The small Japanese maple below has proved to be quite vigorous. In an effort to slow the tree down and produce shorter internodes, this past year I pinched spring growth, applied very little fertilizer, and fully defoliated the leaves and cut back the branches in spring. Here’s the result.
Overall there are lots of new branches and the internodes are shorter than they were in each of the previous two years.
Relatively short internodes
The back buds that appeared after defoliating the tree have yet to open but they still look good. We’ll see how many of them open this year.
I noticed that branches I cut back frequently produced four shoots from the same spot. Because branches that split into two are more attractive than branches that split into four, I plan to thin these areas to two branches or to remove them completely.
Four new shoots emerging from the same spot
In weaker areas, I saw the same four shoots but with much smaller internodes.
Four very short shoots
These shoots are shorter than I’d like which means I’ve finally dialed back the vigor to an acceptable level. I’ll let these areas with four shoots each grow freely until May or June when I’ll consider defoliating again.
Looking at the underside of a branch, I found an old wound that didn’t heal properly. I cleaned the area with a grafting knife and applied cut paste to help it heal.
After cleaning the wound
After applying cut paste
The current focus is to build branch density. If the tree continues to grow like this for several years, I’ll have enough density to let me start thinning the branches and refining the tree’s outline.
After minor cutback – 6″ tall, 13″ wide
Branches seen from above
Subscribe to Bonsai Tonight
New Posts Delivered Every Tuesday and Friday