2022 grafting and repotting of the ‘Chishio Improved’ Japanese Maple

As a creature of habit, I tend to stick with things that work. I really worked hard to score this light blue Yamaaki pot years ago, and think it’s a great fit for the tree…probably will continue to be for years to come. But I’ve been really bored with my collection lately and decided to shake things up quite a bit. So far, in normal repotting conditions, I’ve repotted trees into different containers a little over half the time this year.

This tree has been in only 3 different pots since about 2005

2006, Houtoku pot purchased at the monastery
2012, Yamafusa pot, also from the monastery
2018, Yamaaki bought from Yorozu-en a few years prior.

Bringing us to current.

In late winter, I added some thread grafts. The tree is losing vigor and needs to have new growth pushed back closer to the trunk. Either through hard pruning or some strategic grafting.

See the long shoots allowed to grow last year?
Drilled hole
Threaded through
Second graft
Second one sealed

Now, to the repotting. This one always takes a while because I’m working to improve the nebari a little at a time.


Confirming the Suishoen is the same size as the Yamaaki…

The underside needs to be cleaned of all these new and crossing roots so the base can rest on the bottom of the pot.
Small roots removed from the underside, leaving fine roots around the edge.
Settled into the pot, pruned to a good fit.
As luck as it, the backside of the nebari is better than the front!
Soil added, watered and topped with a layer of chopped sphagnum.

This should look nice when those bright red leaves emerge. Not a bad 4th pot.

A few weeks later and the characteristic bright red leaves are covering the tree.

‘Arakawa’ Japanese Maple early Summer pruning

This arakawa has already had one haircut this spring, and has continued to grow denser. In order to keep the internodes short, I am continuing to cut back any extension growth back to the first (or second) node.

Before work

Additionally, I removed one of each pair of leaves in the crown, and outer, stronger shoots.

After work

Finally, I weakened the entrance side of the thread graft that was applied in March this year.

Weakening the graft on the entrance side

It is nearly ready to separate, but I’d like to see the cambium fuse just a bit more at the exit side:

Scuffing up the union on the exit side.

The apex area, while thinned out, looks a bit high above the rest of the foliage. I am slowly allowing the tree to grow taller and wider, so it may look a bit disassociated for now, but I am trying to keep it from getting too congested.

Additionally, the graft will be shortened when it is separated. Stay tuned for more updates!

Japanese Maple Spring Cleaning

A couple weeks ago, readers saw the last year of struggle for this Japanese Maple. Fortunately, it is on the road to recovery, and it’s time to remove wires and handle some light pruning and perform a partial defoliation.

Here’s where we left off with the last post, and start the work:

Wires dig in quickly this time of year, and scars can remain nearly forever, so it’s important to stay vigilant. Removed…

And back on the workbench for round 2…light pruning.

And finally, partial defoliation.

Remove one leaf from each pair.
A close-up of the apex showing plenty of space for light and air circulation.

Partial defoliation allows sunlight to reach the interior of the tree, encouraging bud development closer to the trunk. This is important, as it is necessary to always have new branches growing to replace older branches. Older branches slow down in vigor, get fat and set in their ways. Replacing them gradually over time keeps the tree young and vigorous.

After unwiring and partial defoliation, the tree looks a bit wind blown, but it will settle down in a few days.

A few days later, and it’s settled down a bit.