Collecting japanese maple

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Collecting japanese maple

Post  leatherback on Thu Oct 25, 2012 2:51 pm

Hi All,

I have an offer to collect a nice mature (3m/10ft tall) japanese maple, which has been in this spot for roughly 10 years. Bad thing is: Most likely I will have to get it Saturday, but certainly over the next weeks, in other words: While the plant is still in leaf, and without any prep work to the roots. What are my chances of success?

If on Saturday, I cannot re-plant the tree until Sunday, as I will have to do this early morning on my way to a bonsai workshop & some work at the Milow concert at night. My plan for the weekend would be:

Chop it out of the ground, with 60-80cm long roots.
Put it in a cement tub (Clean of course), and cover with some soil.
Add a litre or two of water
tie the whole thing up in the car, where it will have to stay till the next day.

Temps are heading in the lower digits (5-10c, roughly 40f). Would this give the tree a reasonable change of succes?


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Re: Collecting japanese maple

Post  Guest on Thu Oct 25, 2012 3:14 pm

leatherback wrote:Hi All,

I have an offer to collect a nice mature (3m/10ft tall) japanese maple, which has been in this spot for roughly 10 years. Bad thing is: Most likely I will have to get it Saturday, but certainly over the next weeks, in other words: While the plant is still in leaf, and without any prep work to the roots. What are my chances of success?

If on Saturday, I cannot re-plant the tree until Sunday, as I will have to do this early morning on my way to a bonsai workshop & some work at the Milow concert at night. My plan for the weekend would be:

Chop it out of the ground, with 60-80cm long roots.
Put it in a cement tub (Clean of course), and cover with some soil.
Add a litre or two of water
tie the whole thing up in the car, where it will have to stay till the next day.

Temps are heading in the lower digits (5-10c, roughly 40f). Would this give the tree a reasonable change of succes?


I can allready see the prebonsai naked trunk in this one, with huge scars but what the heck, i'd be trying it as well.
I think you'll be allright, i'd go about it like this, since its still in leaf and since its a big one without any pre-prep:
- remove the entire 'block' with the earth still attached, 50 or 60cm diameter (or whatever fits a large cement tub)
- put in prepared tub OR just wrap it in some wet cloth bags (in dutch "jute zakken")
- plant the 'block' as a whole in your garden, water, and leave the decent root work for next year (season 2014)

I think thats what i would do, since i can see the potential allready, but still, you'll be looking at least 5 before you achieve anything you can call a decent prebonsai/raw material

Want to know where I would 'chop' in 2014 or 2015 to create the rough trunk outline? I bet you can see it too

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Re: Collecting japanese maple

Post  Rick36 on Thu Oct 25, 2012 3:16 pm

Hi Leatherback! I've moved fairly mature Acers around at all times of year as follows -
Make sure the ground is damp/wet before you dig. If you are planning on reducing the height, do it before you dig.
Dig out with as big a soil ball as you can manage and keep the soil ball intact by wrapping sacking around it and under it before you move it. Make sure you have enough help to carry it easily, then you will not need a container - just tie the sacking in place. If damp enough you will not need to water again until you replant which should be as soon as possible - one day should not be a problem. Again make sure you have enough help to unload from your car. If you can, have the hole/container ready in advance. Water in thoroughly.
This is from a gardener's experience, not a bonsai expert's knowledge. Good luck! Cheers.

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Re: Collecting japanese maple

Post  Guest on Thu Oct 25, 2012 3:17 pm

Rick36 wrote:Hi Leatherback! I've moved fairly mature Acers around at all times of year as follows -
Make sure the ground is damp/wet before you dig. If you are planning on reducing the height, do it before you dig.
Dig out with as big a soil ball as you can manage and keep the soil ball intact by wrapping sacking around it and under it before you move it. Make sure you have enough help to carry it easily, then you will not need a container - just tie the sacking in place. If damp enough you will not need to water again until you replant which should be as soon as possible - one day should not be a problem. Again make sure you have enough help to unload from your car. If you can, have the hole/container ready in advance. Water in thoroughly.
This is from a gardener's experience, not a bonsai expert's knowledge. Good luck! Cheers.

yes I forgot to mention that, offcourse cut away the part you will never need in future design before digging it out

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Re: Collecting japanese maple

Post  leatherback on Thu Oct 25, 2012 3:25 pm

Thx guys. I will have to see to what extend the rootbal holds together. From my experience in my own gardem the soil is very high in sand, and very low in humus, so not very sticky, even when moist. But keeping it moist should not be a problem, and I will try in this way.

[quote="yves71277"]
leatherback wrote:
Want to know where I would 'chop' in 2014 or 2015 to create the rough trunk outline? I bet you can see it too

Always open to suggestions. I have 2 options in mind, but when I get the hands on the plant to do the trimming, I will decide. Ultra-short, or leave a little more mass to the plant. (More ideally I go in on Saturday, do the trimming, cut surface roots, and collect in a few weeks. Nut sure whether the owner has enough patience though. They are certainly not waiting untill march for me to do the digging)

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Re: Collecting japanese maple

Post  Guest on Thu Oct 25, 2012 3:28 pm

Jelle aka Leatherback,

this is what i would leave (in 2014 or you can work/cut your way up to that in 2013 allready) is this, i did a rough 'selection' in Paint. The branches i left, is just to indicate i would not chop those, and let them grow for the first year(s); and offcourse let the new buds develop as well, wherever you desire new branches; but i'd leave those the first season because changes are big that these existing branches will give the tree a 'sure' start... you can remove them further in the season when you see there are enough other buds appearing. I would offcourse cut back these existing branches hard.


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Re: Collecting japanese maple

Post  leatherback on Thu Oct 25, 2012 3:36 pm

Dat was inderdaad de ene optie. De andere was om een tak hoger te gaan zitten. Maar de stam is verdraaid recht in dat deel. Dus optie 1 is waarschijnlijk wat er gaat gebeuren. Voor verplaatse en aanslaan dacht ik de hele vork te laten zitten. Dan heeft de plant iets meer reserves om de wortels aan te laten slaan.

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Re: Collecting japanese maple

Post  Guest on Thu Oct 25, 2012 3:45 pm

leatherback wrote:Dat was inderdaad de ene optie. De andere was om een tak hoger te gaan zitten. Maar de stam is verdraaid recht in dat deel. Dus optie 1 is waarschijnlijk wat er gaat gebeuren. Voor verplaatse en aanslaan dacht ik de hele vork te laten zitten. Dan heeft de plant iets meer reserves om de wortels aan te laten slaan.

Maybe, but we're talking about acer, they are one tough species so i would not really be too gentle with it and chop enough whenever the tree is ready for it. If you keep that 'block' of earth, put it in your garden as such for the first year, i bet you'll be allright Wink

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Re: Collecting japanese maple

Post  claas on Fri Oct 26, 2012 7:34 am

Hi Leatherback,

is there any chance to plant the Acer as it is in your garden, maybe next to your nicely laid out bonsai area? This is a really nice (and not inexpensive) garden tree, which will get even more beautiful over time.

I am asking, because I don´t see this tree as good material for bonsai.
You will have to prune the thicker part of the tree away, leaving a very huge scar, which you will see for the rest of your life. Even if you tolerate that, will that operation give you some good bonsai material? Not to speak of the nebari, of which at the moment we have not the slightest idea.
In my estimation it will take at least 10 years to get something bonsailike out of it.
On the other hand, in 10 years you are able to get a tree with comparable thickness out of an Palmatum airlayer, which is easily done. Plus, you have full control over groth, style and nebari / root system.

Just my thoughts....

Regards, Claas



Last edited by claas on Fri Oct 26, 2012 7:41 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : addition)

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Re: Collecting japanese maple

Post  leatherback on Fri Oct 26, 2012 10:19 am

Hey Claas,

Unfortunately, my bonsai area is not nicely laid out. Still in negotiation with my wife Wink

You think the scar won't heal over if I leave the tree to grow our a few branches for 2 years? But I supose you are right about starting one from scratch. Will see what appears when I lift it.

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Re: Collecting japanese maple

Post  claas on Fri Oct 26, 2012 10:30 am

Take this one (for free, hopefully), plant it in your garden. Your wife will love it!
Then make 5-10 airlayers, in 10 years you have some good trees in pots. Some of them sell and buy fine pots or another bonsai with the money Cool .

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Re: Collecting japanese maple

Post  Guest on Fri Oct 26, 2012 10:44 am

claas wrote:Take this one (for free, hopefully), plant it in your garden. Your wife will love it!
Then make 5-10 airlayers, in 10 years you have some good trees in pots. Some of them sell and buy fine pots or another bonsai with the money Cool .

i'd like to refer to Pavel Slovaks recent post about his Acer (campestre)... very similar, with big scars... patience and knowing what techniques you use, does the job. I see good potential here. Offcourse the roots...well thats always a risk..but roots can be worked on partially... If you want a perfect nebari, well 80% of bonsai dont show perfect nebari.

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Re: Collecting japanese maple

Post  claas on Fri Oct 26, 2012 11:25 am

It´s not just the scar. I see no potential in this tree which would justify to dig it up. It is big, right. But then, Bonsai isn´t just about big...
With this one, you would start from scratch, even more as with airlayer material.
The 10 years could be invested better....

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Re: Collecting japanese maple

Post  Guest on Fri Oct 26, 2012 11:54 am

claas wrote:It´s not just the scar. I see no potential in this tree which would justify to dig it up. It is big, right. But then, Bonsai isn´t just about big...
With this one, you would start from scratch, even more as with airlayer material.
The 10 years could be invested better....

well if leatherback has the choice, and the owner gives his approval, and its free... well its upto leatherback i think Smile
You know that many bonsai material is collected this way, right? This is not starting from scratch, even if you dont know how the roots look. This is not 'the best' material for collectiong thats for sure, anybody can see that, but is has potential, real potential. And acer produces heaps of buds after such operations, grows very good, so you must take that into account as well. I bet 5 years will produce a solid start for prebonsai material.

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Re: Collecting japanese maple

Post  claas on Fri Oct 26, 2012 12:16 pm

yves71277 wrote:well if leatherback has the choice, and the owner gives his approval, and its free... well its upto leatherback i think Smile.

Oh, if I where Leatherback, I would take it anyway (see what I have written above).

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Re: Collecting japanese maple

Post  Guest on Fri Oct 26, 2012 12:21 pm

claas wrote:
yves71277 wrote:well if leatherback has the choice, and the owner gives his approval, and its free... well its upto leatherback i think Smile.

Oh, if I where Leatherback, I would take it anyway (see what I have written above).

i'm really not into online gaming ;-). Let me refer to my above answers too, and offcourse you need to have done some practice as well, before you see/know what kind of work would need to be done with this tree. As a similar guide, again, see the very recent post (update) of Pavel Slovak's Acer Campestre, look at the very similar naked trunk he ended up, after chopping it. But this topic really should not be about your or my opinion on how to create something out of a tree that is leatherback's.

have fun

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Re: Collecting japanese maple

Post  Kev Bailey on Sun Oct 28, 2012 9:39 am

I've moved large ones with relative ease, in the past. Planted them into garden beds and airlayered the hell out of them. Probably 20+ off one tree, over the years. True the resulting layers are long term projects, but still look good and are a free and rewarding.

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Re: Collecting japanese maple

Post  leatherback on Sun Oct 28, 2012 9:56 am

Well, good news. The owner did not want to get rid of the tree NOW. So yesterday I cut the roots up to about 1 1/2 feet depth, in a 2 feet diameter circle. Now it can stay there till feb, march. Hopefully a lot of energy will be stored in the left-over roots (As the tree ws still partially green) allowing a quick recovery in Spring. The base was really nice and fat. Nebari I have not been able to clear too nicely.. But higher up the trunk are some nice forks, which may result in plants with 3 or 4 max 1 inch scars, and a base trunk of almost 4 inches, thinning to less than 1/2 inch branches within 1 foot. I thought that would make a great airlayer. Will take the plant. If the nebari really is a mess, I will keep the base-trunk as ornamental in the garden, and pull a couple of airlayers off over the next summer, or I get a nice stup to practicecreating new roots from cuttings. Thx for the input!

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Re: Collecting japanese maple

Post  Kev Bailey on Sun Oct 28, 2012 11:17 am

That good news and your preparatory work should give you an excellent chance of success.

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