New Acer Palmatum

Hi guys,
I hope you are all doing well.
Let me introduce you my little acer palmatum. I bought it last summer, did the major prunes in the fall and repotted it couple of weeks ago. Obviously, we have a long journey ahead of us but I’m curious to hear your thoughts on it and ideas on what to improve. The plant was not what you’d call a healthy tree and hence I got it for just 25 euros, which I thought was quite a deal. Due to it not being the healthiest, I left few of the branches untouched and was a little bit conservative during the repot. That is why the long straight branch is left on the trunk and why the full nebari (that is actually decent) is not uncovered. I plan to wire/shorten/cut off some of these straight branches this coming fall.
Also, it is the cultivar called “Butterfly”, that does not seem the most suitable for bonsai. At least it seems like many people think that but I cannot find the reason why… Does any of you BBB (Big Bonsai Brains) know? The tree does not seem to be grafted or the graft is not visible (the discoloration in the bark is caused by it being buried in soil almost halfway up the trunk).
What I envision for the tree is something like that old english oak style…
Happy to hear all your ideas on where to take it from now on.
Have a wonderful spring, Jan.



Rear and a pen for reference:


Looks like a good start on the journey to turning this into a nice bonsai. I suggest you focus on the health of the tree this year and put some movement into the branches once they get going. Butterfly has fairly deeply divided leaves that are variegated often serrated. It is easier to keep the tree looking tidy if the leaves are less deeply divided and single color. Many cultivar are also a bit weaker on their own roots which is why they are often grafted. I like the leaves and have a thinner one that is grafted and I need to air layer it this year since the graft is fairly high. Good luck with the tree.


I like this thread, there’s not enough chat about trees in development. It seems people are posting about their sticks in a pot (sorry newbies~!) or their collected yamadori that has been in training for 50 years.

I agree with not chopping too much to be conservative, but be aware you probably won’t want two similar thickness branches at the same level. These aren’t exactly at the exact same height, per se, but they are close enough. I would choose one of each of these pairs to stay longer, and one to cut back further once you get buds pushing below the initial cut and the new growth has hardened off. Alternatively you could wait to prune back further this fall or next Spring.

And you may wish to remove even more, I could see the central part of this trunk bulging slightly with all the growth coming from one place. Maybe, but maybe not too. The third picture I attached was a field grown tree of mine that resulted in an inverse taper due to too many branches growing from the central trunk.

Lastly I attached a field grown tree that starts to look better with branches of varying heights, diameters (thickness), and going in different directions.

image image

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PS: The lovely tree in the last photo is now half-dead because I cut back hard before I learned about “collars” from Ryan. And we had a late spring snow/freeze and it died back to the trunk. It’s hanging on… kinda.

The parts in yellow are dead.

Hi Eric!
Thanks a lot for the feedback. I left the stubs longer for two reasons:

  1. As I said, the tree was not the healthiest so I left them long intentionally because I was aware of the fact that it might take internode or two before the tree truly compartmentalise.
  2. As Ryan once put it… Trying to tame the deciduous tree completely would strip it of it’s natural beauty. Hence, I left as much stuff that I could imagine being part of the final tree.

Also, I managed to submit the tree to this week’s Forum Q&A (and I’ve seen you did too), so it will be interesting to hear what Ryan thinks.

I have to say, you have some really nice trees (have seen the field as well). I wish you all the luck in the world with developing them into some majestic specimens. I’m a bit jealous of you all who are fortunate enough to have a piece of land. I’m limited in terms of space and hence cannot have anything bigger than shohin trees. The maple above is my biggest tree so far.
Bonsai on, Jan!

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Yep! It’s definitely a process. Deciduous teach me to be much more patient than conifers. Maybe some day you reduce them, maybe you don’t? Plenty of time to see how it develops and make the health of the tree the number one priority.

Thanks, the field has been going for about 11-12 years now. Some trees are really starting to be promising. Others, ha, not so much… wood for the burn pile but also stuff to experiment on.