How to Master The Art Making a Maple Bonsai

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Master the Art Making a Maple Bonsai

One year ago we styled this Maple Bonsai (acer palmatum). We took off a good part of the trunk, almost half of the trunk was taken off. And then we pruned branches, wired them, set them in position and that was pretty much it.

Do Japanese Maples Make Good Bonsai

Japanese maples are some of the most dazzling trees for bonsai and are widely popular thanks to their brilliantly colored fall foliage and ease of care. These compact trees offer a moderate growth habit that slows with age. The broadly spreading crown features layered branching with the signature palm-shaped leaves.

The Sango-kaku’ coral bark Japanese maple is a deciduous outdoor bonsai tree. This japanese maple is noted for its coral-red bark that is particularly showy in the fall and winter after the leaves drop. The foliage will retain a light green-yellow color through spring and summer, and in fall it will turn a beautiful bright yellow. The color intensifies in cold weather to almost salmon. Deciduous. Keep outdoors.

How Fast do Japanese Maples Grow

Anyway. our tree responded by explosive growth, so a lot of new shoots. And then, as you could just have seen, in last summer or late spring, beginning of summer, I did a bit of pruning just to keep the tree a bit more compact.

The only thing that I did not prune are these branches because these are extending from the new apex. And this new apex still needs to thicken, needs to grow larger. And the more growth here, the faster the new apex will grow thick.

It is fall right now, so all these leaves will come off in a week or maybe two weeks. So what I will do, because I am working on it today is take off all the leaves, so that I can see the tree, can see the branch-structure.

Maple Bonsai Care Guidelines

And then prune it again and wire it again. Maybe work a little bit on the big wound of the last time and do some air layering just to make it look more natural. The only thing I will not be touching, is this apex. This growth, these leaves, they will stay on.

Wiring a Japanese maple bonsai should be done in the summer months while the tree still has all of its leaves, and the wires should not be left on for more than six months at a time.

The Japanese Maple prefers wet to moist soils. You should water daily but keep good drainage to avoid root rotting. Most bonsai die due to improper watering than any other issue so word to the wise. An old bonsai watering trick I learned is to place the entire pot in a sink of water an inch or two deep. Let the water slowly absorb from the holes in the bottom of the pot. Investing in an inexpensive moisture meter takes the guesswork out of watering.

Because this section, I just want to maximize growth. So first step, take off all the leaves and then we’ll see what’s next! That really helped to get a good sense of the structure of the tree. As you can see there’s a lot of new shoots.

Can a Japanese Maple be Kept Indoors

A few of these upward growing suckers, all these can be removed. And most of the other shoots can at least be shortened. And then we can start working on the big wound here. I begin with pruning branches that emerge at the same point on the trunk and keep only one branch per section.

If you are not sure what branches to prune begin with reducing the length of all branches and then start making decisions on which ones to keep, and which ones to prune. Deciding on the design of a bonsai isn’t always easy especially when a tree is as full and overgrown as this plant.

Try to apply the pruning guidelines we just mentioned to your own trees. If you are interested to learn more about these techniques consider enrolling in one of our online bonsai courses. Here, expert teachers explain the relevant techniques and you can ask them questions.

Do Japanese Maples Like Sun or Shade

Japanese maple bonsai do not need as much sunlight as some bonsai specimens do. This makes them perfect for gardeners with partly shady backyards.

They should be protected from the harsh midday rays and do best when positioned in locations that receive morning and evening sun and dappled sun throughout the rest of the day. They especially need shade during hot summer months when too much sunlight may scorch leaves.

Can Japanese Maple Bonsai Grow Indoors

As with most ppular bonsai trees, the Japanese maple bonsai are best suited to outdoor growing and do not grow well indoors.

The big wound right now is flat and looks very unnatural. To expedite the process, and make the wound look a bit more natural we make it a bit more concave shaped by biting away the wood with a knob cutter.

It is important to make sharp, straight cuts in the living tissue to help the tree callus over the wounds. As you can see, I pruned the tree. These are the branches that we are building for the design of the tree.


Japanese maple experiment - THE RESULTS !


These branches are still used to just take a lot of energy to grow significantly, so that this new apex will grow thicker. But here we are already building the ramification so that this is starting to look a little bit better.

And what I just did is work a little bit on the wound. The wound was a flat cut, made with a saw. And now we use the knob cutter to make it look a bit more shaped and a bit more hollowed to bring it closer to the parts of the apex.

Last time we kept a little space, so that we were sure that this would be still growing strongly. Now we can take away a little bit more. The next step is wiring. Bringing these branches down, giving a bit more shape to these branches as well.

And this will just continue to grow upwards. And at the very end I will use some cutpaste to close this wound. And that’s it for today Next we wire the main branches ting with the lower branches and slowly working our way up to the apex.

Try to wire two branches with one piece of wire. Between these two branches make sure to wrap the wire at least once around the trunk for stability. We aim to apply the wire at an angle of 45 degrees.

The wire should be thick enough to hold the branch in the desired shape once we bend it. A rule of thumb is to use a wire of about 1/3 to 1/2 the thickness of the branch you are wiring.

Alright, I have finished wiring and like I said, the branches below already show some nice ramification.

These are branches that we want to keep, and keep developing. And the apex just continues to grow, no wire used just to maximize the growth here, so that this section will thicken up over time. Once this is a little bit thicker, maybe in a year or so, maybe even two years then this section will be removed and everything here will be gone.

There’s two branches here that I also left this helps in the healing of the big wound here. The more growth, the faster the wound will callus over. So these will also be removed eventually. And there is one more branch that I will remove, the last branch.

Because it was growing, there were three branches emerging from pretty much the same spot So I decided to remove this branch in the middle. Alright, that’s about all that I would do today. So what about the aftercare? It’s fall right now, so during the winter I won’t do anything.

And then in early spring I will start fertilization quite strongly to really maximize growth. And keep checking the wires, because the branches are growing quite quickly and I don’t want the wires to damage the branches.

Potting and Repotting

Early spring might also be a good moment to place the tree in a large bonsai pot which will look much better than this plastic pot. And then in late spring, or probably early summer I’ll prune back the branches that are growing here again.

Still I will not be pruning anything here. And then in the next fall, so a year from now that might be the moment when I start pruning this away and start building the apex. But for now, just focus on growth keeping this tree very healthy and happy, and that’s it!

As a last step, I apply the cutpaste over the big wound. This will protect it and help it callus over quicker. [Before] [After first styling] [Before the second styling – One year later]

Continue to discover on the website how we explain techniques like pruning, wiring and repotting and you can ask questions to the teachers.

Source: YouTube

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