometime this coming week from NY.
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TomM
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What you bought is not a Japanese Maple bonsai. It is just a baby. A rooted cutting of a Japanese Maple in a 3 or 4 " plastic pot - years away from being a bonsai.

Don't dwell on what/where to prune. Let it grow out for a few years and keep it healthy. Styling comes after numerous rounds of full growth, chop down, full growth, chop again, directional growth, proper shaping by wiring, balancing of energy, etc.

You need to learn what a bonsai is and is not. They take years, or even decades, to develop properly. I hope you will check out my BONSAI VIDEOS thread to get acquainted with real serious bonsai.

BTW - most bonsai clubs have sales tables where 'layered' or rooted cuttings like this would sell for $10.

kdodds
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Agreed, even grown in ground, you're quite a few years away from being able to do anything with this seedling. I harvested some dozen and a half Yamadori JMs this year. Even the smallest (1" caliper) are way more developed in the trunk that what you've purchased. You have, I'd, about 5 years before you can do anything IF you plant it in the ground or a grow box, something like that. If you keep it potted, you'll have a bonsai by somewhere this side of never. For reference, this is the kind of development you're looking for:

[img]https://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y201/KDodds/2012-04-21_14-39-04_58.jpg[/img]

See how well reduced the leaves are already? That's without a defoliation. Something like that is ready to be worked, not a seedling.

kdodds
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And just an FYI, you could have gotten something similar from one of the many online sellers also, for around $10 in a 4" pot. If you're willing to start work on a <1" trunk, you can get some nice 4", much better developed, maples from Wee Tree (will need a good pot up first, but probably workable next season) for around $7, I think. Or, you could get 4" maples from Meehan's aroudn the same price, or much further along 6" maples for $20, more or less. "With shipping", no, probably not, but at least they'll be something you can work on.

Geniusdudekiran
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Tree has been received and given a haircut.

[img]https://i1211.photobucket.com/albums/cc440/geniusdudekiran/DSC_0027.jpg[/img]

You can see I have defoliated a lot of it and pinched back a lot of the growth. If there's one thing I can say about this tree, it's very very healthy. It's got crazy amounts of growth and relatively small leaves. I'm hoping steadily but slowly defoliating over the summer will help with the reduction.
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kdodds
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What exactly do you hope to accomplish with this tree? Right now, the "trunk" is about thick enough to support 3-5 tiny branches, making a "finished" tree about as tall as that brick, maybe a tiny bit taller. The leaves will never reduce small enough at that size to be convincing at all. You need more ramification for that. Defoliation alone will not accomplish leaf reduction. So, in short, you need to grow this tree out. I have no clue where you obtained that pot, but it's inappropriate for growing, training, or display and the tree is highly unlikely to overwinter in it and live.

I virt'd an appropriate tree for this trunk. I'm no artist, but that's 10-12 leaves on the entire tree...

[img]https://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y201/KDodds/yourtree.jpg[/img]

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rainbowgardener
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There's a rough guideline that I have seen that says the height of your bonsai tree should be about six times the diameter of the trunk. So if your little tree had a trunk half an inch in diameter then to be in scale as a bonsai now, it could only be three inches tall. In fact, it looks like yours is definitely less than 1/2 inch in diameter. That's the point kdodds was making.

That doesn't mean you are stuck trying to make a 2" tall bonsai. It means you need to grow the tree out for awhile (the years they were talking about), until the trunk is thicker. But that will never happen, keeping it in that tiny bonsai pot. It needs at least to go back in the nursery pot it came in, if not something bigger.

Here's a sample Japanese maple bonsai:


[img]https://www.artofbonsai.org/critiques/images/pall_maple/c_pall_maple_001.jpg[/img]

Notice the remarkably thick trunk on the little tree. That's the effect that bonsai growers are usually going for... the idea is to look like a full sized, mature/ aged tree, just in miniature.

Leaf reduction is something you only worry about much later. For now if you are trying to grow it out to thicken the trunk, you want the leaf surface to help it grow. So you develop trunk, roots (nebari), branches, and then leaves.
Last edited by rainbowgardener on Tue Apr 24, 2012 4:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
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kdodds
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Exactly. Sixths and thirds are pretty ancient perspective guidelines for good reason. I say guidelines rather than rules because sometimes trees can work around them, like flowing cascades, or tall "skinny" stately trees, forest plantings, or "sumo" shohins that are so popular right now. You can make truly miniature (a few inches) trees with some species, but most Japanese maples I've seen under 6" aren't very convincing, and are horribly difficult to care for besides. And I agree, it needs to go back into at least that nursery pot. However, I suspect you've done some root pruning. If that's the case, be VERY careful about soil and pot size. You may, now, actually need to pot down. Unless, of course, that IS the nursery pot, surrounded by bricks. In which case, kind of kudos for a convincing optical illusion. Either way, you need to stop pruning. And if it hasn't been repotted, you might want to pot it up to a 6" pot, depending on how the roots look. If they're already growing through the pot, then yeah, pot up.

TomM
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I think you caught the camera trick here - it does appear to be in the original tall nursery pot but hidden behind the bricks. Next year it could go into an appropriate training pot or box.

Defoliating a new seedling or cutting is counterproductive. It needs to grow big and strong first with many many leaves. Cart before the horse.

Geniusdudekiran
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Alright, thanks for the replies guys. I'm planning to work with this tree over time and learn about the entire process while having fun. Just to give you an idea, this is kind of what I'm going for over time: https://home.base.be/graulusjl/acerpalmatumkatsura.html
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kdodds
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Great, you have a goal.

Your seedling is still many years from reaching this stage, however. It's always difficult to judge measurement online, but I'd say the trunk on that tree is about 1/2-3/4, probably smack in between at 5/8". In ground, left unfettered, with no clipping chopping, what have you, your tree will need probably a minimum of three years to put on that girth. Five years is probably more realistic if it's not "pushed" (lots of sun and ferts, well drained soil). That's if you just pop it in the ground and do nothing else. Then, you'll need to chop and wait two more years, minimum, and repeat, before you can even think about primary branch placement/movement.

IF you go the clip and grow method, pruning all the way, as I said earlier, you'll acheive your goal this side of never. Likely, it will take 15-20 years using that method before you can acheive your goal. If that's okay with you, great, and I happen to love clip and grow trees. But you should know that you're in for the extreme long haul when working clip and grow on a potted tree, especially a JM. Likely, you won't get any nice bark either, not until maybe the tenth year or so.

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Gnome
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Geniusdudekiran,

You might find this thread of interest

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=44887

Norm

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Re: BONSAI SHAPING - How to Shape this Japanese Maple?

Excited to learn more about this! I have many volunteer maples growing in my yard and friends yards. I have begun to gently pull up the small trees and place in their own pots to grow and learn what to do. I have also gathered the seeds off the trees or those that have fallen on the ground and would love to learn how to grow those. I have approximately 30 young trees & one more mature tree (5-10 years old). The older one has really taken off this last year & I must trim and make some changes to it. I'm open to whatever advice you have to give or direction as to what to do. I'll take some pictures and post soon.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: BONSAI SHAPING - How to Shape this Japanese Maple?

Hi and welcome to the Forum! I really encourage you to read back through all the posts in this thread and the one linked to!

The point being that a satisfying and artistic bonsai (that doesn't look like a-stick-in-a-pot) is all about trunk girth. What you want to do with your little maple seedlings is plant them in very large pots and let them grow for a few years.

Starting from seed is a VERY s....l.....o.....w way to get to bonsai.

If you have any serious interest in trying some bonsai work, you would be much better off in the meantime, while you are letting those seedlings grow, to buy yourself a bonsai in training/ pre-bonsai tree. There are a number of places on line that sell them for very reasonable prices, maybe $15 or so. These are trees that have been through the first few years of growing out and have been given just a first beginning pruning and are still in nursery pots. Takes maybe three to five years off of the time of actually getting to do something to your potential bonsai tree.
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