Japanese Maple Gets Partial Defoliation

This Japanese Maple quickly leaved out after I pruned it early Spring, it’s now very full, and no light was going into the inner areas of the tree. Although I trimmed off the second node of growth the minute it came out, the internodes on the tree is still very inconsistent. Some were very long, yet others remained short.

Japanese Maple all Leaved Out

I decided to remove one of the two leaves at each node, to allow for more light to reach the inner areas of the tree, in turn, promoting new buds to form. It’s now much more airy than before, in a few weeks, I’ll be seeing more buds forming close to the trunk. Hopefully those new growths will have short internodes, and I can do away with some of the longer branches.

Japanese Maple After Partial Defoliation


There are a few small trees which IĀ over-potted in hopes of them growing more vigorously. But a small tree in a big colander often left the medium too wet, and as a result, the tree suffers. Today, I repotted two trees into a smaller colander. My hope is that the reduced amount of soil would allow the medium to dry more quickly, and as a result, promote the tree to put out more roots.

I first started with the Japanese Maple. I originally potted the tree very low in the colander, forcing the roots to go radially rather than downwards. This plan worked well, as the tree has a very radial and flat nebari. I simply trimmed some roots off the rim, painstakingly rearranged the roots so that there are no overlaps, and then potted it into a smaller colander.

The second tree is the Boxwood. Boxwood are very slow growing trees, especially so when grown inside a pot. For the past two years, the tree remains largely the same size. Some nice roots have developed. Similar to the Japanese Maple above, I arranged the roots nicely, before potting it into its new (much smaller) colander.

Japanese Maple Fully Leaved Out

Just two weeks after defoliating, the Japanese Maple is responding well to the defoliation. Not only did it fully leave out, but it leaved out more densely than before, with much greater ramification. I’m not going to do anything to the tree for the remaining year, and just let it fatten up with the extra growth it put out.

Jap Maple with Full Foliage

Defoliation of Japanese Maple

Over Spring time, I have been pinching out new growth on this Japanese Maple in hopes to shorten the internodes, and hopefully even promote some back budding. There were a few buds that formed, but there were still some very long internodes formed. Fortunately, at the same nodes for which the long internodes extended from, there were often other buds formed. The leaves formed at Spring time have a reddish tinge to it. As the leave hardens, it turns to fully green. Some initial wiring can be done here to ensure the new branches don’t push straight up.

Jap Maple Wired

By the end of Spring, the foliage on the tree was getting quite dense, as a result, no sunlight is able to reach the inner parts of the tree. With no light reaching the branches, no new buds will develop. The leaves are very large as well. This is often the case for very vigorous leaves which came out at the start of Spring.

Maple Before Defoliage

One way to force new buds to push out is to defoliate the tree. There are two ways to defoliate, either partial defoliation, or full defoliation. Since maples tend to be resistant to abuse, I decided to perform a full defoliation. When cutting off the leaves, one must make sure to leave the petiole intact. The base of the petiole is where new buds will be formed. The second wave of leaves will also be smaller, since the tree now has less energy than before.

Maple After Defoliage

After defoliating the tree, the branch structure can be seen clearly. Since there are no leaves, it’s also the perfect opportunity to prune branches and wire up branches. I proceeded to wire the upward branches down. Maples tend to scar easily, so when wiring, I ensure the wires are very lose, to allow for the branches to set, while not allowing the wires to bite into the bark.

Maple Wired

After writing down the branches, I decided to prune off the branches with the long internodes as well. Since buds form at the nodes, long internodes will ultimately limit my options for branch selection. Luckily there were still a lot of branches with short internodes.

Maple Pruned

I left the right branch long, mainly because I plan to perform an air-layer with it later on. The rest of the tree now have short internodes. In a few years when the trunk gets thicker, this would be a very impressive tree, with very fine ramifications.

Pruning Spree

Took my Mugo Pine to the club social this past Wednesday to have have it looked at. Ended up pruning away much of the tree. The club members tell me that I don’t have to worry about the tree weakened by pruning away too much. That’s contrary to what I’ve read online. Since the Mugo pine isn’t of particularly great quality, I guess it doesn’t hurt to try.

Mugo Pine Pruned

Seeing that my other sugar maple keeps putting out new buds after rounds and rounds of continuous pruning, and also the internodes of my Japanese Maple is getting too long, I decided to prune it as well. I did some branches selection, and took out all that’s not necessary. Such that I won’t be left with inverse taper caused by too many branches stemming out from one spot of the trunk.

Japanese Maple Pruned

Now I just have to hope that the new growths will harden enough to survive the winter. I do feel the internode between the first branch and the second branch seems a bit wide. I guess that’s why the previous owner decided to sell it at the show despite the excellent nebari. If the new buds don’t survive the winter, I might contemplate doing a trunk chop on this one, and develop a proper branch by properly controlling its elongation via bud plucking early spring.

Grafting Japanese Maple Scions on Maple Stock

I grew a few maple trees from seed around two years back. These trees are very vigorous, but the leaves they put out are also very large. So, they don’t make good bonsai material.

Sugar Maple

Rather than using the maples as bonsai, I’ll be using these two year seedlings as stock plants for the Japanese maple scions. If any of these survives, I’ll have some grafted Japanese maples for bonsai.

I decided to try two of each Japanese maple I have. One is a Bloodgood, the other is a Japanese maple I purchased at the bonsai show last Spring.

I purchased a grafting tool online at aliexpress.com for a nominal price.

Grafting Tool

The cutting edge of this grafting tool can be used to shape both the stock and the scion. Given that the branch is at least 2 years old, it’ll be thick enough to use this tool on.

I selected a branch from the parent plant which closely resembles the thickness of the stock plant. I then proceed to make the cut on the stock plant, leaving a stump.

Sugar Maple Base

I was impressed at how clean the cut was. I then proceeded to cut the scion.

Bloodgood Japanese Maple Scion

I then inserted the scion into the stock. It’s amazing how perfectly they fit together.

Grafted Joint

Now I simply tie it together with grafting tape that I purchased along with the grafting tool.

Grafting Tape

The finished tree with the junction all bandaged up with grafting tape.

Grafted Bloodgood Japanese Maple

I then proceeded with doing three more grafts.

Grafted Bloodgood Japanese Maple

Grafted Japanese Maple

Grafted Japanese Maple

These trees are now all sitting behind some heavy shade. Hope they’ll take, if so, I can have more maples to work with in the future.


Thread Grafting The Bloodgood Maple

Yesterday was the first of a series of summer social/workshops. As the club does not have any meetings over summer, the socials are the time where members can get advice from more senior members.

I took advantage of the opportunity and brought my Bloodgood to be critiqued.

Bloodgood before thread grafting

John Biel indicated several flaws of my Bloodgood.

  1. The internodes on the trunk are too far apart. Since the branches only emerge from the internodes, the branches are also too far apart.
  2. The first branch starts too far up the trunk. Since the first branch marks roughly 1/3 of the height of the tree, this forces the tree to be taller than what is proportional to the size of the trunk.
  3. Missing some back branches, which are essential to add depth to the bonsai.

I have one good thing going for it, that is, the graft was done nicely (not to my credit).

There are two suggestions made which will help the tree to be a bonsai. Both of which involves forgoing all branches.

  1. Trunk chop the tree to be slightly higher than the graft point. Hoping that it will spawn again and provide more favourable branching. The graft point itself is actually quite high, so any branches which spawns below the graft point would not be Bloodgood. Also, I’m not the kind of person who likes to leave things to chance.
  2. Thread graft branches down below, to rebuild main, secondary, back branches, and the new apex. I like this idea more, because I thought it’ll be good to have some experience in thread grafting, and I like the deterministic nature of putting branches where I want them. Grafting also allows me to graft Bloodgood material lower than the existing graft line.

John suggested that I should be performing the grafting spring of next year. I’ve been reading a few posts online, and they seem to suggest doing it in summer time is good since the tree is full growth, and would recover faster from the ordeal. So, I went ahead with the thread graft despite John’s recommendation.

Since I will be grafting on my branches, I’m no longer restricted by the branches when selecting my front. My new criteria for a front will solely be based on the roots. After some digging around, this is going to be my tree’s new front.

The new front of Bloodgood

There’s an existing scar that healed up nicely. I think the scar was caused by a rabbit or some other rodent. Since it’s facing the side, I’m not too concerned with it.

Next is to mark the main the branch, back branch, secondary branch, and the apex. Since the roots are stronger on the left than on the right, I would want to lean the tree to the right to balance it. Thus, my new apex will be coming out from the left to counter-balance the right leaning trunk. Since my branches will be at the outer curve of my trunk’s bend, my secondary branch will be on the right. I wanted to squeeze in a main branch along the trunk, and the a back branch as well. After deciding where everything will go, I marked the drill points with a marker.

Hole to be drilled

I used a power drill to drill the holes. I also selected a drill bit that’s slightly on the larger side, such that the buds can pass through without getting damaged. Having a bigger hole will cause the healing process to be longer, but I rather wait, than to have the buds rubbed off. Always drill from where you want the branch to emerge, that way, you’ll know exactly where the branch will come. When I drill, I also drill slightly at an angle. It’s angled such that the exit hole is higher than the entry hole. Since branches facing upwards grows more vigorously, this allows the resulting scion to grow more vigorously, and for the graft to take in a shorter period of time.

Scion with leaves removed

Next is to prepare the scion. I cut off all the leaves, leaving the leave stalk, since this is where new leaves/branches will emerge. But you don’t want to leave too much behind, or else you’ll have a difficult time getting it through the hole, and risk damaging the buds hiding at the base of the stalk. The scion is just a very long branch that’s still attached to the tree.

Inserted Wood to secure scion

Carefully insert the scion into the hole, taking care not to damage the buds. This photo shows the entry point, the exit point should have the buds slightly outside the trunk. This allows for short internodes of the resulting branch. After the scion is in place, I’ll need to secure the scion such that it can grow and graft to the trunk. I do this by inserting wood into the whole to jam it in place. I simply took material from the existing apex and push it into the whole.

Secured Scion

After the scion is secured, I can proceed to seal the wound with cut paste. This will help with the healing process.

Thread Grafted

Here’s a view of the finished thread graft. It looks busier than what it’s supposed to be, since you’re seeing the entry and exit points. After the scion are established, I will be cutting off the entry points, leaving only the grafted portion.

Here’s a overview of the whole tree after performing the thread graft.

Bloodgood fully thread grafted

The plan for spring of next year is to keep reducing the top, and force the tree’s energy down to the scions. Hopefully it’ll quickly fatten up the scions, causing the graft to take.