Trunk Development on Japanese Maples (Acer Palmatum)

RobertB

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So I am not currently a big fan of trunk chops on Japanese Maples. I prefer or more scar less trunk with less abrupt changes in direction (although I do like these too, just not as much as the later).

It seems like many of the Japanese maple bonsai you see on the internet and in Japan Gardens (of coarse I've only seen pictures so no telling what's on the back) do not show signs of trunk chops. It looks like a lot of trunks have been thickened by careful use of many sacrificial branches. I think I read somewhere that in Japan they grow them like this and usually let the sacrificial branch grow till its around 1" diameter then remove.

Of coarse, it seems like you would pretty much need to start with a trunk that has the "line" or general shape already within it.

I am starting some seedlings this yr and thought about trying some like this. Growing for two yrs, wiring the trunk during this period, then cutting off at 2/3 my final height then working on thickening via sacrificial branches. I am not trying to grow these as fast as I can. I am perfectly fine with taking 30 yrs or more to have a true bonsai (of coarse I doubt my first set of seedlings will even qualify as a true bonsai in 30 years). So lets say my 10th set of seedlings grown 30 yrs later.:)

Just looking for some feedback on this. I would think the trunk chop method is probably the fastest with the other method of growing sacrificial branches then chopping and re-growing sacrificial branches is slower.
 

ajm55555

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I guess not everyone wants to wait 30 years to see something nice ;-)
In my opinion you still can get something beautiful with trunk chops if done carefully and a well ramified canopy can hide them most of the year.
 

James W.

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I think the process is typically is something like 5 - 15 years working nebari and trunk taper and movement utilizing various methods including radical chops.
Then about the same length of time is spent refining the trunk (and nebari). The trunk is fattened and wounds are healed and the trunk mellows out a bit. Good bark will begin to show and primary branching is begun. This the time period when what you might consider to be sacrifice branches are grown. Attention is paid to placement and size of branches to be removed so as to minimize scaring.
The next 5 - 15 years to develop branching (and don't neglect the roots) and you are ready for 'final' refinement.
So, yes. 15-45 years (depending on size) to develop a really nice JM. Short cuts of course can be taken, but they often show.
 

River's Edge

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As with most things in Bonsai the answer is often differrent depending on who you ask or what they believe and many of those who respond have not actually done it. Couple that with differrent growing seasons,methods and goals the picture is not always clear. When i asked for advice on this topic, the guidelines that i received from a grower in Japan were as follows.
When you limit the size of the scar from trunk or branch removal the resultant healing is not very noticeable on the mature plant. This also depends on the techniques and skill of the developer. Cutting it properly and managing the scar properly. Thus the guideline of cutting when 1 " or less. High quality Bonsai do not generally show large scars in Japan.
Taper can be developed by a series of trunk cuts in young stock. Let the sacrifice top grow until it is approx 1/3 the size of the section below then slow the growth for that season and chop back at the beginning of the next season. Developing shorter sections at a time gives a more pronounced taper. Basically plan on one trunk chop per growing season.
Movement is introduced through selective bud direction of the sacrifice top and sequential wiring.
I received this advice in 2015 while in Japan. I have applied it to a small group of two year old trident maples over the past two years and it appears to be working. I am targeting taper more than movement. The biggest issue i have had so far is determining how soon to slow them down so the next section does not come close to the same diameter of the previous section. Maples are such strong growing trees. I slow the apex down by cutting off the tip. By this i mean the top foot of growth at that time.
My first trunk chop was approx 3 1/2 inches from the base, the second was approx 3 inches up from the first chop. This spring i plan to repeat the process 2 1/2 inches up from the second chop. During the first two years the growth after the chop has exceeded 5 ft in height.
The chop process i am using is as follows. Cut straight across with fine saw just above pair of buds. Disinfect and Seal cut, i use the green liquid. Then i come back approx i month later, select the best bud and recut on a 45 degree . This process removes the second bud. I clean the edge of the cut carefully with a sharp edge and make the cut slightly concave in shape, disinfect and seal. The remaining extension is wired up to become the sacrifice top.
My intent is to produce more pronounced taper at the base. At this point the process appears to be working quite well but it is too early for me to judge the outcomes.
These are just the ideas i am working with, I am sure there are other methods.
 

0soyoung

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A small addition to what @Riversedgebonsai said:

The chopped trunk will not thicken much until the next section is nearly as thick.

Thus, one must let the tree grow until the base is as thick as you ultimately want it to be, BEFORE you make the first chop. Etc.
 

River's Edge

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A small addition to what @Riversedgebonsai said:

The chopped trunk will not thicken much until the next section is nearly as thick.

Thus, one must let the tree grow until the base is as thick as you ultimately want it to be, BEFORE you make the first chop. Etc.
That may be your method or understanding, but it is not the method i am following, nor the way it was explained to me. That is not a small addition to my explanation, it is the opposite to my intention and instructions.
 

0soyoung

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That may be your method or understanding, but it is not the method i am following, nor the way it was explained to me. That is not a small addition to my explanation, it is the opposite to my intention and instructions.
Well, then, I am disagreeing with what you are saying.

Sorry I misunderstood you.
 

RobertB

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