Acer palmatum 'Shishigashira' Design Questions

Jphipps

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Hey guys, first time posting but looking for some constructive criticism/advice. This is a Shishigashira that I drastically pruned a couple months ago. I included a picture of the tree as I bought it.

I decided not to chop it completely but to leave some branch stubs and foliage to possibly work with. Not sure if that was the best decision, but it has stopped dying back (brown areas) and buds are starting to pop out everywhere. Hooray!

I realize ramification will be a big challenge with how thick these branch stubs are, but I'm starting to see some possibilities of carving away some of that dead wood eventually to help the ramification (not sure if that's a possibility or not).

I think the most challenging design issue is the swelling at the lower trunk (I'm guessing that's from the original graft). Looking for ideas here as well. Would some subtle strategic carving be able to hide/blend in that swollen area?

Last one here. The tree has a good flare at the base, but lacks any "more fine" spreading nebari. Any strategies to start working towards this?

I see this tree as an interesting long term challenge, just looking for some feedback!!! (Don't hold back the criticism. I can take it.)
 

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Adair M

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I'm glad it's budding back for you.

Personally, I think those branches are going to be too big for the tree. I think that eventually, you're going to just have to grow an entirely new set of branches off the trunk that you can train from the start.

I'm hoping you're getting buds developing directly on the trunk.

Now, as for the grafting scar. It's always going to be there. Carving on it not's going to help. I think your best plan of action is to plan on airlayering it off. This will also give you nice nebari.

You don't have much foliage now. To be successful with the airlayer, the foliage needs to be stronger.

So, encourage shoots coming off the trunk. If they get long enough to wire, do so and set them going out horizonally. Once you get a nice set of these going, you can start to remove the old branches. To heal the scars, you're going to have to let a leader go at the top for several years

You have your work cut out for you!

Good luck!
 

Jphipps

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Thank you for the thorough response! It did cross my mind to air layer right at that grafting scar. Does just above or just below matter? And I like the idea that that would help to produce better nebari. I don't think there are any buds coming directly off of the trunk right now. How do I help to encourage this to happen? I planned on letting this one recover very well by letting it grow freely for a year or two, or more if necessary. Also, what about a more drastic chop to get rid of the branch stubs as opposed to cutting them off at the trunk leaving scars everywhere?
 

MACH5

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Hello Jphipps and welcome to BNut! Please update your profile so that we know your location to better help you.

Two ways to deal with the graft swelling. Either you live it and just know that it will never get better and only worse with time or you can air layer it right above the swelling. In any case your current nebari is not so good, so even if you didn't have a graft swelling I would have air layered this tree anyways.

Is the second pic how the tree looks now?
 

Jphipps

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Yes, I took this picture yesterday. Currently I am in Iowa, and am possibly moving to Florida soon. I'll have to figure out how to fill out the rest of my information. I think the air layer is definitely in this tree's future. Dealing with how to chop or just remove the large branches appears to be my other biggest concern.
 

MACH5

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Hmmm I expect this tree to look a lot fuller by this time. I know you say it is budding back but honestly I have to question how healthy this tree really is??

I would not worry too much about the branches. That can be addressed easily later on. Absolutely make sure that your tree is as healthy as it can be before you proceed with any further work. Very, very important.



EDIT: Also just know that unfortunately this tree will not fair well down in Florida if you in fact end up there.
 
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Jphipps

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Hopefully it survives. I figured the budding was a good initial sign. The budding took a little while to start, but now even a couple tiny leaves have popped out as well. My plan is to definitely take it slow and hopefully let this guy grow out very well from this initial pruning.

MACH5, can you elaborate on what my challenges will be in Florida (most likely Gulf Coast). Specifically this type of Japanese Maple, or do most struggle there? I also have Azaleas and Junipers.
 
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The problem lays in the lack of sufficient dormancy for the maple in that area. The Gulf Coast is a 9-10ish growing zone... This maple goes to 8, if the area cools off enough over winter. It might last a year or two, but the summer heat and the warm winters will kill it. Burning could also do it in. This is assuming the tree were in optimal health when it went... Having chopped it so hard, you'd be better to find someone to leave it with. Azalea and juniper can take more... depending on exactly how far down the coast you'll be.

All of these species require dormancy. That's why people down there tend to specialize in more tropical loving species like ficus... bald cypress, and others.

Kindly,

Victrinia
 

MACH5

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Yes exactly Vic! Depends how far up the pan handle you'll end up. Most Japanese maples (if not all) struggle with the intense heat and shorter and much warmer winter moths. They grow in LA but struggle and you can pretty much forget about good autumn coloring even if they survive. They won't fair well long term as they need a mandatory period of dormancy that's sustained by low temperatures for a length of several weeks/months. Far from ideal place to keep a Japanese maple long term specially the more south you end up. You'd do much better with something like a trident.
 

Jphipps

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Wow, that response kind of rocked my world. I am possibly moving to the Pensacola area, which, depending on which map you look at is either 8b or a 9a. I have several Japanese Maples, so this is obviously a big concern if they wont make it there in the long term. I have the option of leaving them in Iowa, but I would have to put them all in the ground (obviously not ideal, as I would prefer to take them with me).
 

MACH5

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Well your chances are somewhat better being up more northern but I still doubt long term success with these trees.
 
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Maps are in need of being updated with climate slowly shifting. The USDA maps were last updated nine years ago... Pensacola has a mean temp in January of 51... that's not low enough long enough. I'm sorry to say. :(

Victrinia
 

RustyNail

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I think if it were me I would leave it in Iowa , because after reading this it sounds like the weather may get it. .I would hate for you to lose the tree. it looks like a good start for you to turn it into a nice tree . i had 2 Japanese bloodgood in my front yard I had to move them due to sun burn and leaf scorch.

this is a copy and paste ..
'Shishigashira' is unlike any other Japanese maple in the world. This slow growing maple has somewhat glossy leaves that are curled and/or kinked up. One of its outstanding features is its compact arrangement of leaves The leaves are a deep green that lasts into the fall. The leaves are of a heavy substance that is firm to the touch. 'Shishigashira' holds its leaf color very well even in the hot Sun. In the fall this tree is a striking combination of gold suffused with rose and crimson tones. After most other maples begin to lose their color, 'Shishigashira' bursts into its glamorous color. 'Shishigashira' is also unique in that it can grow up to 15 feet tall yet it is one of the best bonsai trees in the world. This unique cultivar always attracts attention. It has been in cultivation and published in Japanese literature books since the 1880's. The name 'Shishigashira' means "Lion's Head" or "Lion's Mane."

p.s. you could drop it off here in north carolina .
 
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johng

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I have a couple hundred J. maples (maybe 30 different cultivars) in my garden and nursery here in SC...8b. The only one I have that seems to struggle is a shishi that was grafted in NC and I brought south. It is doing a little better this year but that is after 4 years of struggle and minimal new growth.

Next time you cut a maple back, I think you will significantly improve your results, if use cut paste on the wounds. ONCE, and if, this tree gets its vigor back...at the very least I would rechop the branches back past the dead areas, seal well, and see if you can getsome buds to pop near the ends....this will help a lot with the future need to taper the branches down.

As Mach suggests...this tree is struggling and any more work will most likely lead to its demise....leave it alone for a couple growing seasons at minimum. Then re-evaluate and decide which path to take for the future.

I have seen some amazing bonsai of this cultivar from Japan, but very very few in the US...it appears to take a few decades to really develop into a good tree..slow growing nature...with that in mind this might be a very good long term candidate for you...putting it in the ground for the first decade(if you have a place in Iowa to do that?) Ideally this would be done after an airlayer and the start of a good rootbase...but given your circumstances and the current state of this tree, you might need to just get it the ground.

Sorry to be a downer, I am sure you paid a decent price for that tree, but just trying to provide a little experience to help you make the best decision.

John
 
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Brian Van Fleet

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The dieback is an interesting study in out-of-season work. Some dieback is common, but pruning in the early spring can reduce the amount.

I think the tree has potential, shortening and working with the existing branches on the lower portion, and developing trunk shoots to remake the upper portion.

I can't recall seeing any J maples in Pensacola. If the move becomes eminent and you don't want to try it down there, contact me and maybe we can work something out. When we moved from Iowa in '99, I rented a UHaul trailer and took all my trees; I don't have any of them anymore. Best to grow what grows in your area.
 
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Shishigashira Japanese maple is commonly trained for bonsai, even with the crinkled leaves. Flat leaves and straight needles are preferred for bonsai training because when they reduce they will still look like foliage, not twisted needles or unusual leaves.

This cultivar take a long time to develop into an acceptable specimen. You can grow it in the ground, however if you want a more refined shape, I'd suggest keeping it in a container.

Attached are a few photos of my Shishigashira Japanese maple which started out in the early 1970s as a small grafted tree in a two gallon pot. I did not know better so potted it in a small shallow container and it grew, and grew and suddenly developed into a good looking specimen, in my opinion.

If you look carefully you can still see a wire scar from the last century. Also look closer and you can see the graft union beginning to swell. When the bulge gets too large for my taste I'll sell the tree to someone who does not mind this form.

Bill
 

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MACH5

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BTW not to get off topic but someone walked away with a very nice and old Shishi from the Kennett collection bonsai sale earlier this year. I believe the only one from the almost 400 trees for sale.

I wonder if it will ever pop up on this forum. I hope to at least see it again in some exhibit.
 

Jphipps

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Well, this has taken some interesting turns (pun intended) and I really appreciate all of the feedback. It seems that the consensus is that the Shishigashira would likely not survive in the 8b/9a climate of Pensacola. I agree that I am definitely not out of the dark with this one surviving as it is in its current state, and definitely plan on leaving it alone and letting it grow out and regain its health.

When it comes to the die back, I actually used tree cut paste on all of those stubs. This was the lighter yellow stuff which resembles thick petroleum jelly (Not the dark grayish looking sealant I normally see). I feel like I'm a little fortunate that I did leave a decent amount of those stubs on because of how far it died back.

I have 4 more maples that I chopped (one large cut, unlike the shishi). These are doing ok as well and are also budding. I also have a bunch of J. Maple saplings (around a foot high now).

So my next questions are:
Do I put the shishi in the ground here in Iowa? It seems the consensus is that this cultivar would struggle/die in that climate. Any tips/challenges I will encounter by burying it now?

Are my other J.M. going to have the same demise, and if so, put them in the ground as well?

If I do put them all in the ground in Iowa, any advice in how to protect them from the cold? Last winter was nasty and killed off several trees I put in the ground here already.
 

Brian Van Fleet

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My advice: If you're near Des Moines or Cedar Rapids, check into your local clubs, and when your move is confirmed, take them to a club meeting and sell them. Use the cash to buy new trees when you get to Pensacola. Unless you're along the MO border, it's unlikely your JM will survive an IA winter.

If you need a contact in Des Moines/Ames, send me a PM and I'll get you connected with some good people.
 

Jphipps

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I appreciate the advice Brian. A little back story: Lived in Iowa, moved to Tacoma, Washington, bought a bunch of trees, job was cut, temporarily back in Iowa, most likely headed to Pensacola next. I'll wait it out until I figure out exactly where I'm moving. I'll make sure I message you for those contacts if indeed I move. I see you are in Birmingham, I used to live in Auburn as well!
 
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