Styling Help!!! - Red Maple (Acer Rubrum)

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Styling Help!!! - Red Maple (Acer Rubrum)

Post  -Jamie- on Tue Feb 09, 2016 7:31 pm

Hi everyone,

I've had this Red Maple for several years, and it has amazing nebari (ROR), but the rest of the tree has always been a bit of a disappointment. I've been thinking about just getting rid of it, but I thought I'd see if anyone had any suggestions about new styling directions? For unstance, I was even thinking about cutting the trunk back to the first major branch, and using that as a new top, and tilting the whole tree, but the angles don't seem right. I'm up for anything, as I'd love to save the roots, but I'm not attached to anything else about this tree.

Thanks for the help,

Jamie










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Re: Styling Help!!! - Red Maple (Acer Rubrum)

Post  beer city snake on Tue Feb 09, 2016 8:28 pm

maybe reconsider your decision not to cut back to that first branch...

cut it back to there and cut that branch back too and develop a new top on that branch...
lots of trunk movement that way...

OR lose that first branch, and cut back to the one right above it, let that one grow some to get your taper and then cut it back again and grow a new top from there...

either way i would think you would want to keep this one shohin sized because of the rock and exposed roots...
the rock is pretty small and might look insignificant or contrived in a tree allowed to grow out too much more.

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Re: Styling Help!!! - Red Maple (Acer Rubrum)

Post  brian soldano on Wed Feb 10, 2016 3:57 am

I'd like to see it in leaf. Id be scared to cut it back to hard because of the size of the leaves and stems, the third branch up on the left looks like a good new leader with some wiring. I have several rubrum with large trunks I've been cutting back in the yard and establishing new trunk lines and controlling growth thru pruning with the plan to air layer them off once they are developed enough and ready for a pot. Very cool tree. I can't wait to see some updates

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Re: Styling Help!!! - Red Maple (Acer Rubrum)

Post  Richard S on Wed Feb 10, 2016 1:07 pm

Jamie, I have no experience with Acer Rubrum and it is difficult to tell exactly how big your tree is from the photos (although not that big would be my guess).

From an aesthetic point of view though I feel that the main problem is the very straight trunk line above the first branches and the very straight 2nd branch on the right. You could of course cut all of this off and start again (I'm assuming A. Rubrum would react like any other Acer to hard pruning) but I'd be inclined to try a full wiring first.

Could you wire some movement into the existing trunk with thick wire?

Maybe not, like I say it's hard to tell just how thick it is from a photo but I think I'd try that and see how it went before cutting it all off. After all you can always cut it back and re-grow it anyway if you feel it's not possible to coerce the existing wood into a nice shape.

Good luck.

Richard

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Re: Styling Help!!! - Red Maple (Acer Rubrum)

Post  AlainK on Wed Feb 10, 2016 4:58 pm

A very interesting tree: because it's difficult.

Firstly, we don't know the size of the liitle guy, that might help.

Secondly, I don't know anything about "red maples", we don't have this species here in Europe, or at least, we have many other maple species that are more suitable for bonsai, so local enthusiasts don't work with this species. But from what I've gathered, many of the characteristics of the species are similar to the ones we work with here.

I can see several options there, I should think BCSnake is right, I'll keep an eye on this thread to see which one you choose...

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Re: Styling Help!!! - Red Maple (Acer Rubrum)

Post  -Jamie- on Thu Feb 11, 2016 6:04 pm

Thanks for all the advice.

The tree is probably about 18 inches, by the way (I'm not at home, so can't measure it, but it's in that range.

As for wiring, it doesn't take well to wiring at all. You can see a small wiring scar that's healing slowly on that first large branch to the right. Part of the reason I love this species is its silvery/grey bark (against very bright green leaves), but the skin itself is very thin. With Raffia and thick wire I might be able to get a little bit of movement in the trunk (which I agree, is really the main problem), but I doubt I'll be able to get much movement in it. The same is true with the large first branch on the right. It's just too thick to get much movement into it, so I'm thinking that I either have to figure out how to restart just above the roots, or else, figuring out how to incorporate those straight sections.

That's why I thought that maybe cutting it back would have to be the option. I also thought that a shohin size tree, with those great nebari, might really make a compelling tree. But it's hard for me to visualize it. I was even thinking something crazy like a cascade style, but I'm not sure.

And, in leaf, it looks quite nice. When I got this, it looks pretty much like it does now, so there wasn't much I could do. But I thought that a double crown look might be nice, and I think with more ramification, and a little more length on the right side crown, it wouldn't look too bad. Just not the most exciting.

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Re: Styling Help!!! - Red Maple (Acer Rubrum)

Post  JimLewis on Mon Feb 15, 2016 4:51 pm

I'd plant it a LOT deeper  Roots are too fat to be attractive.  I'd also get rid of whatever is jammed into the open root.  This Is a  TOUGH species at the best of times.


Last edited by JimLewis on Wed Feb 17, 2016 9:34 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Styling Help!!! - Red Maple (Acer Rubrum)

Post  BrendanR on Tue Feb 16, 2016 1:51 pm

Whatever you do DON'T chop it now. All maples will basically bleed to death if you chop them just when the sap is rising. If you plan your cuts now and mark the tree and leave it until mid to late summer before you do your cuts that's about as fast as you should proceed. Otherwise better to wait until it is dormant again next winter.

As for shape and style, I think you are lucky. The roots and trunk are beautiful, fluid and a successful RoR.

So I'd chop it and use a clip and grow to get a whole new top growing over the next 4 - 6 years. By chopping it you will also slow down the thickening of those roots, which you need to think about.

But I would not get rid of it - I like it a lot.

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Re: Styling Help!!! - Red Maple (Acer Rubrum)

Post  AlainK on Wed Feb 17, 2016 9:53 am

If you want to chop it now anyway, trim the roots as well, this greatly limits the "bleeding" of the tree.

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Re: Styling Help!!! - Red Maple (Acer Rubrum)

Post  JimLewis on Wed Feb 17, 2016 9:36 pm

AlainK wrote:If you want to chop it now anyway, trim the roots as well, this greatly limits the "bleeding" of the tree.
And it won't "bleed to death."

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Re: Styling Help!!! - Red Maple (Acer Rubrum)

Post  bucknbonsai on Thu Feb 18, 2016 4:37 pm

can it really bleed to death? I hear this all the time yet the sugars that would be lost through "bleeding" are going to be lost anyways when you cut those roots off that contain sugars.

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Re: Styling Help!!! - Red Maple (Acer Rubrum)

Post  beer city snake on Thu Feb 18, 2016 6:58 pm

a couple years ago, i lost a 3 trunk green leaf japanese maple for that very reason...

without knowing any better i cut them back way too soon in late winter/early spring... Crying or Very sad

another $50 lesson Rolling Eyes

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Re: Styling Help!!! - Red Maple (Acer Rubrum)

Post  Tom on Thu Feb 18, 2016 7:14 pm

'bleeding to death' is the wrong way of thinking about it.
However, pruning Japanese maples in early spring can cause severe die-back in my experience. Some sources (e.g. Peter Adams) suggest that it can be done if you cut back the roots first.

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Re: Styling Help!!! - Red Maple (Acer Rubrum)

Post  beer city snake on Fri Feb 19, 2016 12:31 am

yeah... i didnt know that then...
so yeah, severe die-back... like from the very top to the the very tips of the roots.

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Re: Styling Help!!! - Red Maple (Acer Rubrum)

Post  BrendanR on Sat Feb 27, 2016 5:07 pm

I did not mean literally "bleeding to death". But I know from experience and from my online research that maples in particular have an astonishing ability to drain enormous amounts of sap out of a wound that it inflicted in spring. The sap is rising and the effect it simply scary to behold - the sap flows fast and free. Like blood (ok maybe a bit slower but it is scary to watch if you are worried about the tree).

The other thing that happens is that you will probably get an infection of some sort at the wound site - fungus being a likely problem. This is because you create a moist and nutritious environment when you have a leaking wound.

It can go on for days, too. I chopped a maple in spring to get the second of 2 equal thickness trunks off. It leaked sap for about 4 days pretty much non-stop. I tried all sorts of stuff on it to get it to stop - no luck. When it did stop the next problem was some sort of disease that made it go black and die back. Eventually it sort of survived for a couple of seasons, but it never regained any vigour and eventually just died.

That was the worst I've experienced, but I have seen the sap problem a few times myself. I have most successfully slowed it by scorching the site. Wound sealants seem to be ineffective.

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Re: Styling Help!!! - Red Maple (Acer Rubrum)

Post  Leo Schordje on Sun Feb 28, 2016 6:52 pm

For our european members, Acer rubrum behaves more like Acer platanoides than Acer palmatum. Any EU technique for Acer platanoides will likely work well on Acer rubrum, and some of the same leaf size issues too.

Personally I don't like the roots at all, but this post is not about me. So I'll channell my "Inner Walter Pall" and think of this as a "Fantasy Tree", in that you accentuate the ugly to the point where you can't look away. (just teasing, humor doesn't always transmit well, I intend this as a friendly poke).

OK, the current roots are what you like. Lets do something to support and exaggerate them. If you are not pressed for time, instead of chopping or anything else, I would plant this in a 15 x 15 x 5 inch growing tray, Or metric, something like a 50 x 50 x 20 cm tray. I would tease out the stone, it looks ridiculous, and it has already done its job and created an interesting hollow under the trunk. I would even plant it a touch higher, see what you can expose raising it up a little.

But I would repot it this year, with no pruning, let it get established and growing vigorously now, so that in 2017 it will have the roots to support vigorous back budding when you do the chops in 2017.

The warnings about when to prune and when not to prune really have more to do with hormone signals controlling plant growth. And disease prevention.

To get vigorous budding from the trunk, you need the hormones produced in the root tips to, signal the rest of the tree water and stored sugars are available for growth. If you chop the roots back, and the trunk back at the same time, you will get a weak back budding response. To get a strong response you need an intact root system.

To get roots growing after a major chop back of roots, you need the hormones in the buds of the branches to send the hormone signals that new roots need to be produced. A quicker recovery from repotting and root work will be had if you don't prune the top in the same growing season.

Many of the deciduous trees commonly used for bonsai are vigorous enough that many, especially if after care is ideal, can get away with both operations at once, but if you know your horticulture is not perfect, I suggest following the advise above and not performing both root work and major chop backs at the same time. Especially if the goal is to regrow major portions of the tree.

So in 2017, after moving to a larger growing tray, it will be possible to get vigorous growth, and being in a tray, it can be left several years without repotting, and you can lift it to a work bench to do detailed pruning needed to keep internodes short and work via clip and grow methods to develop movement and interesting trunks.

In 2017, I would do the major trunk chops. I pretty much would get rid of just about everything above the roots if it were mine, or maybe use the first branch as the first segment of the new trunk design. Regardless, I'd probably chop it to not much more than 4 inches of trunk or branch left in 2017, and in your climate I would wait until after June 15 to do so, and do it before July 4th. If you chop too late in the year, the trunk might not respond, because the hormones that keep buds dormant over winter begin forming sometime in middle or late July. Also you want enough time for new growth to harden off for winter, if you get lots of soft growth in August, there is the danger it won't harden off in time for first frost in November.

So that is what I would do, essential keep the roots, and create an entirely new tree above them.

Acer rubrum will always have fairly long leaf petioles, which looks weird on small specimens. I would think of a design that finishes at least 2 to 4 feet tall, Definitely no shorter the 2 feet, or the results will only look good in winter.

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Re: Styling Help!!! - Red Maple (Acer Rubrum)

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