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Posts by Brian VF

Partial Defoliation of a Japanese Maple, pt 2

In this post, the reasons and process for defoliating the maple was discussed. 4 weeks later, here are new, bright red buds and new shoots developing in the interior of the tree. These will be allowed to grow next year and some will replace older, heavier branches to improve the taper and movement overall.


Not Candle cutting the JBP

For the first time in 10 years, I decided to not candle cut this JBP. Why? Winter 18 months ago, it got really cold shortly after I wired and pruned it; single digits for several days when I was out of town and the tree sat out of doors.

The result was weak growth in the spring of 2018. I decandled it anyway in July 2018 preparing it for the USNBE, and the resulting growth wasn’t strong enough to show. It lost a few small shoots in the upper right area. This spring, I repotted it into a coarser mix and let it grow. The color isn’t great, and the growth is a bit weak. July 15, 2019:

It was weak, the color shows pretty yellow under the studio lights. It’s not this bad, but it isn’t the usual deep green:

Bald spot in the upper right area:

Instead, I removed dead needles, cut candles that emerged in 3s down to pairs. This:

To this:

And this:

To this:

Next up, aerating the soil. Cleary’s 3336 granular staves odd needle cast, but also creates a crust on the soil surface which needs to be plowed in just a bit. I just used tweezers:

Alternately, use a chopstick:

Then I dealt with moss, using the same tweezers. This:

To this:

The base is spreading after 10 years in a Bonsai pot:



This should prepare the tree for fall work, which will include needle-pulling, thinning branches, and a complete rewiring of the tree.

Be sure to use clean, sharp tools. Sandflex blocks do a good job of removing sap from blades, followed by alcohol to sanitize, and oil to lubricate and protect against rust.

Partial defoliation of a Japanese Maple

This is my Chishio Improved, which I have been trying to improve little by little over the last 15 years. I have noticed a tendency for the tree to shed interior growth and grow much stronger on the outer areas. A way to combat this tendency is to partially defoliate the tree, removing one leaf out of each pair of leaves throughout the tree. I did leave full pairs intact on the interior branches.

Here is a close up of one branch before:


And another shot showing each pair of leaves marked with a yellow V, and the cut petiole marked with a blue hash mark:

I find the effect is better if I remove the other leaf from the one of the pair I grab. If that makes sense. it’s tedious work, but you can find a groove and move along pretty quickly. This work took 2 hours. From above, the overlapping of leaves is reduced, and light can get into the interior of the tree, hopefully encouraging backbudding.

I also took the opportunity to unwire and lightly prune some of the excessively strong areas, scrape off the crusty layer of soil and top-dressing of sphagnum moss, and replace it with a fresh layer of akadama. A shot before:

And after: