Introduction to Japanese Maple Bonsai

The Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum) is native to Japan, the Koreas, Mongolia, southeast Russia, and China. It is among the most popular trees with bonsai enthusiasts.
While there are many different cultivars of Japanese Maple, all are suited to the art of bonsai due to their adaptability to training and their vibrant leaf shapes and colors. They can be trained in multiple bonsai growing styles, particularly in the informal upright (moyogi), slanting (shakan) and cascade (kengai) styles. When grown in the wild, a maple can reach more than 30-feet in height with multiple trunks that grow to the ground, and naturally dome-like foliage.
Although Japanese Maple are dormant during the winter months, during the growing season many varieties sport beautiful red and purple leaves that change throughout the year and set this species apart from other plants commonly cultivated for bonsai.
The Japanese Maple is generally adaptable in lower light and temperature conditions. This maple tends to grow best receiving sun only in the morning and afternoon, due to its delicate leaves, which can burn when exposed to the hotter mid-day sun.
When choosing a Japanese Maple bonsai, begin with a trunk that is at least four inches in diameter. That way, you will have the option to pursue a variety of styles when growing your bonsai. Due to their popularity among both beginners and more advanced growers, these maples are fairly easy to find either as seedlings or as already started bonsai (usually at around four to six inches tall).
Although it is not necessarily required to water a Japanese Maple bonsai every day, check daily to make sure the soil is not dry. The soil should be moist at all times. Also, be mindful not to overwater, as this can lead to root rot. Especially prior to new growth, this plant can become very thirsty and are susceptible to drying out quickly. It's important to regularly mist it to keep up its humidity level. If the plant has been root pruned, you must mist it so that the leaves are able to absorb an adequate amount of water to live on until the roots are able to supply the tree with water.
It is best to prune a Japanese Maple during the spring, when it is beginning its growth cycle. Occasionally, this maple may begin to grow a spiral of branches from dormant buds. If there are dormant buds in between the nodes, your tree may be at risk for this. If you plan to purchase a Japanese Maple or grow it from a cutting, make sure to carefully inspect the plant.
Japanese Maple trees vary in how fast they will grow. It is important to be patient and not use any growth-accelerating fertilizers with this bonsai. This can shock the tree and cause damage that can either destroy the tree or at least cause a major setback to its proper growth.
Overall, the Japanese Maple is a great choice for either the beginning or advanced bonsai enthusiast!

Caring For Japanese Maples

Some popular Japanese Maple varieties can be expensive, but they are an investment that will mature into one of the most interesting pieces in your garden. Because of its value and incredible potential, losing a Japanese Maple would be devastating to any dedicated gardener. Under the two major species, Acer Palmatum and Acer Japonicum, there are over 1,000 individual cultivars and new varieties introduced everyday, each one with its own specific needs. It can be very difficult to pinpoint exactly how you should care for you specific tree.Take the time to research which tree you want and its needs. Try to get as much information as you can from the provider about your tree. This article offers a few brief tips about general care for Acers that should get you started in the right direction.
Planting Your Acer
Most Japanese Maples have delicate, deeply lobed leaves that are very susceptible to wind and the hot summer sun. Having the tree fully exposed will certainly lead to scorched leaves and a puny tree. Think of your tree's habit and mature size when planting. You would not want a tree that will be 15' wide in a few years planted too closely to any permanent structure or other trees. Choose a place with plenty of room in a partially shaded place, preferably a spot where your tree can get a nice dose of morning sun and be protected through the harshest part of those hot summer afternoons.
Gardeners will often plant their trees in holes that are too deep and too narrow. Roots need access to oxygen and room to grow. Dig a hole about three times the width of the root ball, and the crown (the place where the roots meet the trunk) should be level with the soil surface. If you have clay soil, make sure to break up the sides and bottom of the hole to prevent water from being trapped and rotting your brand new tree. If your tree was in a container, carefully pull apart the roots to ensure that your tree does not become girdled and strangle itself. Recover the soil to the crown, but do not pack it down tightly--loose dirt allows roots to become established.
Feeding and Watering Your Acer
Japanese Maples love moisture--during the warmer months, especially for the first few seasons, make sure you give your tree a good deep watering about twice a week to help it establish strong roots. An all-purpose slow-release fertilizer is perfect for Japanese Maples. Just work the fertilizer into the soil around the tree at the beginning of the season, and that should be plenty for the rest of the year. Some varieties, especially the dissectum varieties of Acer Palmatum, have very fine dissected leaves. These varieties will probably need a little more water and a little more attention to ensure that the leaves do not dry up and scorch in the summer or freeze in a late frost and scorch. If you suspect a late frost is headed your way, just go ahead and cover your Acers and any other delicates in your garden.
Maintaining Your Acer
If your tree has been properly planted, has established itself, and has developed a strong root system, the only thing left to do is periodic pruning and shaping. Pruning maples is really simple. Remove dead or damaged limbs, and any new growth that appears on the main trunk (allowing your tree to focus its energy on filling out its distinctly beautiful branches). You may also want to shorten long limbs that distract from the overall shape of the tree.
Whether it's a variety of Acer Japonicum or Acer palmatum, given the right care, your Japanese Maple will be stunning. When it comes to Acers, gardeners are always looking for something very specific, and it will be to your greatest advantage to not only consider the tips above, but research your tree and know exactly what it needs to secure your wonderful investment. Whether you are looking for dwarf Japanese Maples or dazzling bright Japanese Maples with fiery colored foliage, make sure you do your homework first, and your new tree will make your garden spectacular for years to come.

How to Grow Japanese Maples

Growing the seedling variety has been covered in a previous article.
In order to grow a hybrid plant, you will require two things. Rootstock, on which the hybrid will actually grow, and a source for the stem of the plant.
When you look at any hybrid Japanese maple, you will see a graft at the base of the plant. This is evidence that the plant is, in fact, a hybrid and not just a lucky seedling.
The rootstock used is generally the hardy basic acer palmatum. These plants are very easy to grow, and should you be entertaining the idea of trying your own hybrids, you would be well advised to grow several dozen from seed to use as your rootstock.
There are several different ways to make the actual graft, and the method described here is the most common one, the side graft.
The rootstock, or understock of choice will be a two year old seedling. The scion, or short piece of shoot from the parent hybrid, may be one or two year old wood. One important thing is that the diameter of the understock and scion ideally should be as close to identical as possible. The reason is that as much of the cambium layer as possible needs to match up.
It is this cambium layer, or the very thin layer between the bark and actual wood of the plant, which will carry the nutrients and moisture. The more of the cambium layer that matches between the understock and the scion, the better and stronger the plant will grow.
To prepare the understock for grafting, cut the shoots back to about 6" in the winter when the plants are dormant. The actual grafting is usually done in January, when growth becomes stimulated. However, this may vary widely in your area, and in fact there is even a method for summertime grafting.
The scion should be collected immediately before grafting. You can use terminal shoots between 1" to 8" long. Aim for 3 pairs of buds on the scion.
Great care must be taken when doing the graft. Using a new razor blade on the understock, make a slicing cut downwards at a steep angle until you are roughly 1/3 of the way through the wood. This is done very low down on the stock. Remove the upper 2/3 of the "flap" on the outside of the cut.
With scion in hand, or on the bench, make a slicing cut at the bottom, matching the angle of the understock cut as closely as possible. Then remove a very small amount from the end of the scion, leaving a somewhat stubby point. Insert this point into the understock, and try to match up as much of the two cambium layers as possible.
Using grafting tape, or budding rubber, or even cotton thread, tie the union together very carefully. It is important to note that the cambium layer not be harmed, as this will result in a lost plant. The union should immediately be covered with beeswax or paraffin, or a grafting wax emulsion made for the purpose. The idea is to prevent exposure to the air and to promote rapid healing of the union.
As winter turns into spring, you should start to see your young tree sprouting new growth, a sure sign of your success!

Japanese Maples, Perennial Plants and Shrubs - The Benefits For Your GardenJapanese Maples, Perennial Plants and Shrubs - The Benefits For Your Garden

The benefits of perennial plants continues to grow (no pun intended) and each new season brings new and exciting introductions to the home gardener.
A typical example is the much loved Black-Eyed Susan which in its new form will bloom from early May until frost, unlike its original companion which blooms from mid July until late August only.
Dwarf shrubs, small trees and ornamental grasses can add colour, texture and dimension, so your garden can look beautiful year round, even in more extreme climate areas where it may be snow covered during the winter months.
In addition to their sheer variety and beauty, perennials can be selected to attract birds, for fragrance, ground cover or low maintenance and of course for many other reasons.
Many of us forget the added bonus, that a perennial garden can provide a supply of fresh cut flowers and foliage for your home at least from early spring to mid November.
Its hard to think of another tree as beautiful and spiritual as the delicate Japanese Maple - often referred to as the "Aristocrat of Trees". Whether a tall elegant variety or a low-to-the-ground bushy type- a full size plant or a carefully cultivated bonsai, the Japanese Maple has a grace and personality that has made it near and dear to gardeners, amateurs and spectators around the world.
With all the new customized plant varieties and information now available, it becomes easier and easier for the amateur gardener to make an informed choice, so get the help and advice you need make your garden a special and magical place year after year.
Brookwood Gardens is a garden centre/nursery located in St.Catharines, Ontario, right in the heart of Wine Country. It is the place to go in the Niagara Peninsula for home grown perennials, shrubs and trees, specializing in Japanese Maples.

Tips For Pruning Japanese Maple Trees

Japanese maples come in a variety of shapes and sizes and it is important that you consider exactly what you want to achieve before you approach a tree with pruning shears. Pruning Japanese maple trees is not as difficult as you may be led to believe. But there are a few things that are important to know so as to avoid permanently damaging the tree.
Avoid pruning in the spring and autumn. It is during these periods that the maple is at its most active. During the spring the sap is rising to provide nourishment for new shoots. If you do have to prune, then seal off any large cuts to prevent the loss of sap. In the autumn the tree is flowering and is preparing seeds for propagation.
During the summer some trees can become overgrown with foliage and it may become necessary to trim this back. Usually it is enough to remove some of the inner foliage to allow for a free flow of air through the tree and to be able to appreciate the tree structure. Be careful not to cut too much and expose areas of the trunk to excessive sunlight that wouldn't normally be exposed.
You should also check the tree late winter but before any new shoots appear. Just trim away any dead twigs and check over the trunk and branches for any damage. It is at this time you would make any major trimming like removing lower branches.
If you decide to remove any major offshoots then always cut with the tree and not into it. Seal off any large cuts to prevent infection. You can use normal window putty for this. Avoid trimming branches opposite each other on the trunk and avoid trimming off branches directly below or above each other. This will help to avoid placing undue stress on the tree.
Trying to restrict the height of your tree by pruning will only damage the overall appearance and put the tree under stress. If your tree is growing too high then either you should move it or think about replacing it. The natural growth pattern for any tree is upwards.
If ever you are in doubt it is always worthwhile consulting with an expert who can advise you of the best course of action. Usually the best advice for anyone who is considering pruning a Japanese maple is to imagine you are cutting your own fingernails, only cut what is necessary.

Tips on Where to Plant Japanese Maple Trees

Knowing where to plant Japanese maple trees is an important aspect of care. The maple can take up to 2 - 3 years to establish itself especially in an outdoor location. Planting in the wrong place could mean that the tree will suffer and you will never get to appreciate the full beauty of the foliage.
The Japanese maple has been a favorite of Japanese gardeners for centuries. Over the years many different cultivars have been bred and now there in excess of 1,000 different varieties. However, some of these do not travel well and at present there are around 100 - 150 different cultivars available elsewhere. The variety of these in size, color and shape is sufficient for most people to choose a plant for their requirements.
There are four main factors to consider when planning where to plant a Japanese maple tree. These are sunlight, water, wind and ensuring that there is room to grow. These apply to trees that are being planted outside as well as those that are being potted for either outdoor or indoor use.
As a rule, the maple likes the sun, especially in the morning, but not excessive sunlight. If you live in a sunny, hot area then you will need to consider some shade for the tree. For larger plants this could be other trees or buildings. For smaller trees you may need to consider constructing a shade system.
Japanese maples like plenty of water but it must be a well drained area. If you have a pond or river nearby then this is a good indication that you will be okay. Overwatering and poor drainage is a key problem with many maples.
Surprisingly the wind plays quite an important part of where to plant your maple. The maple has a shallow root system and too much wind will dry out the soil too quickly. Also the wind carries bacteria which can affect the health of your tree. High winds can also affect growth patterns so you may need to consider staking the tree to help it grow straight.
Room to grow
Because the Japanese maple has a shallow root system, planning for room to grow is not too much of a problem. Allowing the same room as the expected upper spread of the tree should be sufficient. For potted plants allow 2 - 3 times the area of the current root system, this should be good for a couple of years.
The important point to note when you plant Japanese maple trees is to recognize their original habitat. They are mountain trees and enjoy well drained soil, plenty of water, are well adapted to differences in temperature and enjoy the company of other trees and plants for protection.