Ugly Japanese Maple > Beautiful Bonsai

jodaworks

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Grabbed this ugly, unhealthy JM for $20 (usd) to challenge myself, push me out of my comfort zone. But I would love some advice because I'm new to JM. It's about 6ft tall, has multiple long vertical branches coming from the same areas, and every mature leaf is sun scorched. But it has a bunch of red baby leaves and healthy branches. Pretty obvious why the nursery didn't care for it much, but I'm thinking the weirdly exposed nebari, natural jin, and semi-cascade lower structure could be fun. So, advice?
(I'm in eastern North Carolina zone 8a)
● Should I just defoliate for healthier leaves and do nothing else until late winter, early spring?
● Should I go ahead and cut back these really tall shoots so that it's compact and less leggy for the winter?
● Any styling tips or references to beautiful maples that angle dramatically to the side?
● Could I air-layer those long shoots (now or wait until spring?)

Thanks so much!
 

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19Mateo83

Omono
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Welcome to the nut house! Good to see another North Carolinian joining the cool kids club 😎 there’s quite a few of us in here. That’s a pretty sweet find. It dose t appear to be grafted so you are already one step ahead in that aspect. I would focus on getting it healthy the rest of the year. I would leave it as it is. Don’t trim, repot or defoliate, the tree will shed what it doesn’t need and grow what it does naturally. Any work now will unnecessarily stress this tree. Good news is you have plenty of time to contemplate your move when spring time comes. There’s a very interesting tree hidden in that trunk, lots of options and directions you can take this one with angles, roots and curves like that. I would put it in a spot that gets sun until about 12-1 ish and shade the rest of the day. Lightly fertilize until it takes recovered and keep it watered properly. There is plenty of very knowledgeable folk here that are more than happy to answer questions and offer recommendations and give advice. Where abouts in eastern carolina are ya?
 

jodaworks

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Ah, interesting you say not to defoliate. I assumed the answer to everything else was gonna be let it get healthy but I was watching Peter Chan on YouTube and he says to cut every scorched leaf off at its base to force it to have a second cycle of leaves before Fall comes. I know he's in the UK though and the climate is harsher here. Thanks for the advice! I'm in Greenville, NC. I've tinkered with bonsai off and on since childhood but never dedicated myself to truly learning it. Just a random tree here and there that never thrived. I've thrown myself into it heavy the past year with research and really getting my hands dirty the past 3 months. I'm addicted now.
 

19Mateo83

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Ah, interesting you say not to defoliate. I assumed the answer to everything else was gonna be let it get healthy but I was watching Peter Chan on YouTube and he says to cut every scorched leaf off at its base to force it to have a second cycle of leaves before Fall comes. I know he's in the UK though and the climate is harsher here. Thanks for the advice! I'm in Greenville, NC. I've tinkered with bonsai off and on since childhood but never dedicated myself to truly learning it. Just a random tree here and there that never thrived. I've thrown myself into it heavy the past year with research and really getting my hands dirty the past 3 months. I'm addicted now.
Peter Chan has quite a heavy hand sometimes and usually he is working with healthy, vigorously growing trees. He also has thousands of trees to practice on, I’d hate to see how many trees his heavy hand has killed in his career. Since this one is in a weakened state already just focus on getting it healthy. It’s definitely an addiction, the more questions you ask here the faster you will get get hooked even more…. You have come to the right place my friend. The best advice I can offer is patience, patience, patience….and ask lots of questions 😁
 
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jodaworks

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Patience is by far the hardest part of bonsai. Lol. Thanks again! I know you're on the opposite end of the state with a bunch of sweet bonsai nurseries and attractions, but would you happen to have any recommendations for anywhere to visit closer eastward? I recently went to Silver Bonsai in Manteo but that was a bust. Cool store with a few nice bonsai NFS but it was 99% jewelry/decor and a bunch of over priced baby plants thrown in bonsai pots. Or do you know of any regional Facebook groups I should join?
 

19Mateo83

Omono
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I think there is a bonsai learning center in Raleigh. @Bonsai Nut does write ups on NC nurseries. I don’t know if he’s been out east but he may be able to point you in a good direction.
 

Nelis

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If the tree feels that it needs new leaves, it will push out new leaves, by removing them now, you will only weaken the tree even more.
Looking at the roots, you will never have a good nebari with what you have now. Consider ground layering as soon as possible to get rid of the ugly, or look into neagari as a possible option.
 

jodaworks

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Consider ground layering as soon as possible to get rid of the ugly, or look into neagari as a possible option.
I was going to do neagari. I figured that was the only choice. The way I see this project is that neither neagari or semi-cascade are common style choices for Japanese Maples. But, I want to push myself to do something with it as a learning experience since it's my first JM but was found so cheap. I'm trying to decide if I want to get rid of the forward facing root and the tiny one just to have it fork into the soil in two spots. The tiny root should mostly heal over and the larger one would leave a very visible circular scar. Might look interesting. You're not feeling it, huh? Lol
 

jodaworks

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UPDATE: Since this was an experiment anyway, I went ahead and defoliated half of the Japanese Maple. Every spot that I removed the burnt leaves has either already grown new leaves or appears to be budding.
 

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Srt8madness

Shohin
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I've never quite understood rocking up to a forum, asking for advice, getting it from people who know what they're doing, then proceeding to do the exact opposite. LOL!
 

jodaworks

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I've never quite understood rocking up to a forum, asking for advice, getting it from people who know what they're doing, then proceeding to do the exact opposite. LOL!
Lol, hey now, I wanted (and appreciated) the advice and as a result didn't listen to the Peter Chan videos that advised defoliating the entire tree. But as stated from the get-go, this tree is to experiment on. I decided to see what would happen. Lol. Me updating the very much more experienced artists here on the results isn't rubbing their noses in it. Just here to learn.
 
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