The cult of Japanese Maple

bonsai barry

Omono
Messages
1,374
Reaction score
35
Location
Cental Coast of California
USDA Zone
9
Having just returned from an errand at Home Depot hardware, I, of course, went through the nursery. The price they are asking for Japanese maples seems unreasonable. Small maples with a trunk as thick as a pencil were $50. These were landscaping trees not prebonsai

Is there any reason that maples are so expensive?
 

Brent

Mame
Messages
208
Reaction score
201
Location
Lake County, Northern California
BB

The short answer is that they are very difficult trees. You are almost surely talking about grafted cultivars, not seedlings. Grafting Japanese maples is quite a challenge. I gave up on it years ago. The bark and cambium is very thin, on the order of a few tenths of a millimeter. Getting a good clean cut in very hard wood and then a good match is a daunting task. Then, even if you have good grafting skills you have to deal with all the fungal diseases to which they are prone. This is entire process is not for the faint of heart. I'm continually amazed that anyone can graft these little suckers. I resorted to cuttings years ago, much easier for me, but of course you can't grow the dissectums from cuttings.

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

Brent

Mame
Messages
208
Reaction score
201
Location
Lake County, Northern California
Bnut

I doubt that anyone knows the asnwer to that question. There are many species and cultivars that won't strike roots from stem cuttings. With the exception of a few dissectums (Seiryu comes to mind) they just won't root.

Brent
 

rlist

Shohin
Messages
294
Reaction score
3
Location
Portland, OR
USDA Zone
8a
I will trust Brent's horticultural comments, as that would obviously increase the raw cost of the product. However, I would also like to believe that Home Depot (and others) are corporations created to produce revenue for their owners/shareholders. As such, they will charge the market price for products, and if something is in vogue, than the price will obviously go up. While I live in the nursery capital of the US, the price of these you trees is also high - and yet I seem to see them planted in just about every home landscape I drive by...
 

Bonsai Nut

Nuttier than your average Nut
Messages
8,362
Reaction score
14,196
Location
OC, CA
USDA Zone
10A
One thing that I will say - if you search on the Internet there are several sites that claim to help you "set up a Japanese Maple nursery" and make $ thousands per year. There are a few people who claim to sell maples off their driveway for $20 - $50 and make good money. I avoid the Home Depots and buy direct from nurseries. You can find one gallon rare cultivars for $29 - $39, and one year grafts in tubes for about half that. Let them grow wild for a couple of years and then start air-layering like crazy :)
 

Nigel Black

Yamadori
Messages
70
Reaction score
1
I'm not trying to start a heated debate but my experience differs. I worked for Griffith propagation here in Georgia for a few years. We rooted many cultivars of dissectum quite readily. Among them were 'Inaba shidare' 'Red Dragon' 'Tamukeyama' 'Viridis' 'Irish Lace' and others I'm not recalling now.
Just thought I should share this for those interested in trying. One thing we noticed though: The foliage cannot dry out while rooting or they don't make it.

Nigel
 

Graydon

Chumono
Messages
717
Reaction score
7
I'm not trying to start a heated debate but my experience differs. I worked for Griffith propagation here in Georgia for a few years. We rooted many cultivars of dissectum quite readily. Among them were 'Inaba shidare' 'Red Dragon' 'Tamukeyama' 'Viridis' 'Irish Lace' and others I'm not recalling now.
Just thought I should share this for those interested in trying. One thing we noticed though: The foliage cannot dry out while rooting or they don't make it.

Nigel
No debate Nigel, I'm glad to hear about it. Care to share the how's and why's of the successful operation with us? What we really need are the details such as hormone strength, mist durations, bottom heat and rooting medium.
 

Nigel Black

Yamadori
Messages
70
Reaction score
1
Well oddly enough, there wasn't too much to it. I think the secret to our success is that we used KIBA(potassium salt of IBA - rooting hormone) I'll have to look and see if I kept notes on what the concentration was. But basically we took semi-hard wood with three to four nodes in late spring and kept them shaded under mist which came on for five seconds every five minutes. The mist went off at night. We only kept the top four leaves, and we wounded the bottom half inch of the cutting.

That was it.

On the other hand I've had very low to no success rates with dwarf cultivars such as 'Kitohime' and 'Kamagata' which in my opinion would make better bonsai than most dissectum maples.

Hope this helps.

Nigel
 

bonsai barry

Omono
Messages
1,374
Reaction score
35
Location
Cental Coast of California
USDA Zone
9
Well oddly enough, there wasn't too much to it. I think the secret to our success is that we used KIBA(potassium salt of IBA - rooting hormone) I'll have to look and see if I kept notes on what the concentration was. But basically we took semi-hard wood with three to four nodes in late spring and kept them shaded under mist which came on for five seconds every five minutes. The mist went off at night. We only kept the top four leaves, and we wounded the bottom half inch of the cutting.

That was it.

On the other hand I've had very low to no success rates with dwarf cultivars such as 'Kitohime' and 'Kamagata' which in my opinion would make better bonsai than most dissectum maples.

Hope this helps.

Nigel
Interesting information. I hope you can find your notes. Do you recall how thick the cuttings were? Spaghetti? Pencils? Thumb? Lamp post?
 

Nigel Black

Yamadori
Messages
70
Reaction score
1
Interesting units of measurment Barry! I'd say they were lizard tail sized. Just kidding. Seriously, I'd say they were about 3/16 of an inch thick to about 1/4 of an inch in diameter.

Nigel
 
Messages
2,776
Reaction score
13
Location
Michigan, USA
USDA Zone
5
Nigel,

Do you have any of these cuttings that we can see? I went to http://www.griffithpropagationnursery.com and the only dissectum they have for sale is the Acer palmatum var. dissectum ‘Sieryu’ which is one of the few exceptions that Brent listed that can be grown from cuttings.

I would be interested in seeing and learning more as most commerically advailable dissectum are grafted on A. palmatum seedlings.


Will
 
Last edited:

Brent

Mame
Messages
208
Reaction score
201
Location
Lake County, Northern California
Vertrees devotes several pages in the beginning of his book Japanese Maples to cutting propagation. Apparently he was fascinated by it and spent a good portion of his time trying to work it out. It sounds like he didn't have a great deal of success, but he led the way. He even developed a system of giving the cuttings a short night photoperiod by turning on lights in the middle of the night. I tried that too, but keeping lights working in a mist atmosphere was rather scary, and after awhile it became obvious that that wasn't the answer.

Acer palmatum cultivars, broadleaf at least, are not that difficult to root. You need only adhere to good cutting propagation procedures and be aware that they will not tolerate any mistakes. Any stress will doom your cuttings. No, the problem, at least for me, was getting them through the first winter. I have written a lot about this, they (and tridents as well) form very fleshy first roots that are inordinately susceptible to freezing, yet they need to have a dormant period. This is complicated by the fact that their genetically determined growth cycle is interrupted by the cutting propagation procedure, so they don't WANT to go dormant, but rather put out soft shoots and grow. If you have a very clean cold greenhouse, you may be able to overwinter them there, but mine always died from fungal diseases at those temperatures. So now, I keep them outside but control the minimum temperatures with my freeze control system that I described here or elsewhere recently, I forget where. Anyhow, this system keeps the winter temperature at 26F and above, but the cuttings are out in the open air, getting winter rains, etc, and allowed to go dormant whenever they want.

There are a number of other tricks, but most of them still fall into conventional cutting propagation practices. The condition of the wood is extremely important. You want very vigorous shoots, semi-hard, from young trees, even juvenile wood works well. You have to catch it at just the right stage for really good rooting ability. Bottom heat speeds the rooting but doesn't seem to give you more rooted cuttings. I once hit it right with 'Bloodgood' and got almost 100% rooting initiated in ten days. I have never done it again, but I still do get good results when I pay attention.

I am just getting started on A. palmatum cuttings again after an eight year hiatus from moving the nursery. Last year was a good test batch. The results weren't spectacular but I did get some rooted cuttings of 'Seiryu', 'Bloodgood', 'Yuri Hime', 'Kiyohime', 'Shir Autumn Moom' (A. palmatum X A. japonicum cross I believe without checking), 'Ibo Nishiki'. My big problem now is to get my stock plants pumped up for better wood.

Years ago, there was an excellent Oregon nursery called Wright's whose specialty was cutting grown Japanese maples. It was like heaven. They had a list of about 30 cvs including some dissectums, including 'Inaba Shidare' as Nigel mentions, and also 'Viridis' (a really crappy cv). They even had 'Shishigashira', although they never grew strongly on their own roots. They were about $2.50 each in liner pots, a steal. But then the old guy who owned the place died and the kids didn't want to take it over, so it folded. I could have cried, but it did get me doing it myself again.

Nigel mentions wounding the cuttings. Most sources recommend this, but what I have found is that wounding created rooting mostly along the two sides of the exposed cambium, making pretty lousy rootage for bonsai. I have found that it really isn't necessary; the strike percentage is about the same without rooting (but slower), and the rootage is better. I don't bother doing it anymore. Hormone strength is crucial and related to the condition of the wood and the particular cultivar. I use either Hormex 16 or 30 most of the time (1.6% and 3.0% IBA). Liquid concoctions were useless for me since to get the IBA strength necessary I also got necrosis from the solvents.

It's fun and exciting work, and I hope to have a few of these cutting grown plants in the catalog in the future, although I won't sell them until they reach one gallon size, I learned that lesson over the years: when dealing with rare difficult material always grow it out to a size to achieve the maximum return or you are just giving it away. Right now I have some pretty handsome 'Ao Kanzashi' in one gallon from cuttings. Two years ago I had one gallon 'Yuri Hime' and 'Kiyohime' and they just flew out the door. I thought the price was somewhat exorbitant, but apparently everyone else thought they were cheap.

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

BONSAI_OUTLAW

Banned
Messages
150
Reaction score
1
Location
Woodstown, NJ
Lord....I sure love it when Brent posts... I am looking forward to when you start selling these new cultivars of Acer P. Brent, as I have a few of each of the ones you have for sale right now.
 

Smoke

Ignore-Amus
Messages
11,323
Reaction score
18,811
Location
Fresno, CA
USDA Zone
9
Brent said:
Years ago, there was an excellent Oregon nursery called Wright's whose specialty was cutting grown Japanese maples. It was like heaven. They had a list of about 30 cvs including some dissectums, including 'Inaba Shidare' as Nigel mentions, and also 'Viridis' (a really crappy cv). They even had 'Shishigashira', although they never grew strongly on their own roots. They were about $2.50 each in liner pots, a steal. But then the old guy who owned the place died and the kids didn't want to take it over, so it folded. I could have cried, but it did get me doing it myself again.
Reminds me of the good ole days here in Fresno when Henderson Experimental Gardens flourished. Don Kleim was the man. Many maple cultivars were propagated here. I have no idea how many maple cultivars were out there, but there were what seemed like hundreds. He was growing very unusual plant material even for bonsai when guys like Ian Price and Don Herzog were just getting started. I can go back in the back of the nursery today (what remains of it) and look under large thickets of bamboo and occasionaly find a few rare maples in the ground out there. As a note I think Mike Page had some kingsvilles from this nursery for a time. He grew some of the most marvelous stock in California.

Hey Brent does the name Cynthia Frame ring a bell?

Cheers Al
 
Last edited:

Brent

Mame
Messages
208
Reaction score
201
Location
Lake County, Northern California
Al

Yes! Haven't heard that name for a long time. She was growing material for Don Herzog at the same I was. I never met her, but Don was always comparing notes from the two of us. Isn't Herb Kelly down there somewhere too? It must be a haven for plant nerds.

Brent
 

Nigel Black

Yamadori
Messages
70
Reaction score
1
I don't know why Mark doesn't have anything besides Seiryu listed. When I worked there he had 'Sieryu', 'Bloodgood', 'Burgundy Lace' 'Glowing Embers' and a few others available. Griffith is an odd guy and I never have understood much of his decision making. But he became very interested in builiding up his Acer palmatum catalog after a colleague returned from Japan and told him about rooted dissectums that were twenty-five and thirty years old. The standard tale told is that they don't grow well on their old roots. So this set Mark fairly on fire (as much as he can be set on fire about anything)to see what could be done. If I know Mark Griffith, he probably hasn't updated his website in several years. He doesn't do much in a hurry.

Nigel
 

Bonsai Nut

Nuttier than your average Nut
Messages
8,362
Reaction score
14,196
Location
OC, CA
USDA Zone
10A
By the way, I'm not sure if this is directly applicable, but I read a very interesting article in American Nurseryman (one of the year 2000 isssues) about shade improving the rooting on oak and maple cuttings. I can't remember if they specifically mention Japanese Maples at all, but it might spark some additional experiments. If you want some more info, or reprints of the article, you can contact that author directly. He was very responsive and helpful:

Jim Zaczek
Associate Professor of Forest Ecology
Department of Forestry, Center for Ecology
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4411

email: zaczek@siu.edu
Phone: (618) 453-7465 FAX: (618) 453-7475
 

Similar threads


Top Bottom