A Question on Grafting Japanese Maples

penumbra

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I am not a complete neophyte when it comes to grafting but it has been awhile. Concerning JM, we all agree that grafts can be hideous. And we know there are maples that will not root, making grafts the only solution to propagating them. And boy are there ever some terrible looking grafts. And many grafts are just too high on the stem. Is there anyone here who has had the experience of grafting to the root itself instead of the stem? I would not expect as high a percentage of takes as I realize the the stem and buds above the graft help pull the sap up around the graft. But to me it would be acceptable to have fewer grafts take if they were not so damn ugly.
I have about 40 JM cultivars and its time to put them to work for me.
Your thoughts ..............thanks.
 

Canada Bonsai

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I am not a complete neophyte when it comes to grafting but it has been awhile. Concerning JM, we all agree that grafts can be hideous. And we know there are maples that will not root, making grafts the only solution to propagating them. And boy are there ever some terrible looking grafts. And many grafts are just too high on the stem. Is there anyone here who has had the experience of grafting to the root itself instead of the stem? I would not expect as high a percentage of takes as I realize the the stem and buds above the graft help pull the sap up around the graft. But to me it would be acceptable to have fewer grafts take if they were not so damn ugly.

This is a good topic that definitely needs more attention!

There are MANY ways to graft Japanese Maples, and many high-level Japanese Maples have been grafted in one way or another. Unfortunately, there is stigma around grafting because people immediately think of the unsightly grafts from garden centres.

There is a term in Japanese 'koromo-gae' which means 'changing the clothes', and it is used to refer to changing the foliage type on trees. Bjorn spoke about this recently on BonsaiU when I asked him about it. He mentioned that many Japanese Maples that began their lives as bonsai in the 1920's and 30's were not necessarily chosen back then with their foliage type in mind. Nowadays, many of those same trees have their foliage swapped for a better foliage variety. Bjorn went into considerable detail about how/when/why this is done. There is a lot more nuance to what he said than I can possibly repeat, so please understand that I am not quoting him in full here. In sum, Bjorn discussed 3 ways of doing this:
  • Thread grafts through the primary branches
  • Thread grafts through the trunk
  • Ebihara-style peg grafting of branches
I would add that peg grafting does not necessarily need to occur with a single branch being grafted into the trunk. Sometimes it is appropriate to graft an entire trunk into the nebari (see attached).

Among the options Bjorn reviewed, I am personally using thread grafts passed through both the primary branches and the trunk to convert one of my vigorous Japanese Maples into a Deshojo (see attached).

I would also add that one other place in which thread grafting can occur is directly through the nebari. In the images 3 and 4 attached here, my teacher Yves used a vigorous Acer palmatum variety to quickly develop a nebari, and then thread-grafted the slower-growing deshojo strains into that nebari. These were just (multi-year) experiments, of course, and aesthetics was not a primary focus. I tried to put this idea into a sketch in image 5.

The latter is an approach that has fascinated me for years, and I currently have many projects underway where I am using vigorous Japanese Maple strains to create a large nebari using a variation on the 'Ebihara method' where I employ multiple trunks instead of just one. Once the nebrari is satisfactory, I intend to remove all of those trunks and replace them with very thin, elegant trunks. The goal is to reproduce the images of Koga and Musashi Ga Oka in a much shorter timeline. (I have investigated, and Ebihara seems not to have produced any kabudachi style maple bonsai, which drives me nuts, and I wish I could ask him why).

There is so much more to say about grafting Japanese Maples in ways that are not just appropriate but strategic and advantageous in bonsai, but I'll stop here for now
 

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penumbra

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This is a good topic that definitely needs more attention!

There are MANY ways to graft Japanese Maples, and many high-level Japanese Maples have been grafted in one way or another. Unfortunately, there is stigma around grafting because people immediately think of the unsightly grafts from garden centres.

There is a term in Japanese 'koromo-gae' which means 'changing the clothes', and it is used to refer to changing the foliage type on trees. Bjorn spoke about this recently on BonsaiU when I asked him about it. He mentioned that many Japanese Maples that began their lives as bonsai in the 1920's and 30's were not necessarily chosen back then with their foliage type in mind. Nowadays, many of those same trees have their foliage swapped for a better foliage variety. Bjorn went into considerable detail about how/when/why this is done. There is a lot more nuance to what he said than I can possibly repeat, so please understand that I am not quoting him in full here. In sum, Bjorn discussed 3 ways of doing this:
  • Thread grafts through the primary branches
  • Thread grafts through the trunk
  • Ebihara-style peg grafting of branches
I would add that peg grafting does not necessarily need to occur with a single branch being grafted into the trunk. Sometimes it is appropriate to graft an entire trunk into the nebari (see attached).

Among the options Bjorn reviewed, I am personally using thread grafts passed through both the primary branches and the trunk to convert one of my vigorous Japanese Maples into a Deshojo (see attached).

I would also add that one other place in which thread grafting can occur is directly through the nebari. In the images 3 and 4 attached here, my teacher Yves used a vigorous Acer palmatum variety to quickly develop a nebari, and then thread-grafted the slower-growing deshojo strains into that nebari. These were just (multi-year) experiments, of course, and aesthetics was not a primary focus. I tried to put this idea into a sketch in image 5.

The latter is an approach that has fascinated me for years, and I currently have many projects underway where I am using vigorous Japanese Maple strains to create a large nebari using a variation on the 'Ebihara method' where I employ multiple trunks instead of just one. Once the nebrari is satisfactory, I intend to remove all of those trunks and replace them with very thin, elegant trunks. The goal is to reproduce the images of Koga and Musashi Ga Oka in a much shorter timeline. (I have investigated, and Ebihara seems not to have produced any kabudachi style maple bonsai, which drives me nuts, and I wish I could ask him why).

There is so much more to say about grafting Japanese Maples in ways that are not just appropriate but strategic and advantageous in bonsai, but I'll stop here for now
Thank you very much for your reply. You have given me a lot to think about. I will have some plans laid out for the end of winter.
 

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And we know there are maples that will not root, making grafts the only solution to propagating them.
Many cultivars are more difficult to root as cuttings and also may have lower percentage of success when air layering. Which cultivars are you working with. There are variable approaches to air layer that include selection of more juvenile material, girdling smaller branches rather than trunks, prepping the air layer with wire prior to girdling. ( personally I would choose the air layer approach before grafting material )
Commercial nurseries do not consider air layering as a reasonable approach due to the cost and low production numbers with this approach. That does not mean it is not suitable for Bonsai purposes where higher aesthetic quality is more important than higher production.
In reality many cultivars are grafted because it is more economical means of production and because hardier root stock will give the tree a wider sales audience and faster growth rate.

If you are considering grafting lower onto the root stock, there is no reason to believe that will not work. However it does involve several considerations in selecting rootstock.
1. The growth habit of the root stock compared to the cultivar.
2. Bark coloration and appearance between root stock and grafted cultivar!
3. Best to plan for as close a match in size for root stock stem and grafting scion.
4. Consideration for scar placement if a side veneer graft method is selected.
5. Saddle graft can provide a very almost seamless match, particularly if growth pattern is similar and bark characteristics similar.
6. The rootstock usually comes from the natural species the cultivar being grafted originates from.
7. material for root stock and grafting is usually one or two years of age and raised specifically for that purpose.

Very specific guidance is offered in chapter nine ( section 9.4) of Bonsai Maples ( Andrea Merrigioli )
Showing a technique for grafting on the nebari and another technique for a low saddle graft on root stock.

Just some general information for your consideration.
I am not opposed to grafted stock, given a choice I would choose a tree on its own roots though.
 

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One of our bonsai propagators grafts very low and I've been following that principle when grafting for bonsai. Try to graft as low as it is possible to insert the graft.
Even where there is a difference in bark texture or color that is usually naturally disguised by the root/trunk junction. Even swelling is not as noticeable right at the nebari.
 

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Can grafting onto roots be done......I would believe so. However the issues I see is keeping the graft dry and maintaining cambium contact. If you can tackle these issues then in theory the graft should take.

I do think doing low upside down t bud grafting on young root stock would be a lot easier. After a couple of years the graft would be indistinguishable.
 

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Even swelling is not as noticeable right at the nebari.
True a wider base is expected in that location and it can help disguise the difference. This is not the case if the rootstock is vigorous and the top cultivar more of a dwarf cultivar. It becomes very obvious and this is the common case with many dwarf maple cultivars that are more difficult to root. You actually end up with a very unbelievable taper at the graft point, particularly if a saddle graft is used. Result is a fat wide short section with a squeezed taper extending out of the base.
This is not restricted to dwarf maple cultivars , it occurs regularly when dwarf JWP cultivars are grafted on very vigorous white pine rootstock such as " Monticola".
So it is important to select a more regular growth rootstock if working with dwarf cultivars. This way you can improve the development rate without sacrificing the aesthetics and the eventual outcome. Long term results are often not noticed by the propagator and become the problem of the eventual owner. This issue is similar to the incidence of eventual "graft failure". It often appears fine during the early years only to fail later as the growth patterns diverge.
 

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However the issues I see is keeping the graft dry and maintaining cambium contact. If you can tackle these issues then in theory the graft should take.
Propagation texts describe successful experiments where the storage of root graft takes place in refrigeration while callus forms an then planting to allow the buds to swell and leaves to form in a propagation unit. The older method used for acer involves the use of grafting wax to protect the graft until callusing takes place, the grafts are stored in moist layers while the callus forms and then they are planted out.
Those that are interested can find details in Dirr and Heuser. Chapter three under the description of bare root grafting.
The approach that looks most promising is the piece root grafting with the use of a whip graft.
This involves the use of seedling stock, not the usual one or two year old whips.
 

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Propagation texts describe successful experiments where the storage of root graft takes place in refrigeration while callus forms an then planting to allow the buds to swell and leaves to form in a propagation unit. The older method used for acer involves the use of grafting wax to protect the graft until callusing takes place, the grafts are stored in moist layers while the callus forms and then they are planted out.
Those that are interested can find details in Dirr and Heuser. Chapter three under the description of bare root grafting.
The approach that looks most promising is the piece root grafting with the use of a whip graft.
This involves the use of seedling stock, not the usual one or two year old whips.
Was the grafting method mentioned in the experiments? I would love to see their set up. There's so much to learn in propagation!
 

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@River's Edge @Pitoon

Putting the question 'why?' aside for the moment, I honestly cannot make sense of what you guys are talking about. Picture or sketches would really help make sense of this conversation.

Grafting to roots??? What you all mean by 'root'? Do you mean a single strand of root? What size? How deep? What type of graft? What is the long term development plan? Will that graft union end up above the soil line anyways? If not, where will that graft union be on the finished tree? If you're saying it will be underground, where will the nebari be, below that? LOL Is the intention to develop nebari above the graft junction? if so, that's just a ground layer which forces the question, why graft to a root in the first place just go straight to a ground layer?

We really need pics/sketches here to understand what you guys are talking about. Once that's settled, would love to hear your thoughts on why
 

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@River's Edge @Pitoon

Putting the question 'why?' aside for the moment, I honestly cannot make sense of what you guys are talking about. Picture or sketches would really help make sense of this conversation.

Grafting to roots??? What you all mean by 'root'? Do you mean a single strand of root? What size? How deep? What type of graft? What is the long term development plan? Will that graft union end up above the soil line anyways? If not, where will that graft union be on the finished tree? If you're saying it will be underground, where will the nebari be, below that? LOL Is the intention to develop nebari above the graft junction? if so, that's just a ground layer which forces the question, why graft to a root in the first place just go straight to a ground layer?

We really need pics/sketches here to understand what you guys are talking about. Once that's settled, would love to hear your thoughts on why
Oh Yea of little Faith! First a picture to help you feel better! Yes a piece of root is grafted to a seedling scion. This allows the use of more of the host and donor plants for propagation and takes advantage of higher success rates with younger material. The factor of juvenility that is so key to grafting, cutting and air layering success. Research has clearly underlined greater success with younger material and often limited or no success with older material. particularly in the case of more difficult to root cultivars.



Additionally the results are less obvious when more care is taken to match root stock and grafting scion. This includes matching known growth patterns.

Hope this helps!
IMG_0660.JPG
 

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Oh Yea of little Faith! First a picture to help you feel better! Yes a piece of root is grafted to a seedling scion. This allows the use of more of the host and donor plants for propagation and takes advantage of higher success rates with younger material. The factor of juvenility that is so key to grafting, cutting and air layering success. Research has clearly underlined greater success with younger material and often limited or no success with older material. particularly in the case of more difficult to root cultivars.



Additionally the results are less obvious when more care is taken to match root stock and grafting scion. This includes matching known growth patterns.

Hope this helps!
View attachment 411628
So the example shows a whip and tongue graft. I wonder if other grafting methods were used and if they were successful?
 

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Will that graft union end up above the soil line anyways? If not, where will that graft union be on the finished tree? If you're saying it will be underground, where will the nebari be, below that? LOL Is the intention to develop nebari above the graft junction? if so, that's just a ground layer which forces the question, why graft to a root in the first place just go straight to a ground layer?
Union above ground.
Nebari in ground.
No this is not the intention. That would be a waste of time.
 

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So the example shows a whip and tongue graft. I wonder if other grafting methods were used and if they were successful?
The focus on this section was describing the successful methods, no mention made of other attempts or methods. The size of the materials would limit the methodology I suspect. Cannot imagine a saddle graft for example.
 

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The focus on this section was describing the successful methods, no mention made of other attempts or methods. The size of the materials would limit the methodology I suspect. Cannot imagine a saddle graft for example.
Make sense. It would be nice to read what other methods they used and failed with, but knowing what worked is better than not knowing 😁

It's just that a whip and tongue graft can produce a really nasty graft if done poorly. I'm assuming they were successful using the whip and tongue graft because that graft has maximum cambium contact.
 

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Make sense. It would be nice to read what other methods they used and failed with, but knowing what worked is better than not knowing 😁

It's just that a whip and tongue graft can produce a really nasty graft if done poorly. I'm assuming they were successful using the whip and tongue graft because that graft has maximum cambium contact.
I prefer the saddle graft with larger material as it tends to give a more uniform result with complete callus 360 degree without having to remove upper stock and leave a scar to deal with at the base. The issue with a saddle graft is the magnification of differing growth rates, hence my concern with matching growth patterns from the outset. It is fine to use a stronger growth rate on the root stock as long as it is not too great a difference with the top stock.
 

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I prefer the saddle graft with larger material as it tends to give a more uniform result with complete callus 360 degree without having to remove upper stock and leave a scar to deal with at the base. The issue with a saddle graft is the magnification of differing growth rates, hence my concern with matching growth patterns from the outset. It is fine to use a stronger growth rate on the root stock as long as it is not too great a difference with the top stock.
I prefer bud grafting, it's just a tedious process.
 

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I appreciate you taking the time to explain and post a picture, thank you!

Union above ground

Where? If it's on the trunk-line above the nebari, I don't buy it. That looks like the grafts from garden centres, and even if if you're using a root instead of root stock the same problems are at play (though maybe at a lesser degree, as you say)

I can't think of a Japanese Maple cultivar that is so hard to propagate that such an emphasis on juvenility and these techniques would be required. Which specific Japanese Maples cultivars would you use this on, and why would you use this approach instead of any other? Keeping in mind we're talking about bonsai, of course

I work with Arakawa, Beni Chidori, Deshojo, Kashima, Katsura, Koto Hime, Seigen, Shishigashira, Yuki Hime and a few others. Not only do none of them require this, I can't imagine a scenario in which there would be any advantage at all in taking this approach, although I'm wide open to being convinced otherwise
 

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I can't think of a Japanese Maple cultivar that is so hard to propagate that such an emphasis on juvenility and these techniques would be required. Which specific Japanese Maples cultivars would you use this on, and why would you use this approach instead of any other? Keeping in mind we're talking about bonsai, of course
Please keep in mind that responses are based on the previous questions. I responded to the OP who was asking about graft possibilities because they thought rooting was a problem. Personally I cannot think of a cultivar that cannot be propagated by using proper cutting technique.
The beginning statement was along the lines of "we know there are maples that will not root". Personally I do not accept this statement, In reality if that were the case how were these specific cultivars developed and maintained with consistent genetic characteristics.

I never stated I would use this approach or recommend it, simply reported on the possibilities based on reported research and illustrated it when you demanded proof. Some other parties on the thread also were interested in a variety of possibilities, learning what's possible.
 

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I am not a complete neophyte when it comes to grafting but it has been awhile. Concerning JM, we all agree that grafts can be hideous. And we know there are maples that will not root, making grafts the only solution to propagating them. And boy are there ever some terrible looking grafts. And many grafts are just too high on the stem. Is there anyone here who has had the experience of grafting to the root itself instead of the stem? I would not expect as high a percentage of takes as I realize the the stem and buds above the graft help pull the sap up around the graft. But to me it would be acceptable to have fewer grafts take if they were not so damn ugly.
I have about 40 JM cultivars and its time to put them to work for me.
Your thoughts ..............thanks.
Well.. I was stupid enough to cut of the complete rootball in an unevenly rooted airlayer. And I did this..

1639077494130.png

1639077523070.png

Let you know in spring whether grafting roots directly on the cultivar works..
 

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