New to bonsai, looking for a little advice on maples.

Wardy940

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Hi there,

New to the site and to bonsai in general. I bought a Chinese elm a while back. Its already well established and has decent proportions so I've just been keeping it healthy and pruning to increase its ramification really.

I've been looking at get a little maple starter from herons. They're quite cheap (important because I'm young and broke haha) and I've always wanted a Japanese maple tree.

I'm just looking for some tips on how to grow these starters into nicely proportioned bonsai. I know its something that will take many years. I'm just not sure on how to get a nice, thick trunk and a good taper over the years. I'm looking for something similar to the picture over time, but of course not the same.

Thanks in advance,
 

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Fidur

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Hi Wardy940 and welcome to this forum.
As you said you were buying in Herons I assume you´re in UK. But it would be good to update your profile with your location.
For newbies (like me) to choose a maple sapling to become a bonsai can be hard. I guess your best bet should be to go to Herons, take pics of the ones you like (watching the price tag hehe), and then if you post them here I'm sure the trained eye of the members of the forum will help decide wich one.
 

Wardy940

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Thanks for the welcomes. Yeah I am in the uk. I live up in North Yorkshire so travelling to herons is a bit far for me. I was just going to get it delivered. I know that all things bonsai is based in Yorkshire so I could get down there to take some pics. Providing they have maple starters.

Although I just assumed, stupidly I guess, that any maple starter bought from a bonsai nursery will be good enough to get a nice bonsai in the future.

I'm more wondering on the how. I've scoured youtube to try find a video but I guess because the process takes years, there's not any out there.
 

Shibui

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Well proportioned trunks are usually produced through a series of grow and chop cycles. Branches are then developed with a similar technique but usually with more regular grow and chops. Final ramification involves years of regular trimming to promote fine ramification.
I would recommend starting with some trident maples. JM have a number of growth habits that can cause problems if you are less experienced. Tridents grow faster, are more hardy and are far more forgiving of less than perfect technique. Tridents will still give everything else that Japanese maples in the way or shape, autumn color, etc. You might consider getting a couple of JM at the same time is space and budget allow but tridents would be my advice for trees to develop technique.
Important to have something to aspire to but remember that very few maples that are started will end up looking even remotely like the one you have picked for inspiration. Always start with a few and discard any that don't measure up as they progress.
 

Wardy940

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Thanks for the advice @Shibui. I've actually just been watching a video on tridents and they look fantastic so I think I'll take your suggestion on board and try a trident maple if they're more beginner suitable.

The picture was just to give people an idea of what I was thinking of. I know I'll never actually get something like that myself. It takes many years and a lot of skill I'm sure.

With the chop and grow method, is it just a case of looking at which branch would make a good 'leader' and cutting just above it? Or is it a specific height you let it grow and cut it to?
 

Wardy940

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There is some nice stuff on there, but the ones I was looking at were much younger than those ones. Definitely wouldn't be able to afford one of those this month ha. No rush though, I suppose.
 

Shibui

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With the chop and grow method, is it just a case of looking at which branch would make a good 'leader' and cutting just above it? Or is it a specific height you let it grow and cut it to?
Everything depends on what you want to end up with. Creating a fixed idea takes more planning and execution but if you are more open in the final result there's more latitude for slightly different results.
There are also a number of different but related methods to achieve the final result. Some people favor letting the trunk grow to close to desired thickness then doing a massive chop and regrowing a new apex. I've modified that approach to a series of chops through the process. The former will get to thickness quicker but then there's many years to heal the big cut and develop taper and branches. With more regular pruning it takes a couple of years longer to achieve thickness but a lot less for the final stages. I think I get better results in the same time frame but the others are just as convinced about their method. All fast grown trees will have scars and other problems that we just put up with for the time saving. Really good bonsai like the one shown are the result of much longer development. Again - choices according to individual preferences.
Then there are those who are welded to the Ebihara board method to help get good nebari but it appears there's a lot more to it than just screwing a seedling to a board and letting it grow as many think. Ebihara did regular manual root pruning and rearrangement in conjunction with the boards/tiles to get the best results. I prefer to use regular manual root pruning to get a more managed result. I also use several other techniques to promote better lateral roots that seem to work well here.
Most approaches will produce results if applied correctly.

In general to end up with a typical informal upright bonsai I would make the first chop at around 1/3 of planned height regardless of which development approach is being used. 1/3 is a good guide for the height of the first branch for a balanced looking bonsai and that's what we are aiming for with the first trunk chop - a branch, taper and a change of direction in the trunk. Development then continues with chops at slightly shorter intervals as the trunk increases in height to give good looking proportion to the final result.
Knowing the species is important. With younger maples it is possible to cut anywhere on a trunk and expect good budding. No real need for a branch as the new leader but if a suitable branch exists it can be used. Some species don't bud reliably from bare wood and it is more important to cut back to existing healthy branches.
 
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Hey there Wardy. First post on here, but I am also relatively new. Bonsai seed kit one day, Herons follower the next. Bought my first maple 18 months ago and now I’ve got a really cool stable with a few dozen.

I agree with a few of the comments about getting more than one. If you purchase a single decent stock it will take forever to pay dividends if you are excited about it. The thing I found helpful was finding a grouping from the same variety, whether from seed or air layer, to investigate the tendencies of any particular maple.

For example… I live in Alabama, so we have hot weather, violent windy storms, bitter cold snaps and even all four seasons in a day sometimes. My local nursery has lots and lots of straight Acers and I’ve collected enough data within a year to grow them with direct Southeast US sun in bonsai soil and they’re thriving.

So, get a bunch of something and just do what they tell you to do!

Boomer
 

AcerAddict

Shohin
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Hey there Wardy. First post on here, but I am also relatively new. Bonsai seed kit one day, Herons follower the next. Bought my first maple 18 months ago and now I’ve got a really cool stable with a few dozen.
Welcome! A few dozen maples, huh? I have nine and I thought that was a lot. Maybe you should be "AcerAddict" instead of me. 😆
 

Deep Sea Diver

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Welcome Aboard to Bonsai Nut! You choose a really great place to seek Bonsai help.

I can see that you’ve already gotten some expert advice from some very experienced folks here.

Looking forward to seeing your future posts, showing your new acquisitions.

Cheers
DSD sends
 

Wardy940

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Thanks for replies, guys. That's a lot of information @Shibui but it was exactly what I was looking for, cheers for taking the time to write it. The whole Ebihara board method in particular sounds a little complex, but I'll get there.

Also agree with @Boomermeason and others, think I'll get multiple and just see what happens with them over the years, try a couple of different methods. Then I'm sure to find at least one I definitely like.

I've had my first attempt at wiring yesterday. I bought a cheap spruce from my local nursery and turned it into a formal upright style. When I'm feeling brave, I'll have to make a post and you guys can tell me how crap it looks haha.

Cheers for the help and the welcoming posts, seems a good community here.
 

SgtPilko

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Another (slightly less) UK newb over here, but if you look around you can pick up ungrafted JM (the regular palmatum "mountain maple" type) at garden centres pretty cheaply. Stay away from the popular feathery "dissectum" burgundy ones that are everywhere. Even got some JM and JM Katsura from Wilko with approx 1.5cm dia trunks for about a tenner over summer. Cheap enough to experiment with. They basically all go in the ground or grow box with v little attention while fattening up, will be waiting a while before the chop and grow technique mentioned above can begin properly! I can vouch for the back budding, tons of it, usually in places you don't want/need 😁

You'll see on the Heron's videos as an example that they grow their trees for years out back until they are essentially tall landscape trees before roughly hacking them back and starting the bonsai process.

Buying a really young plant (e.g. https://www.bonsai.co.uk/browse/outdoor-bonsai/seedlings/ ) gives you the opportunity to wire the trunk for movement but watch out as they expand FAST and my wire scarred the baby trunk, left it too long.

Good luck and after a while you'll have trees at different stages to keep things interesting!
 

BobbyLane

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Another (slightly less) UK newb over here, but if you look around you can pick up ungrafted JM (the regular palmatum "mountain maple" type) at garden centres pretty cheaply. Stay away from the popular feathery "dissectum" burgundy ones that are everywhere. Even got some JM and JM Katsura from Wilko with approx 1.5cm dia trunks for about a tenner over summer. Cheap enough to experiment with. They basically all go in the ground or grow box with v little attention while fattening up, will be waiting a while before the chop and grow technique mentioned above can begin properly! I can vouch for the back budding, tons of it, usually in places you don't want/need 😁

You'll see on the Heron's videos as an example that they grow their trees for years out back until they are essentially tall landscape trees before roughly hacking them back and starting the bonsai process.

Buying a really young plant (e.g. https://www.bonsai.co.uk/browse/outdoor-bonsai/seedlings/ ) gives you the opportunity to wire the trunk for movement but watch out as they expand FAST and my wire scarred the baby trunk, left it too long.

Good luck and after a while you'll have trees at different stages to keep things interesting!
i get my maples from garden centres or nurseries, so good idea along planting in the ground.
i think the maples the OP is referring to will be too young to already be thinking about chopping then, they will need to bulk up first.
 

Wardy940

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I never even thought of checking somewhere like wilkos for them. Ive heard that maples do grow fast though and to be careful leaving wire on for long times.

I don't have any ground I can plant in really, would a very large pot work or would having to prune roots every few years or so keep it from growing thick? Even though the pot would be big, it would still get pot bound I suppose.

That's what I'd like to do though, get trees at different stages of life so I've got plenty to go at and learn.
 

RKatzin

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One of my best resources for Japanese Maples is landscape salvage. Many mature trees will produce thousands of seedlings each year. The yard barbers usually remove them with the spring clean up, at least on the meets the eye side of things. If you can beat them to it you can gather a few hundred seedlings in a swipe easily in the bark mulch. The mortality rate is about 50/50 so I grab a bunch to get started. In more unkempt or could I say more pollenater friendly yards you can often find two or three year old saplings. Always get permission to collect these 'weeds'. When asked, most folks will hand you a shovel.
 

Wardy940

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Well, I'm a landscape gardener so I'll have to keep my eye out for seedlings. I don't see to many Japanese maple when I'm at work but I'll be able to grab any for free if I do.
 

RKatzin

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Happy hunting! Once you locate a maple look in the nearby shrubs and between the shrubs and the wall. One place I collect you can't even see the big old tree. It's on the other side of the building and the winds loft the seeds up and over the roof.
I have four Japanese maple forests at present all from collected seedlings and several that I thought unique enough to warrant development into individual trees. I have 25 out of 50 that I collected two years ago that I'm preparing for a 10-15 tree forest. This is just fun stuff!
 

ShadyStump

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Something I haven't seen mentioned here yet is the sacrificial branch concept. If you're trying to get a base much thicker than the trunk higher up, let a branch or two grow down lower, even though you know you'll eventually remove them. It's meters to centimeters branch length to trunk thickness, but it will help over a couple of years.

Oh, and welcome to BNut! Say to your wife and my kids!
 
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