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Studio Stories – Kiyohime Maple…..bonsai have good days and bad days!

Sometimes I work on nursery trees, sometimes I work on client’s trees……and sometimes if I’ve been a really good boy I get to work on my own trees. Hopefully these regular visits will give you an insight into what goes on behind closed doors……….

Studio Stories – Kiyohime Maple…..bonsai have good days and bad days!

As a bonsai get’s older it often has quite a story to tell……changes of ownership, style, pot,…….times when it flourishes, times when it struggles….. so just like us it has good days and bad days.

These two Kiyohime Maple garden trees entered Europe from Korea around 2003 and arrived at our nursery the following year. You can see how large they are in that they were easier to move about the place on a pallet.

One of my students selected what we thought was the one with the best potential for conversion to a bonsai. The initial pruning/styling was carried out on a class and you can see the before and after pictures below.

I created a garden around the main entrance to the greenhouse in preparation for our Newstead Bonsai events and decided to use the remaining Kiyohime Maple. You can see things taking shape below.

The following spring disaster struck! The Kiyohime is one of the earliest maples to leaf out and following some mild weather the tree was leafing out and making a very nice image. Unfortunately we got caught out by a severe overnight frost which basically took away most of the top of the tree.

Unlike most maples the Kiyohime is not apical dominant but grows strongest to the side. This growth habit would undoubtedly hinder the trees recovery.

The tree continued to lose branches and looked very poor indeed. I transferred the tree to my garden border hoping to stimulate a quiet sheltered recovery. After a couple of years the tree stopped deteriorating and started to put out some new growth.

One side of the tree had gone and it was never going to make an attractive garden tree again. I decided the best possible future for the tree was now as a bonsai so in December 2011 I lifted the tree and potted it into a large bonsai pot. This was just before we sold off the garden centre in February and my heart attack in the March of 2012.

Fortunately we have recovered well together. The tree has been nurtured in my garden amongst my private collection and grows stronger every year. You can see how big and healthy the canopy has become.

Two weeks ago the tree was repotted into a large but much shallower bonsai container…..more appropriate for a Maple of this character. It is now actually starting to look the part even in it’s winter image. There is excellent scope for carving and deadwood on the left hand side of the tree.

This tree really does have a story to tell……but hopefully now it can recall the bad days of the past but look forward to many chapters full of good days in the future!