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:


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.

Fall pruning and wiring of Japanese Maple, ‘Chishio Improved’

I have been working on this tree for almost 20 years now. It is repotted annually with aggressive root work, to develop a good radial Nebari. I do a partial defoliation nearly each summer, removing one of each pair of leaves, and prune it in the fall, and wire it every few years. Here is a look back of the development every couple years.

2004 still in the ground.

2006, in a bonsai pot, first full wiring.

2008, wired again.


2012, photographed as prepared for the 3rd US National Bonsai Exhibition:

2014, allowed to grow very dense, strengthening the root grafts:

2016, thinned and lightly wired a couple branches:

And 2018, after some light pruning and wiring.

Now that we’re caught up, I’ve been working to replace heavy branches with finer ones, grafting to place a branch above the first left branch, and still trying to improve the Nebari. It’s a slow process because I want to maintain a pleasing aesthetic appearance along the way.

Below is a fall color shot of 2019:

After leaf-drop, at first glance, the twigginess is attractive, but over the last few years the ramification has become disorganized, and a few branches have become heavier than necessary for a graceful, aging appearance:

The work to do below; red areas are heavy branches and congested areas, blue represents wire needed, and branch placement.

The plan is to prune the branches which emerge in clusters down to pairs, to replace heavy branches with finer ones, and wire fine branches to emerge at acute angles, gracefully outward from the trunk.

Addressing the first left branch, which has gotten very heavy:

after reducing it with a small saw:

And the back branch:

And the results for now:

Developing deciduous bonsai requires years of attention, and tough decisions made at the right time, or giving up years of work later to correct the flaws. Here is a side-by-side before and after the fall work. Over the next couple growing seasons, I will let the ramification increase through pinching during the growing season, and pruning after.

And for fun, here is a side-by-side with 13 years separating the two shots. I lined up the soil line and branches to the approximate height and scale. It has grown to a good size of around 29″ tall.

Styling a Corkbark Black Pine, ‘Taihei’ part 2

About the cultivar:

Part 1 is here:

Which covered the time of purchase in 2009, through the first couple styling attempts through 2012. During that time, I learned that this Taihei despises summer candle-cutting. Here is what happened:

So Part 2 picks up here, after pruning and wiring in fall 2012:

Repotted in 2013:

Frustrated with a styling effort in late 2013, it was planted in the ground to be forgotten for the next 18 months. Neither of us minded the break at all.

it’s a love/hate tree. I love the bark, it hates the work. We’ve battled it out several times over the years, pruning and wiring one year, resulting in the tree sulking for the next two years. Summer decandling resulted in no new candles, only buds setting for the next year.

March 2015, the last time we fought to a draw, it ended up potted in this 13″ round pot, only because we were moving, and I had extra soil. Potted in March 2015, and ignored for the rest of the year:

Ignored it in 2016:

Continued to ignore it for a 3rd year in 2017. Have you heard that saying about freshly potted trees? Year 1 they sleep, year 2 they creep, year 3 they leap.

This was year 4, and it bulked up noticeably in 2018, through little more than my neglect:

But I could ignore it no longer in that 13″ pot. And after 4 years in that pot, it was time to repot. It took a few minutes to get it loose…

…but I managed, and the pot survived:

Armed with my new training strategy, I am preparing to neglect it in this pot for at least another 5 years. I used pumice, lava, and medium akadama, 2:1:2. Pumice and lava don’t break down, so this should allow for good watering and air movement for many years. The pot is also 17″ wide. Spacious.

Since I’m planning to neglect it for a while, it needed to be pruned back. I pruned conservatively, by removing last year’s strong candles, back to buds which were set at the base of last year’s candles. Here:

to here:

which, by May, looks like this:

But, back to March…the pruning resulted in this tidier look:

Some light wiring closed a bit of the gap between the first and the rest of the branches:

Late May 2019:

A fun shot of 10 years gone by, 2009 and 2019:

And a late summer 2019 shot:

I think we have found a good arrangement of neglect and response…