Field Grown Japanese Maple Progress

grouper52

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One of my oldest trees is a Japanese Maple. It's butt ugly and hopeless, but I still keep it because it reminds me not to mess with trees I don't understand well - and JMs have always been at the top of that list. (The famous books, disappointingly, never helped me an iota).

About three and a half years ago I'm visiting Jason down at his home, and I've brought him a crabapple he once saw and liked at my place (another tree I don't understand at all. :( )He wants to swap something for it, and offers this JM here. It was part of a huge collection of several hundred old field grown JMs - grafted dwarfs - that Randy at Oregon Bonsai acquired from a nursery going out of business.

I thought this JM was a much better piece of material than my crab, but Jason is generous like that, although he also hinted that he had little idea what to do with these things either. :) Anyway, I was absolutely certain I had no idea where to take this thing, but I accepted it graciously, and took it home. Photo - 1.

Well. Several things became readily apparent. Beyond an 8" sumo trunk, all it had was very thick, straight, completely unbendable branches. And when I cut them off as far back as I could while still leaving at least some growth, I was really hoping for some back budding that I could make something out of, but . . . NADA! :( :eek: Oh heavens!

So, I put it into a grow pot (Photo-2) to see if I could, over extended time, make something workable of the remaining small branches. I noticed one other thing about this time as well: that there was nothing at all happening to indicate that the pruning scars I (and others before me) had made were going to be likely to heal over in my lifetime. I wired and "baby bent" the thin branches last winter (Photo - 3), and the effect was at least somewhat pleasing when it came into foliage this past season (Photo - 4). But by this time I had also made plans to make a winter die grinder project out of this bad boy. :D

This thread will be continued with today's update in post #2.
 

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grouper52

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Here it is today. The branches need thinning and other such refinements over the next few seasons, but it's starting to take shape. When the deadwood hits a certain stage of aging, it will be preserved, although I may carve the trunk out more deeply the next few years as well. Enjoy.
 

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bisjoe

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Wow, that's really funny timing.

First, that's a big improvement on that tree, it's showing a lot of promise now!

You showed me baby bending last year and I tried it on a J.M., as you may recall. Today I saw buds
starting to show so I did this year's growth. You were right, every year about twice as many to wire.
Fun though tedious work. Is it OK to carve now on them? I have to work on the old trunk chop stump.
 

irene_b

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I am looking forward to seeing this one in the future...
 

grouper52

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Thanks, Joe. You're already seeing buds?! :eek:

Probably as good a time as any to carve. Dan was carving one of his a few weeks ago. They will often bleed any time of year, but seem too robust to be set back by it much, according to him.
 

bisjoe

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Thanks, maybe tomorrow I'll get the grinder out.

Yes, a few days of sun and 40s and the poor thing got confused. You can see them here:
 

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darrellw

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Hi Grouper,

Thanks for sharing. I have one of those from Jason as well. I've been focusing on getting some better surface rooting, but your work gives me some ideas when I get ready to work on the top.

-Darrell
 

grouper52

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Here this guy is after this early spring's work - thinning some growth, wiring some other. A pretty time of year on this tree, with the bright little foliage just coming out.

That thin low branch on the right is starting to bug me: I kept it because it fills a gap I thought needed filling, but now I'm changing my mind. It may soon go.

Over the next few seasons my goal is to develop the foliage into the sort of multiple-topped structure that characterize ancient deciduous trees, while deepening and refining the deadwood as well. It's probably three years or so from a pot.
 

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grouper52

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Well, the faults and potential in that most recent photo caused me to revisit this tree early this morning, and take it the next step. Three or four fairly large and significant branches are now gone, as well as many smaller ones. The desired "multiple tops" I hope to create to emulate ancient deciduous trees, are thereby coming better into focus, as well as a better sense of taper along the remaining branches. When it is free or leaves next winter I will now greatly expand that uro/hollow, and then as the branches ticken and ramify it should start coming into it true beauty. :)

Speaking of true beauty :)eek:), I couldn't resist snapping a portrait of tree and creator, dressed in his out-working-in-the-neverending-NorthWet-rain outfit. I never go anywhere without it this time of year - anywhere except in public, of course. :D
 

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buddhamonk

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so what made you want to carve out the trunk?

I just bought one just like that from Randy likely from the same batch. Too early to tell what it'll look like but it also has a monster trunk.

Good luck with it
 

grouper52

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so what made you want to carve out the trunk?
Hi buddhamonk,

I thought I explained that. Look at the first few photos in this thread and explain what you are going to do if the large wound scars don't even begin to heal after a few years. Or explain how you would make something out of the tree if branches are so brittle that branches larger than 3-4mm diameter almost invariably break when bent, and there is essentially no back budding onto even slightly old wood to work with despite a concerted effort the first few seasons.

The tree has limited possibilities in my lifetime, IMO, without a radical styling attempt. Hence my decision to emulate an ancient deciduous tree approaching the end of it's days as a hollowed out multi-topped survivor.

Besides, I like to carve on my trees, especially when the trunk has nothing more interesting about it than it's girth. :)
 

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Hi Will. I like this tree. Looks alot like the one I am working on now. Yours is taller right now but I will catch up.

One thing you may wish to reconsider is the wiring of branches. Use wire to set the primary direction and then prune back to first or second bud and develop after that with directional pruning. I have found out the hard way that maples do not have curving branches and look better with zig zagging sharp directional changes.

Good luck with this it is looking really nice.

Al
 

grouper52

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Hi Will. I like this tree. Looks alot like the one I am working on now. Yours is taller right now but I will catch up.

One thing you may wish to reconsider is the wiring of branches. Use wire to set the primary direction and then prune back to first or second bud and develop after that with directional pruning. I have found out the hard way that maples do not have curving branches and look better with zig zagging sharp directional changes.

Good luck with this it is looking really nice.

Al
Thanks, Al. With this recent wiring/trimming, especially today, I did exactly that on many of the branches, and with others in the future I may cut back when they get to the point where I want more traditional ramification, but for now I think it may look more attractive with at least some subtle undulations in what will become primary and secondary branches. I don't know if I have enough years left to do the traditional angular clip-and-grow on this guy, given the need for a crown that matches the massive trunk, and the slowness of the process - but it sure would look a lot better eventually for whoever inherits it someday, wouldn't it. :)

This past season there has been a marked shortening of the internodes to much more managable lengths as well, which makes the sort of modified clip-and-grow technique you are suggesting much more of a possibility than it seemed in the seasons before.

Thanks for the suggestion, and for the vote of confidence. I'd love to see the one you're working on as well. You say you will catch up - I always assumed JMs grew much better up here than where you are, even though so many other things grow so quickly there - do you get the same vigor on them from your long growing season? So many things grow so much faster down there - we are sometimes envious. :)

Will
 

Alex DeRuiter

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That's an amazing progression. I'm looking forward to seeing what it looks like in a few years.

Also, I love the sedge hat =)
 

Concorde

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Wow, what a Japanese maple. Beautiful trunk. Keep us posted on the progress:)

Art
 

Dan W.

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Any updates on this tree?
 

grouper52

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Not at the moment. I'll try to get one in the next few months, though. Thanks for asking. :)
 
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