I found a nice balled and burlaped Amur Flame maple down at a nursery. It had a really nice trunk on it and unknown nebari since it was covered by the burlap. The biggest problem with the tree is the size of it. I of course could not move it even an inch because the root ball was huge. I decided to get it anyway. I paid for it and returned a few days later with my flatbed truck. The nursery loaded it onto my trunk with a forklift type machine with pinchers on the front to lift the tree. The young man loading the tree jumped up in the truck to do something to the tree, but I stopped him. By now there was a nice crowd of employees watching the process. I explained to the young man I was going to cut the top off and also the root ball. He thought I was joking and I told I was going to do it. Finally one of the sales staff told him I was really going to do it! I brought the tree home and started work on it the next day. Here are some photo’s documenting the process of reducing a huge nursery tree down to a bonsai sized tree in about 5 hours. The trunk is 5″ wide and is currently 30″ tall after chopping.

Tree sitting on back of truck with the burlap and wire basket removed. I decided to bare root the tree and wash off all of the clay soil. For scale purposes I placed a 2 liter bottle of soda next the tree.

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2 Liter bottle of soda next to the very large and heavy root ball. I could not move the tree at all.


I started to wash of the clay soil with a standard water wand using a cone spray only. The soil is coming off the tree a nice pace.


I am attacking the root ball from the top of it. As you can see by now the half of the root ball did not contain any roots in it at all. The roots on the tree consisted of large long roots with no fine feeder roots on them. There were lots of fine feeder roots in the top 25% of the root ball. I paid special attention to keep the roots wet while I was working on the root ball.


Close up of the roots of the tree with most of the clay soil removed. It was still very heavy and clay soil deep into the roots. As you can see most of the fine feeder roots are near the surface of the soil.


All of the clay soil has been removed now the root ball and I can easily pick the tree up now. None of the roots have been worked on. As you can see in the photo the tree is quite tall and taller then my car in the back round.


Nice shot of the roots of the tree. There was considerable damage to the roots by the nursery who grew the tree when it was dug up for sale. I am still keeping the roots wet during all of this. Next step was to reduce/chop the top. The tree has been chopped now.


Here are several photo’s of the roots from various angles showing the fine feeder roots on top of the root ball. I want to keep as many of the fine feeder roots I can. I want to remove the large roots with no fine feeder roots on this.
Root Photo 1.


Root Photo 2.

Root Photo 3.


Root Photo 4 with 2 liter bottle of soda.


Root Photo 5 showing worst damage to the roots. Most of the larger roots were damaged.


Root Photo 6  Finished reducing the length of the large roots in preparation to pot the tree. Roots are still being kept wet on a regular basis.


Root Photo 7 showing reduced roots.


Root Photo 8 Showing reduced roots. The large roots will probably have to be reduced again to fit the tree into a 16 inch (40 cm) pot.


Here is the tree and being chopped and the large roots reduced and now ready to be potted into a pot.


Here is a close up the roots showing the finally reduction before potting. I hoping the chopped back root in the middle of the photo survives.


The tree has been carefully potted up and now I am look at the remaining branches trying to determine if I need to keep all of them? No branches were removed during the initial chopping of the tree. The chop stick is the front I have chosen for the tree. I originally liked the other side of the tree better.


Photo showing the front of the tree before branch reduction.


Photo showing the front of the tree after removing large branch on the back side of the tree.


Photo showing the front of the tree after removing another large branch on the left backside of the tree.

Front photo 1.

3 more photos showing the other 3 sides of the tree. I might change my front to the last photo. I did rotate my front to the right of the tree a little.

Final Photo 2


Final Photo 3 showing the back of the tree where I removed 2 large branches. The stumps will be hollowed out.


Final Photo 4


I will be looking into reducing the top of the tree some more. I still think it is to tall and should be reduced some more. I can post more photo’s as the tree develops in the future if the group would like to follow along with its progress. I think the tree should be fine due to all of the fine roots that I was able to save. The tree progressed in 5 hours from having to use a fork lift to handle it to going into a 16″ growing pot which I can pick up and move now.

Here are some updated photo’s after wintering in the garage. The 2 large limb stubs were hollowed out and carved last summer. 2 medium size branches died during the winter. All other branches are nice and solid for now. Numerous small twigs died, but most made it through the winter. As you can see in the photo’s the tree has budding out all over and some on the trunk which were removed. The tree will be allowed to grow all year and be chopped back to a small tree and the ramification will begin. All in all, looks like is growing good.






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