What to do with this maple?

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greg27
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What to do with this maple?

Post by greg27 »

This is a Japanese maple that I inherited from my granddad. It was originally in a group of three. One was dead when I got it, and I managed to kill another one when I tried to air layer it - some disease got into it and the whole thing slowly went black and eventually died.

So here we have the lone survivor. It's got pretty much nothing going for it but for sentimental reasons I'd like to keep it and make the best of it. It was very severely overgrown and I've just kept it going for a few years, until this summer when I slipped it into a bigger pot and cut back the two thick branches (mostly because I was annoyed at it).

What would you do with this? Is it possible to cut a maple back really short down the trunk? Obviously it's a long straight taperless stick at the moment so anything to improve on that would be nice!

Bonus points for anyone who can tell me what I'm doing wrong that's causing the leaves to go brown at the ends too. I just can't get the hang of this thing. It's generally kept under my verandah so doesn't get any direct sunlight in summer.

TIA
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Re: What to do with this maple?

Post by KIRKY »

Firstly come Spring and before the leaves open I would repot it into fresh soil. Also make sure you cover those exposed roots or you will loose whats left of them. The look sick possibly dried out of fungal. You need to get this tree healthy before you worry about what to do with it as a bonsai. Sick trees don’t survive being bonsais.
Cheers
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greg27
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Re: What to do with this maple?

Post by greg27 »

KIRKY wrote: April 17th, 2020, 9:32 am Firstly come Spring and before the leaves open I would repot it into fresh soil. Also make sure you cover those exposed roots or you will loose whats left of them. The look sick possibly dried out of fungal. You need to get this tree healthy before you worry about what to do with it as a bonsai. Sick trees don’t survive being bonsais.
Cheers Kirky, is it worth covering the roots with some soil now or applying some anti-fungal to be safe?
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Re: What to do with this maple?

Post by jessepap »

Is it important on all trees to have those type of roots covered in soil?
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Re: What to do with this maple?

Post by KIRKY »

You can do both cover roots and anti fungal. Yes all roots should be covered until well developed then and only then gradually exposed from the trunk, exposing a little more each year. Exposing roots to early like this case exposes them to drying out, also sun damage and death. Young roots like this just die.
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Re: What to do with this maple?

Post by Phil Rabl »

You could feed it up from the start of spring, then take a deep breath and do a trunk chop in late spring or early summer. J maples will shoot back on old wood, but you cannot be sure where. I have had success and failure with doing this.
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Re: What to do with this maple?

Post by thoglette »

What to do right now: Drainage, drainage and more drainage.

If your current soil is draining, leave the plant alone (beyond covering the roots with a coarse, well draining mix)

The reference text is "Bonsai with Japanese Maples" by Peter Adams. Get it from your local library and digest over winter. Then feed well in spring.

Your (and my) Mediterranean coastal climate is the exact opposite of what A. Palmertum wants. Water management is the key to keeping these things happy, in my (unhappy :palm: ) experience. They sulk if they dry out and die if you soak their feet.

They need lots of light but dry winds or hot days will overwhelm their ability to get water to the leaves. Which then die off (but cut the dead ones off and you'll get a second flush). Winter is equally painful: they can't be allowed to dry out but equally cannot be left wet and cold.
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Re: What to do with this maple?

Post by greg27 »

Thank you all for the replies.
thoglette wrote: April 17th, 2020, 2:37 pm Your (and my) Mediterranean coastal climate is the exact opposite of what A. Palmertum wants.
Thanks, that's what I was thinking... I keep seeing all these people who say Japanese maple is their favourite tree and I was struggling to understand why - they seem to have a sook every time I touch them or there's even a slightly hot day. Probably doesn't help that this one's been pretty much neglected for 6+ years.

I think I'll take it out of its current stupid pot and move it into something deeper and well-draining (what's there now is not very well draining), making sure I cover the roots. I'll try not to disturb things too much as I feel like that might finish it off. Then a big trunk chop as Phil suggested later in the year.

Cheers all.

Edit: a library near me has that book available, so I can pick it up after they hold it in quarantine for three days. Crazy times!
greg27
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Re: What to do with this maple?

Post by greg27 »

I made a grow box for this guy to get it out of the useless round plastic thing it was in.
IMG_20200418_165521.jpg
IMG_20200418_124500.jpg
Try getting waterlogged now.
IMG_20200418_165533.jpg

I added layers of gravel and coarse sand to be sure.

I shall make it my mission in life to nurse this guy back to health. Which for now means no touchy!
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Re: What to do with this maple?

Post by tgward »

looking good ---(if it was mine) in spring before it sprouts too much I would completely remove the thickest of the major fork. the rh side in first picture
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Re: What to do with this maple?

Post by KIRKY »

Much better :tu: if you are looking to cut anything back do it as the last leaves fall and seal cuts. If you wait until Spring you will find that it will weep/bled for a few weeks.
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Re: What to do with this maple?

Post by greg27 »

KIRKY wrote: April 19th, 2020, 4:20 pm Much better :tu: if you are looking to cut anything back do it as the last leaves fall and seal cuts. If you wait until Spring you will find that it will weep/bled for a few weeks.
Okay thanks, sounds good. I'm thinking of a pretty hard chop, maybe something like half way down the main trunk - does that sound too brutal? I'd like to reduce the boring straight taperless at least.

I'll do my homework (ie. read the above mentioned book, and ask here!) before making any decisions.

This morning I went and collected some Japanese maple seeds from a tree a few blocks away - might as well try to get the hang of them.
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Re: What to do with this maple?

Post by thoglette »

greg27 wrote: April 19th, 2020, 5:13 pmI'm thinking of a pretty hard chop, maybe something like half way down the main trunk - does that sound too brutal?
Not if the tree is in good health. That's the key. If they are healthy and well fed, they'll put on a metre of growth over a season. Personally, I'd be letting it go mad for a month or two before picking some "winners" from the new growth. (The traditional option, per The Book, is planning to tilt the tree over a bit, so that the current trunk is the bit up to the first branch, and one of the two branches you have becomes the new leader in your informal upright)

In our climate, at this time of year, they should be in a sunny spot protected from the wind to try and get that last bit of growth on before the leaves turn. Still feeding each week and checking the soil moisture every day. Just like the black pines.

p.s. it does look healthy.
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Re: What to do with this maple?

Post by Max »

what are the black marks down the trunk?
greg27
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Re: What to do with this maple?

Post by greg27 »

thoglette wrote: April 25th, 2020, 4:47 pm Not if the tree is in good health. That's the key. If they are healthy and well fed, they'll put on a metre of growth over a season. Personally, I'd be letting it go mad for a month or two before picking some "winners" from the new growth. (The traditional option, per The Book, is planning to tilt the tree over a bit, so that the current trunk is the bit up to the first branch, and one of the two branches you have becomes the new leader in your informal upright)
Thanks mate, currently I have it sitting under my verandah so it's only getting filtered light (I was paranoid after it getting burnt in summer) but I'll move it to somewhere that gets a bit of sun.

I'm thinking I'll leave it until spring (gives me time to read the book and work out what I'm doing) and then I'll do a trunk chop (or maybe an air layer - more trees, yay) and tilt the trunk.
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