Rescue Maple

I thought I would share the journey of this Maple with you now that I’m happy it will actually survive. [kiss of death there then]

I was visiting the collection of another bonsai enthusiast early last year. He was wanting to sell some trees and I was happy to oblige. I had already taken a few off his hands at a very good price. He had lost quite a few in the previous bad Winter and many of his trees were still suffering. He lives in a remote area and didn’t have access to akadama etc and had improvised in previous years with a mixture of peat and chicken grit! The first thing I did with all his trees when I got them home was to repot.

Anyway, I spotted this Japanese Maple on his bench and noticed that if it didn’t get some quick treatment, it wouldn’t last the year. It had once been a beautiful tree but had begun to rot at the base and was loosing branches. The leaf size was tiny, but not in a good way, it was very weak. I just couldn’t leave it there and I felt it was worth the risk. I made him an offer and took it home.

This is it after I had lifted it out of it’s pot and removed a sopping wet layer of chicken grit from the roots.

I potted it on into a plastic box for the rest of the year. On closer inspection of the trunk base, I found a think layer of mud all over the deadwood. When I removed it, well, you can see that a lot of the deadwood was un-salvageable. I know that deadwood on a maple is usually not acceptable but, I liked the rough bark on the maple and thought I could make it work at the cheap pick up price. My other thought was to air layer it above the base. This isn’t an option either as the shari extended up the trunk on that side unseen below a dead layer of bark! I treated the deadwood at the base with wood hardener to stop the rot. My main concern was keeping the thing alive for now.

The tree could be angled slightly to disguise the inverse taper and make a bit of a feature of the deadwood.

 Deadwood after treating.

Back of the tree.

I placed it into my poly tunnel where it held on for the rest of the year. You can see from this photo just how weak it was.

This was it in the Autumn of 2010. The Colour was beautiful.

It was at this point that I investigated a uro on the other side of the tree.

After some poking around I found that the centre of the tree was hollow and the hole from this uro joined up with top of the deadwood on the other side. Again, I cleaned this up and treated with wood hardener.

The bark on the tree was still a good feature. It had to have one good feature!!

After some consideration I decided to repot the tree properly in the Autumn. It was still in the original crap soil mix surrounded by pure grit from my potting on. I wanted to get it out of the mix rather that it sitting in it all Winter. I knew that I would have to keep it well protected but, the Tunnel took care of this.

By repotting and exposing the rotted base, I had another opportunity to treat the deadwood with hardener, even in places I couldn’t reach before. I had bought a training pot for it so I could get it tied in securely. When I started to clear the roots, it wasn’t a pretty sight. The tree had issued some new roots out into the grit but had done nothing within the old mix at all. Below shows all the roots I had to work with.

You can also see here the extent of the shari up the trunk.

This was obviously a very old shari that the tree had been rolling in on over the last few years. Callousing can be seen around the top 4 inches. I tidied up the wounds and cleaned out the chop point further up the tree and added cut paste.

It was put away for the Winter and I kept my fingers crossed that I had made the right decision in repotting in the Autumn. Of course we had a bad Winter and I was worried that it wouldn’t come through it.

Then, in March, the buds started to swell.

Another coat of wood hardener was added.

A few weeks later.

Even the cut paste around the chop wound was starting to crack fron the callousing underneath.

The tree was moved into my greenhouse where I keep most of my maples. The leaf size was a lot larger this year. I took this as a good sign at it was doing its best to photosynthesise. It opened well but at no point did it attempt to produce extension growth this year. I have had a little poke around in the mix and can see plenty of fine root appearing. Fingers crossed that the hard part of keeping it alive is over.

This is it now.

Hopefully next year will see renewed vigour and some extension growth. Perhaps then I can try and figure out what to do with a maple that has a hollow trunk, deadwood base and extending shari, oh, and poor branch structure!!

I could do a high air layer on the trunk and also layer off the branches. However, after all the struggles to keep it alive as is, I’m tempted to keep it this way and just have it for that beautiful Spring and Autumn colour on the bench. Poor thing has had a hard life.

God! What a soft touch I am!!! 🙂

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