It has been pouring cats and dogs all Easter, so it is surprising that the trees are still going on with their spring thing despite cold and wet weather. It has been a very mild winter, so everything seems to be pushed forward by this, despite the disappointing missing sun and heat now. A good thing though, is that it will keep the trees from flowering too short and too early, maybe be a good timing for the annual exhibition within three weeks from now, in the Danish Bonsai Society. Crossing fingers, and everything might be just in time.
In this small series about my favourite bonsai specimens, it is about the classic Japanese maple. It is so obvious a tree for Shohin bonsai that I can’t neglect it at the list. The shifting kind of leaves, is the Acer palmatum and A. buergerianum have lovely leafs and good trunks if grown properly.
Tolerant for pruning, and also showing beauty during the dormant period, makes it very suitable for especially Shohin-bonsai displays, showing the change of the seasons. So what is not to like. Especially the A. buergerianum, Trident maple (named by the form of the leaves), shows a great winter image, where the dormant buds waiting for spring looks refreshing and neat.
The trick is to keep the foliage healthy, especially during the heat of the summer where leaf burns at the fragile A. palmatum can be a small problem. Although it is rarely a real problem, because most exhibitions are from autumn until late spring, and in the meantime it is more of a personal approach if you care much about these small failures happening during the season.
Leaf pruning is a way of controlling the balance of energy in the tree, as well as defoliating full or partially, is a technique usable to keep a dense branch construction and smaller leafs. All of which the Japanese maples are very tolerant and reacting positive at.
Partial shade is necessary during the warm summer months, and controlling the tree for aphids is also a good idea. I have rarely had any problems with pests, but it can happen on weak and stressed trees. The shifting seasons are clearly reflected in the Japanese maple, with fresh red-green new foliage in spring, darker green variations in summer, and beautiful yellow or red in autumn/fall.
One of my favourite trees for bonsai is Trident maples. Acer buergerianum leaves have a special delicate and sharp form that I appreciate. Add to this the summer green freshness and golden fall colours.
At the moment the Trident maple stands 11 cm in height. This will not last forever though, because it will outgrow the small pot eventually. The trick is to keep it healthy growing, which demands careful feeding and dappled shade during the hot summer months. Either by placing it so garden trees provides the needed shade, or by placing it under bigger bonsai e.g. This to avoid it drying out too fast.
Normally I defoliate larger (also shohin) late spring or early summer. But I do not dare to do it with a tree this small. Instead I make a partly defoliation, by cutting large leaves in half size to balance growth, and only remove strong growth. The small room for roots do not leave energy enough to make the more stressing total defoliation. Better safe than sorry.