Dwarf Japanese maples


Imperial Masterpiece
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Yackandandah, Australia
I read lots of threads where dwarf Japanese maple varieties are being promoted as ideal for bonsai.
Unfortunately my experience does not concur. Dwarf types grow much slower so developing the trunk and branches takes a frustratingly long time.

Years ago I collected seed from a dwarf JM in a botanic garden. Some of the seedlings showed similar dwarf characteristics so I potted them and grew them on to see whether they would be useful.
The following trees are layers from those seedlings.

The first is around 30cm tall and probably 6-8 years from the layer.
After trimming here's what I have

The second tree was layered just below a cluster of branches to get a multi trunk JM
Unfortunately it is a very one sided tree. The larger trunk line leans slightly toward the bushy side so that would be ideal for a front (second pic) but lack of branches opposite leaves what would be the back of the tree too open - no depth. The alternative (pic 1) has good depth but the main trunk leans backward just a little too far and there's a real lack of branches coming forward.

One of the interesting characteristics of this variety is the changing internodes. After pruning most new shoots have very short internodes - around 1/4 -1/2 inch each which is great to build structure but slow to grow any length in branches or trunk. At some stage the tree suddenly reverts to long internodes. Now new shoots grow as quick and as long as the most vigorous JM but that growth is almost useless for bonsai structure. Not quite clear but sharp eyed viewers may eb able to see the top of the centre trunk has a thick, straighter section as a result of this stronger growth. I'll be looking for a side branch to chop back to at some stage to give a lighter apex.

After trimming long shoots and removing branches with long internodes here's what I'm left with.

For now I'll continue to develop the tree with the bare side as provisional front and try to encourage some more forward branching. Turning the tree slightly to bring the left secondary trunk toward the front will help a little.

These are 2 with the best potential as bonsai from all the layers I've grown so it is possible to get reasonable bonsai from them but the slow development and mix of internode length is frustrating.
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Ottawa Ontario Canada
Great info as always . I think your experience is fairly common not just with maples . Dwarf cultivars of mist trees . May make great bonsai . But the growth habit slows the complete process . Hence most likely the Japanese interest in grafting historical I’m sure . Was one of there primary . Reasons for developing the process . Graft dwarf foliage plants to collected . Wild natural great trunks . Only makes sense
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Seattle, WA
I love dwarf cultivars, but I would never want to start them from super young trees. Garden centers here offer many varieties that are fairly well developed, though they are garden center stock so I rebuild branching and air layer off the graft. Slow, but still way faster than developing from a sapling.
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