May 2005: I found this Acer palmatum bonsai on Ebay, it had quite a fat trunk but due to its ugliness, no-one seemed interested in bidding on it, so I decided to pick it up at a ridiculously low price of just £60. Above is the auction picture of the tree.
When I received the tree and studied it, I decided that the best front might be towards the left of the original front shown in the auction picture.
As with many Korean imported trees, it was hopelessly root-bound though the soil was, thankfully, good. I lifted the tree out of its ceramic pot and potted it up into a larger mica pot straight away to allow some root growth for the remainder of 2005.
June is a good time to prune heavy branches (that will leave large scars) on many deciduous trees as the resulting wound heals quickly. This bonsai had many heavy branches that were either too straight, had long internodes or were to thick to be bent with wire. Though it was not possible to consider the whole structure of the tree while still in leaf, I removed the heavy branches that I already knew had no future on this tree.
After removal of over 1/2 of the branches and foliage, the tree didn't look pretty. Pruning out 'faulted' branches is not easy because the resulting branch structure can look very ugly (as shown above) but this is only short-term until new branches are grown.
Very often, it is better to grit your teeth and correct the branch structure immediately and suffer the short-term consequences than to try and tolerate an ugly branch structure for many years!
March 2006: During the Spring , I potted the tree into a new Erin Pot. As this was the first repotting (by me) of this tree, I bare-rooted the bonsai entirely. It took a long time to separate the encircling roots but after an hour or two, I realised the tree had a great nebari that had been hidden under the soil.
The best side of the nebari was towards the previous back of the tree; so the tree was turned 180° to show the nebari to its best effect. Unfortunately, the change in thetree-front did mean I had to change my previous plans for the branch structure. A good example of the need to determine the definite front of a tree before making a permanent plans!
The image above shows the tree after repotting, further branch pruning and wiring in March 2006.
The two images show a close-up of the nebari/trunkbase in Spring 2006 and later, in the Summer 2006.
In the first image, two crossing roots (towards the right) have merged together and created an ugly 'elbow' protrusion. Rather than remove this piece of root during the Spring, I waited until midsummer when I knew that its removal would prompt much quicker healing and closure of the resulting wound.
The wound is very prominent at present and will take 3-5 years to heal over (assuming strong and vigorous growth in the tree) but as with the branch structure of this tree, an ugly fault is often best addressed immediately rather than ignored.
September 2006: There are many improvements that can still be made to this Japanese Maple bonsai in the future. However, its appearance has improved in a very short time and it has already recovered some of the beauty it lost just over a year ago.
August 2008: Two years later and the bonsai has progressed further. Much work has been put into refining the branch structure, increasing the movement and taper of the branches and this in turn has reduced the size of the leaves. As maybe noted, the first left branch has also been removed, this has allowed me to turn the bonsai a few degrees anti-clockwise (without the branch facing directly forward at the viewer) to show the nebari to its best effect. Work is still needed on the first (right) branch to increase leaf mass.
I have also concentrated on developing the nebari (surface roots) and buttressing and this has allowed the bonsai to be planted higher above soil level, enhancing the strength of the trees base.
Current height 14"/34cm, root spread is 6"/15cm
Finally; the maple showing its vibrant autumn colours