Training an Acer Palmatum

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Training an Acer Palmatum

Post  MikeF on Tue Apr 12, 2011 6:02 pm

I'm new to the forum, and fairly new to bonsai. A little guidance would be appreciated. This is (almost) my first post, so here are some pics as well. (Feel free to berate me for excessive pics)

I bought a mountain maple in summer 2009 from a reputable bonsai nursery (Peter Chan is reputable isn't he? Very Happy )
It is an informal upright with a nice 'female' shape now about 18" tall. Having stood in the nursery for a while (the tree, not me!) it needed a bit of a haircut, but other than that I thought I would let it settle into its new home.
Jan/Feb 2010 was viciously cold and snowy, for the south-east of England at least. She came through the winter with flying colours, except her pot shattered, so she was repotted in March in 'Premier Mix' from Green Dragon Bonsai, which is an akadama mix. The new pot is about the same size as the original, but I raked the roots, cleaned out the mud and clipped them back somewhat. Re-potting also exposed some fairly good nebari.
I probably foolishly fed it with small doses of Chempak No.2 25/15/15 during June and July. (My small Deshojo didn't like this at all; the little leaves shrivelled badly.)
However, all is well with the trees and they are leafing well now, after an even snowier winter. I have been pinching the tips to encourage back-budding and ramification, and a 'wrong' branch was removed as the buds were swelling last year.
This year I've sprinkled a few Miracle-Gro All Purpose pellets as I understand a slow release fertiliser might be better.

So my questions are:

Repotting: next Feb/March I would like to repot the tree into a shallow 12" oval pot. I would like the tree to be presented (only to friends and family) in a pot which I understand is appropriate to a curvy and swervy informal upright maple. Am I getting ahead of myself?

Leaf pruning: The leaves are rather large, despite pinching the growing tips. Should I pinch off the larger leaves? When? Should I consider defoliating the tree (remember re-potting in early 2010)? In about July?

Size: I imagine (isn't that what this hobby is about?) that the tree will become taller, as it doesn't seem to have enough taper to become a short, hoary old man.
The topmost branches are beginning to become like a broom. How radical should I be with branch pruning, should I do some more wiring, when, and how should I beef up the lower branches?

Sorry; lots of questions, and if the pics upload OK you've still not got much to go on.

1. As purchased but after a haircut:


2. First Winter:


3. After repotting:


4. Now (notice a branch has gone):


MikeF
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Re: Training an Acer Palmatum

Post  bonsaisr on Wed Apr 13, 2011 5:23 am

MikeF wrote:Peter Chan is reputable isn't he?
He appears to have an excellent reputation. I have one of his books.

MikeF wrote:It is an informal upright with a nice 'female' shape now about 18" tall.
To my taste (others may differ), the curve that was wired into the trunk is too severe. It reminds me of all those pretzelized mallsai the beginners are drawn to, though not as bad. If it were my tree, and there is any give at all left in the trunk, I would straighten it somewhat with a bending jack. People from the nearest bonsai club can advise you.
MikeF wrote:she was repotted in March in 'Premier Mix' from Green Dragon Bonsai, which is an akadama mix. The new pot is about the same size as the original,
How big is it?
MikeF wrote:I probably foolishly fed it with small doses of Chempak No.2 25/15/15 during June and July. (My small Deshojo didn't like this at all; the little leaves shrivelled badly.)
What makes you think it was the fertilizer? Small doses would not burn the leaves. Maples are very susceptible to sunscorch.

MikeF wrote: next Feb/March I would like to repot the tree into a shallow 12" oval pot.
How did you arrive at that size?

MikeF wrote:The leaves are rather large, despite pinching the growing tips. Should I pinch off the larger leaves? When? Should I consider defoliating the tree (remember re-potting in early 2010)? In about July?
Only pinching off the larger leaves does not help much in the long run. It is for getting ready for a show. You can defoliate this year. Around here we defoliate in late May or early June. Ask your local growers for the best time there. Don't forget to leave the petioles on.

MikeF wrote: how should I beef up the lower branches?
Keep the upper branches shorter. When you defoliate, skip the weakest branches.
Thank you for helping my insomnia (couldn't sleep, so I tackled your letter).
Iris

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Re: Training an Acer Palmatum

Post  DreadyKGB on Wed Apr 13, 2011 5:38 am

Mike,
I think this tree has nice potential. I personally think that it would benefit from being grown out some in a large training pot and allowing some free growth. I also think it would be good to chop it back to either the third or fourth branch, this will create taper. Allowing free growth to thicken the lower branches would be the first step. Do not pinch or defoliate them. Removing only the larger leaves will help and be less invasive for the tree.

Having read your other post I realize that it might be tough to put this tree back into serious training as it seems that it is one of your more prized trees, but it needs more some strong growth to develop more character. I would even suggest air layering the top to get two trees (the red line or at the next lower branch). Also bringing the lowest two branches down some to slightly more horizontal position. Just some ideas for the future, they may seem drastic but will be helpful.



Having trees in bonsai pots is better for showing to friends and family but to move to the next stage the tree will need to go through an ugly phase. My old lady is always bugging me about the chopped up, sad looking trees that I have around so I had to get a couple into pots just to show her (and others) I was getting somewhere with this hobby and not just creating stumps.

Good luck,

Todd

P.S. You should also look into getting a copy of Peter Adams book Bonsai with Japanese Maples It is a very helpful book.

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Scary!

Post  MikeF on Wed Apr 13, 2011 8:04 am

Thanks for the analysis Iris.
I agree the curve in the lower trunk is rather a lot. I have been trying to get one of the upper branches to take the top of the tree back in the other direction to restore the balance.
I remember reading that it's best not to wire when the tree is dormant as the branches are less supple when the sap is not rising. I wired in early spring last year but found that if left the wire on too long it caused scarring, but not long enough and the branch sprang back. I guess this just takes experience.
I will look into a bending jack. Are these purpose-made tools or a home-made arrangement?

As I said, the tree is currently about 18" tall, and I read that the pot length should roughly be 2/3 of the height, hence I arrived at a 12" pot, with oval being suited to a feminine shape.

I'm not totally sure it was the fertiliser. I will be careful about leaf burn this summer, particularly for the deshojos.

I had read about defoliating all except the weak looking branches. I think this will be my next step. Would it be appropriate to cut off some upper branches at the same time?

Todd, your more drastic suggestion may work out well in the long run, but as you say, it was my first tree, and by no means cheap. I'll see if I can 'grow' it better rather than chopping it just yet. I haven't air-layered anything yet. I was going to experiment on a branch of an Acer Palmatum Osakasuki which is growing in my garden.

I did get a little more bend on the lower branches, but I guess I need to put more work in there. They are surprisingly woody for their size. Maybe I'll try guys rather than wires.

Just reading this forum is giving me lots of ideas. I've got my eye on a corkscrew willow (I think it's salix babylonica var. pekinensis 'Tortuosa') which is also growing in the garden. I wonder if this is a candidate for air layering?

Thanks again

MikeF
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Re: Training an Acer Palmatum

Post  MikeF on Wed Apr 13, 2011 8:16 am

DreadyKGB wrote:

P.S. You should also look into getting a copy of Peter Adams book Bonsai with Japanese Maples It is a very helpful book.

Thanks Todd. I looked on Amazon and they had 1 left in stock. The 'look inside' feature convinced me it's a worthwhile purchase, so it's now on order Smile
It's never easy finding worthwhile books so I really appreciate the tip.

Mike

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Re: Training an Acer Palmatum

Post  fiona on Wed Apr 13, 2011 8:50 am

Mike, whereabouts in the south east UK are you? (Don't need a postcode - just the town will do Very Happy )

The reason I am asking is that there are a number of our regular members in that area and I know there is a show coming up fairly soon. I'm assuming here that you aren't a member of a club already but even if you are making contact with others and/or attending the show might be good in that you get the first-hand advice and there might just be some sort of "plant clinic" at the show that you could take your tree to.

I found my view on bonsai changed radically after I had been to a couple of better shows for those two reasons.


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Bonsai Club

Post  MikeF on Wed Apr 13, 2011 9:07 am

Fiona
It's not a secret. I live in Bagshot close to the M3/M25 on the Surrey/Berkshire border.
(Will this information help bonsai burglers? Are these even smaller than cat burglars? Shocked )

A nearby workshop sounds like a good idea. Peter Chan runs courses, but (a) they cost, and (b) it's a bit more of a trek down to Sussex.
I'd appreciate hearing from knowledgeable members nearby. Is there a forum newsletter with upcoming show/clinic dates?

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Re: Training an Acer Palmatum

Post  John Quinn on Wed Apr 13, 2011 3:14 pm

Is there a forum newsletter with upcoming show/clinic dates?.

Check the Announcements section of the IBC as there may be listings of interest, at least for major exhibits. Local workshops may not be listed there.

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Re: Training an Acer Palmatum

Post  bonsaisr on Wed Apr 13, 2011 3:34 pm

MikeF wrote:I wired in early spring last year but found that if left the wire on too long it caused scarring, but not long enough and the branch sprang back.
Tell me about it. Rolling Eyes Razz

MikeF wrote:I will look into a bending jack. Are these purpose-made tools or a home-made arrangement?
This is a special tool made in different sizes, sold in bonsai shops. I would suggest you get an experienced person to help you. It will work on a maple, but it is very easy to damage the bark. I tried it once on a pine & killed it.

MikeF wrote: I've got my eye on a corkscrew willow (I think it's Salix babylonica 'Tortuosa') which is also growing in the garden. I wonder if this is a candidate for air layering?
You have the name basically right.
You can practice air layering on it, but I don't think it's a good candidate for bonsai. There is a compact form of Salix babylonica that is used for bonsai, 'Rokkakudo,' but I find it delicate & temperamental.
Iris


Last edited by bonsaisr on Wed Apr 13, 2011 3:42 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : Remove extraneous comment)

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Re: Training an Acer Palmatum

Post  bonsaisr on Wed Apr 13, 2011 3:40 pm

MikeF wrote:Would it be appropriate to cut off some upper branches at the same time?
You have two leaders at the top. I would cut off the fatter one.
Iris

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Re: Training an Acer Palmatum

Post  fiona on Wed Apr 13, 2011 7:37 pm

Hi Mike.

The show I was thinking of was the Wessex Show in Bournemouth on the first Sunday in May, but that may be quite a hike for you. If you are interested, drop a PM to Dave Martin on here - I'm sure he'd be delighted to hear from you anyway. I'd also speak to Steve McKee (BigSteve on here) to find out what is on at Capel Manor this year. If nothing else there is a bonsai traders association show there in June - details are HERE.

Again, as I am unsure if you are a member of a club, you can find details of some clubs in your area by clicking HERE . The list only contains clubs that are members of FoBBS but it is a good start point. There is other info on that website that might be of interest - especially the Events, Diary dates and Traders sections. Another useful site is THIS ONE.

re your tree - I'd agree with Iris about losing one of the leaders and if the fatter one is at the back, I'd go for that. I'd also endorse the suggestions of other respondents who suggested taking it out of its pot and growing it on in a large training pot for a couple of years. You have, as you probably know already, a couple of weaker branches on the lower left side and this would help them develop and at the same time would help trunk fattening.

Hope at least some of this helps.

Regards

Fiona

btw - have dropped you a PM as well. Watch out for them thar kitten burglars now.

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Re: Training an Acer Palmatum

Post  MikeF on Thu Apr 14, 2011 9:23 pm

Thanks for the info Fiona, Iris, et al.

I hope this isn't too dumb a question:
I've decided that I will generally keep the tree as it is for now, without drastic chopping, but I should defoliate the top to fatten up the spindly lower branches. I also plan to remove some of the top branches to improve the balance.
So here's the dumb question, how quickly might these branches thicken? Will this be an annual event for 3, 5, 7 years?
Will it be OK to leave the tree in its present pot, or should it really go into a deeper bucket for a few years?

Embarassed
Mike

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Re: Training an Acer Palmatum

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