Help and Opinions on styling a Japanese Maple Bloodgood

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Hi everybody, I'm a complete beginner to the art of bonsai and for my first tree I bought a japanese bloodgood maple which I thought had an interesting trunk shape. I wanted to ask for some opinions on styling from those with a more experienced eye than me before doing anything to it. A couple things I've noticed is the widening of the base from some large roots, which is more noticeable from some angles than others. There is also is an inverse taper coming from an upward pointing branch starting about 8 inches up the trunk. What would be some directions I could take this tree? Any help is appreciated, thanks.

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Shibui

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Widening of the base is usually a good thing. If you can get good roots growing all round the base it will flare on all sides and be even better.
Normally try to use the widest view of the base as the front if possible.
Bloodgood, and most named varieties, are usually grafted unless you have purchased this from a reputable bonsai grower who grows from cuttings. I can see an area that looks like a graft on the trunk but the growth there does not really make sense to me. I would be very interested to see what sort of leaves those lowest currently leafless branches have.

Reverse taper is a constant problem with JM. Any place that has a couple of branches close together will thicken so it is very important to remove excess branching as soon as possible.

You have 2 main paths to bonsai with this tree:
1. let it grow to thicken the trunk more then cut back hard and regrow new branches and apex.
2. Prune now and have a thinner trunk bonsai.

Developing deciduous bonsai is not instant. You will have to do lots of cut and grow for any viable bonsai. If you want to try to go straight to bonsai I would remove the main trunk at a fork and use one of the side shoots as the new trunk. This will give the tree some more bends and, more important, will give some taper.

I have not had good results with bloodgood. It appears to have larger leaves and long, thick internodes so better for larger than small bonsai.
 

Canada Bonsai

Yamadori
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Welcome to bonsai and the world of Japanese maples!

This is a landscape tree. The best advice I can give you is to enjoy this tree as a landscape specimen, and begin to inquire about acquiring pre-bonsai material (trees grown from their start with bonsai in mind). There is no shortage of pre-bonsai material (and teachers) in California or the USA more generally.

Yes, you might 'just want to learn, practice, and have fun' with a first tree. But you will learn more, better understand the practice, and have more fun with material that is suitable for bonsai cultivation. The genetics of a bloodgood maple will not allow you to learn how a japanese maple that is appropriate for bonsai truly behaves and responds to your interventions.

The difference between a maple grown for a landscape and one grown as pre-bonsai is enormous. Rather than giving you a list that won't mean much to you at the moment, i recommend visiting pre-bonsai growers in person where you will learn a lot from people who love to teach!

The attached book will be a big help as you learn how to develop trunks and branches.
 

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Bonsai Nut

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Hi everybody, I'm a complete beginner to the art of bonsai and for my first tree I bought a japanese bloodgood maple which I thought had an interesting trunk shape.
Welcome to the site!

One of the challenges you will have with the vast majority of Japanese maples grown for landscape is that they are usually grafted trees. If you look closely at your tree, you will see that at least some of the thickening at the base of the trunk is due to the old graft scar:

jmtrunk1.jpg

jmtrunk2.jpg

It is extremely difficult to hide a graft scar on a Japanese maple. This is why many Japanese maples grown for bonsai are grown on their own roots and are propagated via cutting or air-layer. If a Japanese maple is propagated via graft as pre-bonsai, the propagator typically focuses on doing their utmost to hide the graft scar (via making the graft as low as possible, etc). This simply isn't a concern for the landscape nursery trade, where they are interested in producing healthy trees as quickly as possible. Graft scars are simply not a consideration.

Do not get depressed however. There are a million things you can do with your maple. You can practice horticultural skills like repotting, fertilizing, etc. You propagate your own bloodgoods on their own roots via cutting or air-layer. Then if you do decide to buy a Japanese maple pre-bonsai, you will have already learned how to keep maples alive and you won't be experimenting on expensive stock.
 

TN_Jim

Omono
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Bloodgood can can take full sun like a champ, just sayin
 
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Thank you for the responses! Seems like I have so much more to learn, I wasn't aware of the magnitude of difference between landscape and pre-bonsai trees. There is a bonsai nursery not too far away from me that I am planning to visit in the future so hopefully I can see the difference for myself. As for this tree, there's not much space in the garden for another tree so I think I'll still go through with trying to develop it as a bonsai while I look for more appropriate stock, although the results won't be as optimal.
 
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