Red Maple Collected Spring 2007

Martin Sweeney

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All,
I collected this Red Maple, Acer rubrum, from my back yard this past spring, probably in early March. Not a very glamorous collecting trip to be sure, but that's ok.
Do any B'Nutter's have experience working with Red Maple? I have heard they are difficult and not very rewarding. All the leaves and branches are this year's growth.
Regards,
Martin
 

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Jay Wilson

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I've been trying to bonsai red maples for a few years now without much success. I have found them difficult but probably most of the problems I've had are a result of my own ignorance in how to grow them...... I am slowly learning (I think) so I have some hopes for the future.

Good luck with this one. It has a nice trunk and if you can figure out how to grow it you will probably have a decent tree after a few years.
 

Rick Moquin

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... from what I have gathered to date, I believe the biggest problem is leaf reduction or so I am lead to believe. Other than that I'm not sure of any other difficulties that awaits enthusiasts. It has an interesting trunk and nice basal flare. I hope you will be able to tame the beast and educate us all in the process.
 

Martin Sweeney

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Jay and Rick,
Thanks for the replies.

Jay,
Any thoughts or lessons from your experiences would be appreciated.

Rick,
Leaf size is definitely a concern. The leaves present before the first pruning were very large. I removed the largest 5 or 6 every few weeks after the tree had thrown about 3 feet of new growth on the top half, in preparation for cutting back. Let the light in etc. The next set of leaves were noticably smaller, and I removed the largest 5 or 6 every few weeks before the next pruning, when the top growth had grown another 2 or 3 feet again. The current leaves are from after the second cutting back.
The current leaf size isn't too bad. Keeping them this size and getting some more usable height to the tree might work out. More reduction would be even better.
I am worried about internode distance, as the first 2 bursts of growth were very course with 3 or 4 inches between nodes. I do not know if I can fix this, I am planning on pinching out the buds as they pop this spring to see if I cannot force shorter internodes.
I am looking forward to getting some fall color on this one. Red Maple is usually pretty good for fall color in the Charlotte NC area....
Regards to you both,
Martin
 

pjkatich

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Martin,

It sounds like you have the right idea concerning the internodal spacing. I have a few Acer rubrum bonsai that I have been working on for about 12-15 years.

Leaf reduction has not been a major problem. However, internodal spacing is a bit tougher to control.

Normally, the first flush of new leaves is always rank, with long internodes. If your goal is ramification try the following: after this growth puts on two to three sets of leaves, start cutting out the most vigorous shoots. I normally leave a small nub near the branch encourage the dormant buds to sprout.

When these new buds sprout, start pinching out the centers after the first set of leaves appear. I normally continue this practice during the remainder of the growing season. I have found that this will reduce the internodal spaces considerably over a period of several growing seasons.

Avoid using high nitrogen fertilizers on your tree. This will only encourage the rank growth and the long internodes.

Hope this helps.

Best of luck.

Paul
 

rlist

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Martin,

It sounds like you have the right idea concerning the internodal spacing. I have a few Acer rubrum bonsai that I have been working on for about 12-15 years.

Leaf reduction has not been a major problem. However, internodal spacing is a bit tougher to control.

Normally, the first flush of new leaves is always rank, with long internodes. If your goal is ramification try the following: after this growth puts on two to three sets of leaves, start cutting out the most vigorous shoots. I normally leave a small nub near the branch encourage the dormant buds to sprout.

When these new buds sprout, start pinching out the centers after the first set of leaves appear. I normally continue this practice during the remainder of the growing season. I have found that this will reduce the internodal spaces considerably over a period of several growing seasons.

Avoid using high nitrogen fertilizers on your tree. This will only encourage the rank growth and the long internodes.

Hope this helps.

Best of luck.

Paul

Paul was more eloquent and articulate than I would be able to muster this morning before a cup of coffee. However, his comments were along the same lines as what I was going to write. I have two Acer Palmatum var. ??? that I have to follow similar routines with to keep the internodes short and leaves small. Also, as this fills the pot with roots/get it into a smaller pot for development, you will be able to limit its vigor and slow it down a little as well - though don't do everything at once and give it time each year to grow freely.
 

Brent

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Martin,

It sounds like you have the right idea concerning the internodal spacing. I have a few Acer rubrum bonsai that I have been working on for about 12-15 years.

Leaf reduction has not been a major problem. However, internodal spacing is a bit tougher to control....


Paul

In addition to Paul's tips, you can also try disbudding them in the spring. This is what I do to Liquidambar. Both of these species will set large terminal buds in the fall. These are the buds that give you that rank growth in the spring. As spring approaches and these buds begin to swell, pinch out every terminal bud on the tree, but be careful not to damage the two axillary buds to either side. These very much smaller buds will break instead, giving you much shorter internodes and smaller leaves. This avoids the rank growth altogether and helps slow down the spring flush.

Brent
EvergreenGardenworks.com
see our blog at http://BonsaiNurseryman.typepad.com
 

Martin Sweeney

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Thanks for the tips!

pjkatich and Brent,

Thank you both for the tips. I inadvertently sort of did what pjkatich suggested:

"...after this growth puts on two to three sets of leaves, start cutting out the most vigorous shoots. I normally leave a small nub near the branch encourage the dormant buds to sprout..."

with my initial pruning. I had allowed 2-3 feet of growth, but will get after it earlier next year.

I hope to combine pjkatich's suggestion with Brent's suggestion of:

"...As spring approaches and these buds begin to swell, pinch out every terminal bud on the tree, but be careful not to damage the two axillary buds to either side..."

and hit the sweet gum while I am at it.
Regards and thanks again,
Martin
 
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Martin Sweeney

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More thanks

rlist,

"I have two Acer Palmatum var. ??? that I have to follow similar routines with to keep the internodes short and leaves small. Also, as this fills the pot with roots/get it into a smaller pot for development, you will be able to limit its vigor and slow it down a little as well - though don't do everything at once and give it time each year to grow freely."

I also have a Acer palmatum that behaves similarly. I will need to be more diligent concerning internode and leaf size on it, your info above gives me a new path to follow with it. Thanks for sharing.

Concerning the pot, it is planned to go into an oversized bonsai pot this spring. It still needs some more thickening of the new leader since the trunk chop, but I do need it to be useful growth. The pot I have in mind will be smaller, although not too much than the current pot. Instead, I plan on using normal bonsai soil, rather than the 1/2 bonsai soil, 1/2 nursery soil mix it is in now. The current pot is already full of roots, so repotting is in order, and being eagerly awaited!

Regards,
Martin
 

pjkatich

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Martin,

Another tip, the wood of the Acer rubrum is fairly soft. Unless you seal large cuts, they will turn to mush in a few years and leave you with a potential mess. However, you can use this to your advantage if you are working towards a bonsai with a hollow trunk. I have seen this application used very successfully.

Don't be overly concerned about cutting out all the new growth if you are still building bulk into portions of your design. The practices I described earlier were for developing ramification. I use sacrifice branches on my red maples all the time to fatten up specific areas that need additional bulk. The only thing you need to watch for when you use a sacrifice branch is weaking of the other parts of the tree.

Brent,

Thanks for the information about removing the terminal buds in the spring. I have never even considered this before.

Best wishes,

Paul
 

Martin Sweeney

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pjkatich,

Thanks for the tips, especially as concerns deadwood. I am certain that I will need to carve out, seal up and heal a few dead areas on this tree.

All,

Here are a couple of pictures from today. First is some decent autumn leaf color (finally!) and the tree with the leaves removed. This is now the front, for better or worse.

Comments welcome.
Regards,
Martin
 

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Vance Wood

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pjkatich,

Thanks for the tips, especially as concerns deadwood. I am certain that I will need to carve out, seal up and heal a few dead ares on this tree.

All,

Here are a couple of pictures from today. First is some decent autumn leaf color (finally!) and the tree with the leaves removed. This is now the front, for better or worse.

Comments welcome.
Regards,
Martin

I would consider removing the larger of the two chops (the one in the back). This will greatly increase and even out the taper of the trunk. Just something to think about, there may be other reasons not to do so. However in my opinion the two large chops will cause you problems in a couple of years and this stump is nice enough to spend the time making a good bonsai of it. With the two stumps at the top this could be difficult.
 

Martin Sweeney

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Vance,

I agree whole heartedly! Up until about a month ago, there was an alternate apex at the top of the back chop. It will get cleaned up later this winter.

Thanks for the advice and your opinion on the stump.

Regards,
Martin
 

Martin Sweeney

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All,

It was around 75 and sunny today, so I tried cleaning up the chops on this red maple. This was my first attempt at carving lots of dead wood. Found I wasn't a natural to say the least! I came away from my efforts with more respect for those who make it look so easy!

Comments welcome.

Regards,
Martin
 

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pjkatich

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Martin,

Looks like you are off to a good start. This is one of the best collected Acer rubrum trunks that I've seen and has a lot of potential.

Remember, keep that large cut sealed up unless you want a hollow trunk. Chances are it will never completely heal over.

What does the nebari look like?

Paul
 

Martin Sweeney

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Paul,

The nebari is ok, nothing to get excited about. There are two good roots at the widest points of the trunk, but not much in between. I am looking forward to trying to scar, hormone and moss the space between the existing roots and, hopefully, starting to improve the nebari this spring. If that fails, then it will be time to try grafting some roots. Either attempt will mark the first time tried, so at the very least I will be learning by doing...

Are you the Paul who came up from Florida to see Roy Nagatoshi when he was in Charlotte?

Regards,
Martin
 

tom tynan

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Hey Martin: The removal of the rear chopped trunk just needs to be cleaned up a bit with a sharp knife; clean the knife first with alcohol. The carving on the front chopped trunk was too soon in my opinion; I would have waited longer and let that leader really extend some growth and get much thicker. I am just concerned that you have not left much live trunk to feed that shoot which will form the new apex. Oh well - the tree will tell you in the spring if it will work or not. One place you can look on-line is Walter Pall's blog - if you look at some of the large collected Hawthorn, Cornus Mas, Prunus sp. - he shows how he carves down stumps - but still leaves numerous shoots on the partially carved stump. If you study the photos - you can also see that he then lets these key shoots grow wild for a number of years to gain thickness and then he cuts these back again, etc. You have a real nice maple stump to work with.....Tom
 

Martin Sweeney

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Tom,

Thanks for the interest and concerns you expressed in your post. The front chop carving was really a cleanup of the die back from the initial chop made this spring. Of course, being a poor carving job, for lack of a better term, some live wood was removed. I am comfortable saying that 95% of the wood removed from the area below and to the left the new leader was dead long before I started carving.

As you said, time will tell, and there is a good possibility that my carving of the existing dead wood will only lead to more dead wood. I am hopeful that this tree will produce vigorous growth again this spring to help the recovery. Mid March isn't that long away!

Regards,
Martin
 

pjkatich

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Martin,

I was taking photos of some of my trees today and thought you might be interested in these two.

Both are Acer rubrum which were grown from seed using the methods outlined earlier in this thread. Now that the leaves have dropped you can see how the ramification is developing.

Best wishes,
Paul
 

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Martin Sweeney

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Paul,

I am very impressed with the ramification you have achieved with your Acer Rubrum. You have set the bar high! Thank you for posting them.

Any details you care to share concerning them would be very interesting to read. You know, how long have you been growing them? Dimensions? That sort of thing.

Perhaps the thing that impresses me most is the movement in the trunks and branches. There are lots of twists and turns. Very nice job!

Best regards!
Martin
 

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