Nursery Japanese Maple

I saw this tree a few months ago in the above condition. It had an awesome base and a pretty decent price tag so I picked it up. I couldn’t wait for warmer weather to come around so I could work on it. As far as raw nursery stock, this guy has the best potential of any in my small collection. The base is the most important feature in bonsai and this type of base on a Japanese Maple is rare for your average nursery.

I initially started with a chop (a significant reduction in trunk height/length) during the dormant winter season. (Micah is making a guest appearance in his PJs for this post.)

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I had stopped here and had planned to keep all 4 of these trunks to rebuild my canopy. After I chopped it, I realized that the damage on the back side wasn’t just superficial, and wouldn’t likely heal over since most of the rear trunks were dead.


I decided it would be better to completely remove them and go with a twin-trunk design.


Fast forward to yesterday and after a lot of staring and chin rubbing, I decided that when I repotted the tree, I would have to remove that lateral root on the right side. It is elevated from the soil line and just doesn’t fit. There is also a smaller root directly below the problematic one that will fatten up nicely in a few years and fill up the gap left by removing the one in question.

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I have a hard time throwing anything away so I decided to try a little experiment with this root. It had smaller roots going into the rootball so…..


This might turn into a cool little tree just to play with. It might also die. Oh well…I just couldn’t throw it out when I had a perfectly good mac and cheese bowl (thanks to my boys)┬áto put it in. Anyhoo, back to the tree.

The rootball was more like a concrete block than roots. They were completely compacted. About 2 hours later, I finally made it to this point:

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It was an insane amount of work getting the roots reduced down to this point. Think I’m exaggerating?


Those are carbon steel knob cutters. Or I should say they were. I removed A LOT of thick and hardened roots. It will take a year or two for this tree to fully recover from that much being removed. It is better to just get it out of the way now instead of dealing with it a little at a time. Maples are pretty tough and it should be fine. If it were a pine, it would be a 5 year project to get to this point.


I placed a flat piece of wood in my grow box to pot the tree on top of. This will prevent any roots from growing downward and will encourage lateral growth.


I removed the Oil Dri mixture from my soil blend because it tends to break down too fast. This is potted in equal parts pumice, turface, and pine bark fines. Hopefully, I will have many fresh shoots to wire at the end of the growing season!