Acer Palmatum Project

This is the story so far of an Acer Palmatum  bonsai project that was started from collected seed in 2001. Not all of the seeds that I planted at this time, grew into strong healthy plants. Many were quite weak and died off within a year or two. This one proved to be a notable exception. I am now 13 years into this project and it’s still has a long way to go.It has, incidentally, spent all of its life in a pot.

The first picture, which shows the autumn colour quite well, was taken in 2004.


This is it again in 2011. It had been growing in this larger pot for a number of years, when this picture was taken


In the early spring of 2012 t was transferred into its first bonsai pot. I have taken a number of air layers from this tree over the years


Spring of 2013, the trunk has been chopped back and there are lots of new buds emerging that will form the new leader.


Spring of 2014, the new leader has grown well and the chop mark has been trimmed back to the new trunk line.


Winter 2014, another seasons growth has thickened the leader considerably. It has just been cut back to allow winter storage in the greenhouse


Before the end of this winter I will cut it back again at the spot indicated by the red line in the next picture, and the new leader will be formed from the tiny shoot indicated by the arrow.

maple copy


10 thoughts on “Acer Palmatum Project

  1. Thanks for another interesting post, Robert. Keep up the good work! If the tree were mine, I would use the shoot on the right to make the new leader as it continues the movement of the trunk. Also, it looks like the right-hand shoot comes slightly forward towards the viewer. Tim, Netherlands.

    • Hi Tim, thank you for your comments, they are much appreciated. I will wait until both shoots have grown a few inches before I make the final choice for a new leader. Movement and direction can always be manipulated with the wire

  2. Pingback: Acer Palmatum Project Update 2015 | Robert Nocher Shohin Bonsai

  3. Robert, is there a soil mix that these species do better with? I have seen the same things with seed grown Japanese Maples. Some can grow 5x faster and stronger than others.

      • Same here, we have weeks of a little rain each day. The peat based potting mixes just wont dry. I am now using the 511 mix based on pine bark pieces and the trees in pots sure seem to do better. I liked the concept of 511 and ‘gritty mixes’ because its similar to bonsai soil, just larger particles. I have been using Osmocote Plus in the Japanese Maples and they seem to like that too. Is there a better fertilizer you’ve found?

    • The soil mix that I use is completely inorganic. It’s a 50/50 mix of course akadama and kiryu. The course grain structure allows better drainage than the finer grained mix. Akadama tends to break down when it freezes in our winter but the kiryu, which is much harder keeps the soil open.
      For trees in development that still have a long way to go, I use cheap high nitrogen fertiliser from my local garden centre.
      For trees in refinement that are nearing completion, I use organic cake fertiliser with a low NPK

      • Robert, I honestly would suggest to get a small bottle of Foliage Pro by Dyna Grow and give their products a try. It really encouraged a good thick and full canopy of leaves and the trees really do well fertilized with it. I wish I knew about it sooner. It is a complete fertilizer with all trace minerals added as well. All of my trees (and plants in containers) have been more than happy with that product. (I’m sure you know fast growth isn’t just about high N ratios) My J.Maples really filled in better canopies and their colors were noticeably brighter. I can go on and on about that product. They don’t make products just for bonsai but the fertilizer are top notch. Thanks for the detailed explanation and I am going to investigate the kiryu more. I’ve often had to use various substitutes as ‘proper’ bonsai soils as supplies are always so pricey. 🙂 I have also enjoyed the photos you take at the shows you attended the past couple years too so be sure to take a bunch when you have the opportunity.

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