Air layering a Japanese maple
Almost a year ago to the day I wrote about a Japanese maple I’d taken on that was ripe for several long-term projects (see Restoring an old Japanese maple). I started on the first, an air-layer, this past weekend at a BIB workshop.
I would have layered the tree last year, but I had just repotted it and I wanted the tree to be strong before starting a layer. Now quite healthy, the tree is ready for layering.
Section to be air-layered
The first step is selecting a location for the new roots and removing a ring of bark just below that spot.
Why did I choose the narrow section of the trunk between two bulges that would have left me with a larger nebari? Short answer – this is actually the first of two layers. Once I remove the top of the tree, I plan to turn it on its side and layer it a second time to make a clump-style bonsai. For now, I simply need enough roots to allow me to separate the tree from the lower trunk. That’s the plan for now anyway.
After removing the bark, I applied a small amount of rooting hormone to the upper ring of exposed bark, wrapped the peeled area in moist white sphagnum moss, and covered the whole with plastic.
All wrapped up – layer complete
After preparing layer and minor cutback
I next turned my attention to a significant scar at the base of the trunk.
Somehow the wound is actually closing from all sides as the roots below the scar are still alive. This gives me hope that the scar might someday close. To speed up the process, I opened up the edges of the scar and covered the entire area with cutpaste.
Re-opening the wound
Covering the open wound with cutpaste
Covering the rest of the scar with cutpaste
You likely noticed that the “cutpaste” looks more like chocolate pudding than the typical bonsai cutpaste. I used “joint caulk,” a Japanese product whose intended use I don’t fully understand. Junichiro Tanaka has been using the compound for some time on bonsai and has seen great results so I bought a tube and have been using it on all of my trees.
Joint Caulk-A (aka ジョイント コーク•A)
A few seats away from me, Carol was uncovering some scars that were treated one and two years ago. In the photo below, the upper scar was gouged out last year. The lower scar was treated two years ago and is now almost entirely healed over.
Scars on trident maple
After removing the cutpaste on the lower scar
I don’t expect the huge scar on my Japanese maple to heal so quickly. Even if I planted the tree in the ground, I’d still expect at least 3 years to pass before it closed up completely. As the tree still needs plenty of work, I’m in no hurry.
Jeff’s satsuki azalea
I couldn’t resist posting a photo of the azalea above. Jeff left it in the workshop so we could enjoy the flowers – I hope you enjoy them too. And thanks again for reading. Somehow this is my 300th post. Were it not for your readership and helpful comments, I’d have stopped long ago. Here’s to the next 300!