My Maples in Montreal

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#1
Hi All,

I was recently thinking about getting into the world of large Japanese maples, but in end decided to stick to bonsai.

I will use this single thread to track the progress of all of my trees. At the moment, I am only interested in maples.

Below are 6 new acquisitions, and my older Acer Palmatum "select" (which a cultivar created by Yves Letourneau from Bonsai ENR in Quebec).

In order of appearance:

Johnnie's Pink
Trident
Kashima
Katsura
Monique's Pink (named after Yves' wife, likely a mix of aka shigitatsu sawa, and something else)
Shin Deshojo
Acer Palmatum "select"

This is my second spring in the hobby. Everybody's advice or 2 cents is more than welcome!

The bench is temporary. We just moved to our new place, and I am still feeling out the yard/sun. It is a south-facing backyard, with almost no shade.

Thank you,
Derek
 

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#3
Thanks Girly!

The Monique's Pink leaf color is especially impressive when tree is bigger -- really looking forward to see how this one develops. Vendor wasn't selling any bigger than i bought!
 
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#4
You must have a special arrangement for over-wintering them in mind... or are they specifically zone tolerant cultivars?
 
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#5
You must have a special arrangement for over-wintering them in mind... or are they specifically zone tolerant cultivars?
Thank you for your question.

Yes, i have a special arrangement in mind, which was a recent 'ah ha moment' that allowed me to keep bonsai, as opposed to planting a big Japanese maple or two in the yard.

The staircase in the photograph is on the south-facing back wall of our house, and is about 7-8 feet deep. The previous owners of the house simply laid a sheet of plywood over the staircase during the winter, to prevent the accumulation of snow. I am planning on building a wood frame and a poly-carbonate (?) panel to seal the hole horizontally at ground level, instead of using a sheet of plywood.

My bonsai will simply sit on the steps of the staircase.

The snow accumulation on the poly-carbonate panel, and the depth of the hole, should provide considerable insulation. If necessary, i can add a layer of insulation to the poly-carbonate panel from the inside of the hole.

In the spring, the snow on the panel will either melt or be pushed away by me, which should let in considerable light through the poly-carbonate panel.

I may or may not need a space heater and a timer -- I really have no idea at the moment! I honestly don't know what the temperature in this hole will be, nor have i looked too much into the winter requirements of these trees. The guy i bought the trees from essentially has a greenhouse (i.e. a poly-carbonate tent and a heater) set up in the middle of an open field in Quebec, which reassures me that this plan will likely work if I do it right

the door in the photo is our 'summer door', which is flimsy and opens outward. In the winter we have a thick metal door that we will be using, which opens inwards. I will easily be able to open the door, walk in, and hang out with my bonsai in this fridge-room... at least that's the plan!

all tips and advice are welcome! this will be my first swing at over-wintering bonsai
 

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#6
You definitely have an array of options with the way that stairwell is set up. If you have more money to spend on the bonsai-bug than the average person has, you could have a very nice set up indeed.
 
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#7
You definitely have an array of options with the way that stairwell is set up. If you have more money to spend on the bonsai-bug than the average person has, you could have a very nice set up indeed.
I guess I got lucky with this staircase!

My budget isn't enormous, but i'm open to any suggestions you might have! The window right above the staircase unfortunately limits my ability to build too high above ground level over the staircase.

Also, if anybody can point me to somebody who has used a similar staircase or structure for the purpose I would love to see photos or hear about it! At the moment i'm relying on imagination, since photos of something similar (or even of just bonsai in holes in the ground) are hard to find online!
 
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#8
Well, you may have gotten the cart one-year ahead of the horse in that you don't know how this will work out. But since you have some extra cash, you might be able to get through the first winter without loosing a tree. You look to have about 10-12 feet of staircase (lengthwise) and likely a little over 4 feet wide. I would look at the possibility of using two 8 foot PC sheets and a wooden subframe (probably western red cedar) and make a pitched roof over the portion that is away from the house. The portion nearest the house, I'd simply cover with plywood. That gable over the doorway is a bit of a pita for this, especially with the window right there... other than that, I don't have any suggestions, other than to say that I have given up on trees that aren't recommended for my zone... other than a Brazilian Rain Tree for indoors.
 
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#9
Well, you may have gotten the cart one-year ahead of the horse in that you don't know how this will work out. But since you have some extra cash, you might be able to get through the first winter without loosing a tree. You look to have about 10-12 feet of staircase (lengthwise) and likely a little over 4 feet wide. I would look at the possibility of using two 8 foot PC sheets and a wooden subframe (probably western red cedar) and make a pitched roof over the portion that is away from the house. The portion nearest the house, I'd simply cover with plywood. That gable over the doorway is a bit of a pita for this, especially with the window right there... other than that, I don't have any suggestions, other than to say that I have given up on trees that aren't recommended for my zone... other than a Brazilian Rain Tree for indoors.
Thanks for your help!

Quick question: how would the pitched roof help as opposed to a flat roof? I'm not questioning your advice, just interested in learning the reasoning so i design this well. Greenhouses are brand new for me.

it seems like a pitched room would definitely allow me to make sure that light comes through all winter (is this a good thing or a bad thing?), since it won't get covered in snow. but on the other hand, isn't the snow supposed to help me insulate the roof? it does get -30 celsius around here--might be a problem?

Thank you!!
 
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#10
I guess I got lucky with this staircase!

My budget isn't enormous, but i'm open to any suggestions you might have! The window right above the staircase unfortunately limits my ability to build too high above ground level over the staircase.

Also, if anybody can point me to somebody who has used a similar staircase or structure for the purpose I would love to see photos or hear about it! At the moment i'm relying on imagination, since photos of something similar (or even of just bonsai in holes in the ground) are hard to find online!
I use exactly this setup for my maples. My stairs have swing up metal bilco doors. I have made a cover that fits tightly to the concrete out of 2” styrofoam insulation over the top under the doors. I keep crape myrtles in there too which I try to keep above freezing. I put a wireless thermometer transceiver in there to monitor the temp. In winter if it is getting too cold I can crack open the door to the basement to let some warmer air in. In early spring I remove the insulation and can open the doors during the day to let in light once the buds start moving, then close them at night if it will dip below freezing again. Being underground moderates temps very well even keeping the trees cool during the bizarre February heat waves we’ve been getting. If I just had the maples I wouldn’t worry about keeping it above freezing and things would be easier.

You don’t want light coming in through the top as it will heat the space up due to greenhouse effect. You want the trees to stay dormant. I would make an insulated and easily removed top. You really have an ideal setup there.
 
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#11
I use exactly this setup for my maples. My stairs have swing up metal bilco doors. I have made a cover that fits tightly to the concrete out of 2” styrofoam insulation over the top under the doors. I keep crape myrtles in there too which I try to keep above freezing. I put a wireless thermometer transceiver in there to monitor the temp. In winter if it is getting too cold I can crack open the door to the basement to let some warmer air in. In early spring I remove the insulation and can open the doors during the day to let in light once the buds start moving, then close them at night if it will dip below freezing again. Being underground moderates temps very well even keeping the trees cool during the bizarre February heat waves we’ve been getting. If I just had the maples I wouldn’t worry about keeping it above freezing and things would be easier.

You don’t want light coming in through the top as it will heat the space up due to greenhouse effect. You want the trees to stay dormant. I would make an insulated and easily removed top. You really have an ideal setup there.
Wow! Thank you so much for your help! Would love to see pictures!

Would it perhaps be a good idea to make clear poly-carbonate top in order to get the greenhouse effect so that i can extend the fall season into December, and start the spring season in end-of-March or April? I could add a tightly-fitted thick layer of insulation foam-board (from the inside) to the poly-carbonate panel to block out 100% of the light from December to the end of March? In addition to keeping these safe for the winter, it would be nice to be able to extend the growing season at both ends as well.

I guess i would also have to worry about making sure that the greenhouse effect doesn't push the temperature to 20 or 30+ degrees in that room in December before i put the foam panel onto the PC panel to block out the light, or in April as soon as I remove the foam panel and start letting the light in through the PC panel.

Would I be correct in assuming that anything around -5 to +5 celsius is the ideal temperature range for December to the end of March?

Thank you!!
 
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#12
I think @Velodog2 covered all the bases... the bottom line is that if you have the pitched (PC) top, a sudden dump of snow is less likely to cave it in, and, if you already have the PC top you can always block the light, but if you only use plywood, you will never be able to let the light in if you think it's needed. (Although, you could install lights before hand if you wanted to mitigate this risk.)

I was also going to mention that you could take a couple of 2x4s and build yourself a larger platform to place trees on. ie: Run two 2x4s horizontally off of the fourth step and run them out so they reach past the bottom step. Then place your support 2x4s vertically and tie them in with the ends of the horizontal beams. depending on the size of your trees, you might want to use 3 or 4 stringers and then screw the plywood top into place with deck screws... you'd have a larger platform (what, 4'x5'?)... and IF you really needed to keep something in the dark you could simply place them under this shelf.

Oh, I guess there might be one other use for this space... IF the Legislation goes through this summer/fall, that Freezeland strain of marijuana that Quebec is so well noted for, would likely thrive in that PC domed space... :p
 
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#14
I think @Velodog2 covered all the bases... the bottom line is that if you have the pitched (PC) top, a sudden dump of snow is less likely to cave it in, and, if you already have the PC top you can always block the light, but if you only use plywood, you will never be able to let the light in if you think it's needed. (Although, you could install lights before hand if you wanted to mitigate this risk.)

I was also going to mention that you could take a couple of 2x4s and build yourself a larger platform to place trees on. ie: Run two 2x4s horizontally off of the fourth step and run them out so they reach past the bottom step. Then place your support 2x4s vertically and tie them in with the ends of the horizontal beams. depending on the size of your trees, you might want to use 3 or 4 stringers and then screw the plywood top into place with deck screws... you'd have a larger platform (what, 4'x5'?)... and IF you really needed to keep something in the dark you could simply place them under this shelf.

Oh, I guess there might be one other use for this space... IF the Legislation goes through this summer/fall, that Freezeland strain of marijuana that Quebec is so well noted for, would likely thrive in that PC domed space... :p
Haha!

Thanks for that idea!

I guess my main worry now is, how powerful is greenhouse effect? If I want to start my spring growing season in March and remove the foam board and start letting light in through the PC panel, even if its -15 outside will my room jump to 20 degrees if the sun is out (i'm guess the sudden jump from dormancy to +20 degrees would be too severe for the trees).

As an aside, does 8 weeks (all of January and February) at around -5 to +5 celsius make sense for dormancy?

Thank you both so much!
 
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#15
If it was just maples I would probably shoot for a low of 25F, but that’s personal preference. I personally can’t say much about using it for a greenhouse so you’re on your own there. Your climate and growing season is different than mine and my biggest struggle is keeping them dormant as long as possible. I would probably worry about getting them too warm too early, having the buds pop, and then having to deal with a cold snap later on and trying to keep them above freezing. Also I don’t know if I would want them trying to actively grow them down in a hole. Less than optimal lighting will lead to longer internodes.
 
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#16
You would (likely) be shocked at how easily that space can be heated... not only could you harness the sun with the PC, but you have a semi-subterranean environment there, so you'd have ground source heating to boot. There really isn't any reliable way to predict what those ranges will be... you'll have to try it... and seeing that you already have the trees, you are going to be forced to try it.

If you have domestic trees, there wouldn't be any shock to the temp change (IMHO)... its when the trees start to leaf out and the temps drop well below freezing again that the damage can occur. I remember this happening in Calgary area sometime in the 80s or 90s... it really messed them up.

I don't mess with trees that aren't zone 2 or 3... mine go on the ground with fencing around them and thats it (maybe a wire cage and some mulch if I think the tree is weak and I want to protect it a little, but then you are inviting mice to nibble on the bark)... if they die they die. I guess it would be fair to say that if a tree dies on me, it's almost always my fault to some degree, and I've killed more trees in the growing season than in winter... IMHO, shifting weather patterns rarely effect them more than I do.

I think it is fair to point out to people, that folks in the deep south have trees that we envy... and WE have trees that they envy... you can save yourself a heap of cash, trouble, and grief by sticking to trees that are zone tolerant. (And, bear in mind that trees can be mislabeled at any point before you buy it, and the zone recommendations can simply be wrong.)
 
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#17
Thank you both so much, this has been a big help!

I'm really glad you brought up the internodes issue Velodog2, I hadn't thought of that! Thankfully i'm not too worried about internodes right now - i'm mostly focused on trunk size and nebari.

I see your point SKBonsaiGuy, but i'm afraid that in my zone there is very little that would make good bonsai that is of any interest to me. I've wanted Japanese maples for many many years, so i'm going to do my best to keep them happy. Luckily, based on this conversation, it sounds like it should actually be pretty easy to accommodate these tiny plants if I give this dormancy thing enough thought and attention - some of my friends' fathers in Montreal have tried keeping lemon trees, fig trees, and so on. Needless to say, keeping a 6 foot tall tree happy all winter is much more challenging and not nearly as fun as sitting on the cold steps with my little maples will be :)

I guess the goal will be to keep them dormant for as long as possible (what is the ideal length of time, by which i mean minimum length of time? 8 weeks?), but when I can trust that the room won't drop below freezing anymore (middle of March, i'm predicting), I can remove the foam board and start letting the light in through the poly-carbonate panel. At this point, I can adjust a space heater and thermostat in the room so that the heating kicks on when the temperature drops to the freezing point (instead of turning on when the temperature drops to 25 Fahrenheit). This way, even when the weather drops below freezing during the month of April (and it frequently does) the temperature in my room will remain above freezing. I think I can get a head start by a about a month or two in the spring, which quickly adds up to an extra year of growing period (is that how things work?). When internode length become even the smallest concern for me, I will keep them in dormancy until the weather in Montreal is ready for them!

Thank you!!!
 
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#19
Aim to break a JM's dormancy in early April, particularly in your climate. What's the rush? Dormancy should be closer to four months.
Ahh! Four months! Thank you!
And they should enter formance I guess mid/end of December then?

Thank you!
D
 

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