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.

Arakawa Japanese Maple

An air-layer created in 2011, grown in the ground for a few years and then potted in 2015:

Eventually, I thread-grafted new first branches, lower to compact the tree; changed the front, and chopped the right trunk lower than the left:

Since the tree is on its own roots, my goal was to produce a really nice radial Nebari, which will also have the rough bark of the trunks. I also decided to grow this tree slowly, and let it develop the character only age can provide. So it went into a bonsai pot, and we’ll let time take its course.

At the end of 2019, the tree is about 8 years old from an air-layer, and it was pruned back and wired. I also let a shoot run long to thread-graft into the upper left trunk, growing toward the right.


The pot is an old Yozan from the 1960s, beautiful orange clay under a cream glaze which is developing some nice patina.

Zelkova Air-layer outcome

I was hoping for the best, and expecting the worst. Even the parent tree had a very one-sided root system. Still…?

It was 2017 when I created and separated the layer, and in 2018 I wasn’t convinced it was strong enough for root work, so I delayed it to this spring. Glad I did, but I’d been curious how it worked out for 18 months.

The moment of truth…


So I pruned it back to a single plane, and what I hoped was live tissue. Then inserted a screw to anchor it to the pot, and trimmed the roots back a little.

Secured it to this pink Shibakatsu pot…

Packed the freshly-cut underside with sphagnum moss…

And topped off the tank with straight akadama.

Fingers crossed for better luck this time. Here is a shot in early May before the first haircut.

And in November at the end of the growing season. When then leaves fall, it will be time to carefully prune to direct growth.

So in November, an early hard freeze zapped the leaves of any chance for fall color:

So they were removed…

Branches were pruned so the terminal bud was facing outward. Thicker shoots were cut shorter, resulting in this:

And what was left was tied up for the winter: