Advice on collecting a Japanese maple from garden

Storm87

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Hi all,

I can collect a Japanese maple from someones garden, for free (it has to go now).
Never done this before and I would like to increase the chance of it to survive.

How should I proceed?

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AlainK

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Use a sharp spade to "circle" the roots (pink). I don't know if what I can see at 3 and 6 on a clock are roots (red), but if they are, they'll have to be pruned anyway.

Japanese maples usually don't have very deep roots, there should be enough feeder roots around the trunk.

Then, put it in a grow-box (brown), filling the empty spaces with coarse sand, gravel, pozzolane or any non-organic soil.

I would also remove the leaves before they fall, put the box under 5-10 cm (2-4 inches) straw/leaves outside for the winter, against a wall so the temps don't go below zero at the roots. ("Zero" is when water begins to freeze, 100 ° C is when it begins to boil)

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Storm87

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Use a sharp spade to "circle" the roots (pink). I don't know if what I can see at 3 and 6 on a clock are roots (red), but if they are, they'll have to be pruned anyway.

Japanese maples usually don't have very deep roots, there should be enough feeder roots around the trunk.

Then, put it in a grow-box (brown), filling the empty spaces with coarse sand, gravel, pozzolane or any non-organic soil.

I would also remove the leaves before they fall, put the box under 5-10 cm (2-4 inches) straw/leaves outside for the winter, against a wall so the temps don't go below zero at the roots. ("Zero" is when water begins to freeze, 100 ° C is when it begins to boil)
Thx! Thats helpful. I'm a bit excited about this :). I have to collect the tree this Saturday, so I don't have time to make a grow-box right away. So I guess it will be a plastic basket for the time time being.

About the roots and the soil. Do I clean off all of the existing soil? And will be a mixture of lava rock and pumice work?
 

AlainK

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Do I clean off all of the existing soil? And will be a mixture of lava rock and pumice work?
This time of the year, I wouldn't clean off the existing soil. It probably contains bacteria/fungus necessary to the health of the tree. I would just wash off the outside of the roots to make sure theyr're neatly cut, that would be all for the moment.

Depending on how healthy the tree looks like in late winter, maybe I would then wash away the soil and prune the roots, but it's just a guess. Only thye one who tends the tree can say.

Others can have a different opinion, but I wouldn't do much work on the roots on an uprooted tree right now.

If you don't have a growbox, or don't have time to make one, and if you have a garden, dig a hole, put the tree in it, and fill it with river sand, the best to have healthy roots in spring.

My 2 € cents' worth ;)
 

Oterra

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Water the plant heavily to get it hydrated If you have a chance starting TODAY!! If you have done this already, even better. We move some big maples from time to time, even some emergency moves during the heat of summer. An anti-transpirant and lots of water has proven to help tremendously.
 

Storm87

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Water the plant heavily to get it hydrated If you have a chance starting TODAY!!
No need to worry about that now. It has been raining continuously the last couple of weeks. It's raining now. Again.
When it's out of the ground, I'll make sure it gets enough water. Thx for the tip.
 

ConorDash

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Yes definitely do not touch the roots.

I’m not expert at collecting, but I think overall rules are:
Collect as much root as possible
Once moved, do not touch for at least a year, or 2 depending on how first year goes.
Sustaining health and keeping alive is the only priority till it shows proper vigour.

Perhaps a light fert in the first year, strong nitrogen content, to encourage root growth. Light because you should never fert an unhealthy tree and until you are confident in its health, light it is :)
 

leatherback

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So I am going to go against the stream..

Yeah, collect. Pull it out leaving the soil in place as much as possible till you get home. At home, gently bang it about a little; Shake to get all the loose soil out. Maples deal very well with bare rooting; Don't wash it, just remove the loose lumps. All the big roots you had to hack through during collection you need to trim with sharp cutters to make smooth cuts. Put it in the smallest container possible. Tie it in really well. Then fill the container with substrate. What you suggest will be fine.

Put it in a bright spot. The tree still has good foliage, and a lot of nutrients that need moving into the trunk and roots. Temperatures in our whereabouts will stay OK for a few more weeks by the looks of it. Then in winter protect it from wind and sun. If it were mine, it would end up in a corner in the yard behind a thick hedge or wall.

Just look VERY carefully at the plant. These often are not so great for bonsai as they have an ugly grafting site.
 

Storm87

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Thx all! Again really helpful. I think I got the collecting and potting part. But how about the foliage? I understand both arguments
  1. leave it on, so it still can generate some energy the coming weeks
  2. cut it off, to prevent drying out, because of the decreased root system
What is the general consensus on this? Maybe just remove some of the foliage in balance with the remaining root system?

Just look VERY carefully at the plant. These often are not so great for bonsai as they have an ugly grafting site.
Looking at the photo a clear grafting spot can be seen, but if the tree survives, maybe it'll be possible cut the trunk back just below the grafting spot and start building from there.
 

sorce

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IMO cutting the foliage will be like removing your finger from the top of a straw full of liquid.

It will bleed out the roots.

Best to keep it as intact as possible, half leaf cutting if excessive transpiration becomes a concern...it won't.

I have a couple I gotta dig from the ground within 3 weeks.
Thinking about burlapping em.

No need to invent a bonsai method, nurseries dig em in fall with a ball and burlap em.

Then use the burlap to bonsai process later.

No rush.

Sorce
 

Storm87

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The maple turned out to be a little bit bigger than expected 😅. Fortunately I managed to get it out fairly easy.

For now it's standing on wet grass with a wet blanket covering the roots. Tomorrow I'll make a grow box right away. Because of it's size I think I'll fill the box with 2 parts moler clay and 1 part lavarock/pumice mix, since moler clay is a lot cheaper. Or would you advice differently?

Any advice how to proceed in the near future? Of course if the tree makes it.
My guess (as a beginner) is that with this huge root system it will not be suitable for bonsai as is, maybe start air layering from top to bottom the coming years?

Storm

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Hack Yeah!

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I think layering dissectums may be a little harder if possible at all
 

Storm87

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Well, if air layering is not really an option, what options are left?
 

AlainK

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Oo..., it could be all right, but I wouldn't have removed so much soil.

Croisons les doigts fingers crossed.

If the leaves sink down like stale vegetables, you'd better cut them off right now.

IMO cutting the foliage will be like removing your finger from the top of a straw full of liquid.

It will bleed out the roots.

Best to keep it as intact as possible
I'm afraid I don't agree at all with you my friend ;)
 

leatherback

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Well, if air layering is not really an option, what options are left?
Get it healthy again is step one. Pot it. Protect it (First frost this week for me. For you too? ). In spring let it grow. In summer let it grow. In fall, let it go to sleep. In 2021 have a plan ready.

One route could be to first try layering one branch. If that does not take, consider lopping the top of completely. But ONLY when the tree is healthy. YOu MIGHT be lucky and get a side-branch from the base. But.. Then again.. You might not.

Or use it for the landscape?
Or accept the big graft and just slowly reduce the tree to a more managable size?

I do not think the roots are a big problem, to be honest. For me it is the disjointed looks between trunk and rootstock. In other words, the graft.
 
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