Species Specific > Japanese Maple Bonsai Discussion

Separated a pot-layered Twin-trunk Japanese Maple

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I've always contended that there isn't any real need to suffer through bad roots on a Japanese maple. 

Last fall, I was excited about the possibilities of a twin-trunk pre-bonsai piece of material that I had.  At its planting depth, the two trunks split RIGHT at the soil, but I noticed there weren't any roots to be seen.  I recalled working the roots fairly hard on most all of my material, so I trusted that an awesome nebari to grow into was looming just below the surface.

This spring, I found out that was NOT reality.

I'll give credit to Al for the inspiration of the interesting parts of this technique ...and if that credit is misdirected then he can lump it! :)  The layer started out as normal:  removed a ring of bark.   I then applied with a brush the rooting hormone around the upper edge of the barkless ring.

Credit to Al for the next part:  (I believe I saw him post his version of this somewhere, but can't find the link at the moment) I tore a paper towel into thin strips, maybe 1/4" wide and maybe 2" long.  Nothing too scientific, just what I could manage to do by hand.  I then wet the paper towels and dusted them with hormone.  After rubbing the hormone into the moistened paper towel strips enough that it wouldn't drop off, I wrapped the upper edge of the barkless ring with one layer of these strips.  I then proceeded to dust that strip wrapped around the tree with hormone, and applied another and dusted it w/ hormone (while on the tree).

For good measure, I tied a piece of aluminum as tight and close as I could to that upper edge as well.

Essentially, the idea was to cake on thin layers of hormone that are protected/held by the paper towel so that upon first watering the soil, it isn't washed through the drain holes.

Hopefully, everything I've said makes sense.  If it doesn't, maybe these pictures will clarify things.

More of the process

A couple of times throughout the year, I'd poke and prod at the ball of moss (surrounded by Boon Mix) that was hidden in the pot to see if there were roots.  Pretty early on I was sure that roots had struck, but I got busy this summer with other things and wasn't able to check regularly.

I expected I'd have enough roots to sustain the tree when I went to separate it this weekend.  Boy was I surprised!

awesome!  Wish you had posted this4 months ago - I've got a batch of layers that aren't pushing roots.  I will try this technique next year.

- bob

I was impressed with the volume of roots, and pleased with the uniformity and coverage of the roots.  I was also surprised that the roots were not very fragile.  I cleaned the sphagnum from the rootball and don't think I damaged a single root.

It doesn't show very well, but in the "upskirt" photo, I was able to sever RIGHT below the ring of roots. (Also without losing/breaking any roots.)  This is ready-made for planting into a shallow tray, and that's exactly what I'll be doing come spring.  (I would've this weekend, but I didn't have something suitable with me.)


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