This thread is directed to newbies like myself. Maybe I know a little more about maples because I have seen and closely examined hundreds of them in a friend's farm for more than 1 year.
Maples have more features than plants in other families; features which constitute what bonsaiists call desirable qualities. Let's us examine the plant from the bottom up;
1. The root: It does not possess a pronounced tap root and branch roots grow high up and in time become similar in size to the tap root. Thus you can have an exposed circle of roots radiating outwards.
2. The main trunk: It is very pliable even with 2nd year wood and therefore very trainable. Here I prefer to start the training on the trunk of first year seedlings in mid-summer.I consider it more important to give a sense of character to the trunk than to achieve a sense of thickness. Once you have thickened the trunk, it is very difficult to shape it the way you want as it is no longer pliable. Now this is just a personal preference and please feel free to follow your own preference. Also with maple trunks we have a few interesting and different features. The texture of the bark of different species is dissimilar. I like especially the striped markings found in Palmatum species like the Snake Bark Maple, The Davidii Maple and the peeling Paper Bark Maple. The specimen I choose to show the striped trunk is none of these named cultivars but an ordinary 2nd year Palmatum hybrid. The character in the main trunk is already visible and I could use this specimen for the Literate , the Miyogi (Informal Upright) or the Shakan (Slanting) Style.
3. The Branch . It has good short inter-nodes and branches out in all directions. It is easy to encourage back-buds to grow into new branches. It forms callus well and closes up the wound on the trunk when a branch is sacrificed. It takes stem and bud grafting quite well.
4. The leaves: Here it lies supreme. The leaves can have 3 different seasonal colors. We have the bright pink, coral, mauve and red colors when the leaves unfolds from the buds in spring, then they turn green in the summer and finally in autumn they show the best range of colors you will ever find in nature.
Now a rare feature of the autumn leaf is the variegation of two colors, one bright and one light, in a single leaf. From the 100s of seedlings I had germinated, only one, a 1st year seedling has this variegation, bright crimson near the edges and patches of yellow sprayed within the inner lobes. Two of these leaves in the pic illustrate the color distribution though the colors have dulled as the leaves have dried up. Now in the farm we have a 10 year old Palmatum hybrid maple where the Autumn deep orange color is dispersed in the leaf surface in oval shapes with a greenish yellow as the background color. Now these 2 plants can be patented and become new cultivars because of its strange autumn variegation. Next autumn I shall post you a pic to show its splendor. Also take note that the form of the leaf is different among the genera, the lace-leaf of the Dissectum, the larger full compact leaves of the Full Moon, the 13 lobes of the Acer Japonicum leaf and a host of other variations.
5 The seed: The seeds are carried on two wings called the Samara, which is the one surest thing to look for in the identification of a maple. Then the fruits display a range of colors from bright Burgundy to bright green, some large and others tiny.
It is true all plants exhibit these 5 anatomical structures but none show such a wide variety as do the maples. Is it then any wonder that the Japanese consider the maples the ideal plant for bonsai? So keep a keen eye and keep looking until one day you come up with a unique specimen you will be proud to call your own.
Follow the link and click on jamkh 5 to see the pics: