‘Arakawa’ Japanese Maple fall cleanup

Here is a shot before the work. I started this as an air-layer about 10 years ago, and it has been mostly container-grown. It has a decent nebari developing under the soil which will have the characteristic ‘arakawa’ bark as it becomes exposed over time.

Close up

Removed leaves

Closer up

Branch grown and shaped for thread-grafting

To fill in this space, just under the cut scar and above where it originates from the trunk:

On to the pruning…heavy, long internodes, and those pointing up need to go:

Another example, before:

After:

This one looks pretty good, evenly balanced, tertiary branches emerging in pairs, laterally:

A branch terminating in 3 shoots, prune down to an acute pair, emerging side-by-side:

Crossing branches need to go, especially those which are heavy and pointing straight up. These are the strong shoots that will run long, and overshadow the rest of the tree, and weaken the branches around them.

Finished for now.

A comparison from winter 2019 to late fall 2020, one year of work:

The pot? Older Yozan with the kiln’s iconic red clay.

Losing trees: Japanese Maple, Chishio improved

Ok, this series is intentionally humbling as it demonstrates my failures with the hope of avoiding them again, and maybe someone out there can also avoid them. The good news is that I didn’t lose this tree. I did lose a few years of work, but optimistically the tree will be better in the long run. And if bonsai is about anything at all…it’s the long run.

I wired the tree over Thanksgiving 2019, just after leaf fall. This:

To this:

Replacing fat branches with finer branches and balancing the overall density. No problem, right time of year, so what could go wrong?

February:

March:

Trouble…so I decided to not repot, and not add another insult. First time in 15 years I skipped a year of repotting. I believe we had some nights in the low 20s in late January, and it may have killed some of the branches.

Early April, clearly I’m losing branches:

Time to trim the long stuff and see if we can jump-start some budding in the interior.

Left side good:

Right side bad:

Trimming back, mid April, before and after:

Late April, and some interior budding is forming in the bare areas:

Late May, and the wire needs to come off, and the left side is very dense, compared to the weak right side.

Before unwiring;

Unwired:

Since the April trim back encouraged some budding, and new shoots were starting to grow, I decided to partially defoliate the tree and allow light to reach the interior, as well as balance the tree and give the new shoots a shot at growing. Here is an upper branch, before:

After

And likewise on a lower right branch where some dieback occurred, new branches were starting to take off:

So I wired them, removed the inner leaves, and removed the growing tips. This should result in back-budding at the axils of the removed leaves:

After the work is done, the tree looks pretty rough. It always does until the leaves reorient themselves in the sun.

A night shot shows the result a little better:

And, just a few weeks later, new buds and shoots have formed all over:

Apex:

Interior branch:

I’ll let it grow a bit longer, and wire the green shoots I plan to keep in a few weeks. Next spring, I’ll repot it and work the roots pretty thoroughly.

Shohin Japanese Maple winter pruning and wiring

I have had this little clump for about 3 years. The mature bark is starting to form, and it has a good base starting to show that “turtle back” look. During the growing season, it has been pinched, and during the winter it has been pruned, but I have not wired it yet. As it started the winter:

Close- up of the base and bark forming:

Some heavy areas to address, largest trunk:

Pruning at the red line:

Back left trunk:

Pruning at the red line:

Pruned back:

Wired:

Placed and evaluated:

Adjustments needed:

Finished for now:

Transitions are softer now, and the tree has some balance from side to side. It will be repotted again in spring, and the work for 2020 will include building some ramification, and addressing the apex of the tallest trunk. Pot, Koyo.