A.p. 'Phantom Flame' structure issue

Discussion in 'Maples' started by kgeezy20, May 28, 2017.

  1. kgeezy20

    kgeezy20 Active Member Maple Society

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    Hi everyone.

    I purchased a pretty little A. p. 'Phantom Flame' this weekend at a garden jubilee from the awesome guys at Mr. Maple. The little guy has a bit of a structure issue, with the largest branch growing directly across the center of the plant. I know I could prune the branch off and save myself some trouble, but I hate to do that when I think some other options might allow it to stay. I'll post pictures below. Please tell me how you would attempt to fix it.

    In the last picture, I am bending the branch to where it would ideally be.

    All the best,
    Kyle
     

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  2. 0soyoung

    0soyoung Well-Known Member

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    I suppose that is the right place to have the heavy branch. Do you know how to wire it and/or rig guying to hold it in that position for several months, if not most of a year? It would be much easier to do this kind of thing with any of the thinner shoots (just wrap them with some aluminum wire of about the same diameter or a little smaller; anchor the wire by also wiring another shoot or by just putting one or two wraps on the anchoring branch and gently position them into the shapes/positions you want).

    Frankly, I would get rid of everything else and shorten this heavy stem to become the trunk. All those branches coming out of the first node at this point will just make an unsightly knob if they are all kept. I would also prune the heavy branch just above the node that is so pronounced in the pix. Then choose the upward shoot that pops from 1 or 2 as the trunk continuation (usually acer palmatum leaf pairs alternate between two orientations). Within a few years this will be nothing more than a subtle wiggle in the trunk line.

    maple.JPG

    I think your tree will be better for it. In my climate I would get rid of the 'other stuff' now and I would prune the heavy branch/trunk a little long just after leaf fall and then shorten it next spring after the buds have popped.
     
  3. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    A safe approach is to stake the main leader. Then for the most part leave it alone. The tree is just trying to survive at this early stage in it's life. If you see some tender growth that is not sustainable then remove it now, but really limit yourself and don't get carried away. A tree this young has very little energy reserves and any stress can cause it to collapse.

    A good tip when staking is to wrap the plastic tape around the stake first and tie once to hold it in place and keep it from slipping down. Then wrap it around the stem you are staking and gingerly tie it in a knot giving the stem some breathing room. Secure it from 3 locations, above the crotch, midway, and further up the stem for good measure. Use a well balanced stake that is just thick enough to not bend and not so big that it causes the pot to become off balance and become a tipping risk.
     
  4. kgeezy20

    kgeezy20 Active Member Maple Society

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    Thanks for the advice, both of you. I'd really rather not cut off basically everything, as JT says, that might be too stressful. I guess I will try to stake the branch in question like suggested by JT.

    JT, do you think any of the small, tender shoots should be removed?
     
  5. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    I see (hard to comprehend from the pictures with certainty) a tender shoot that goes vertical from a cluster of 3 coming off of the stub opposite of the main leader. The stub I reference is on the left side in photo 1 and right side in photo 2 and 3. Sometimes this type of strong vertical growth can complete with the leader, thicken quickly, and pull energy from the more horizontal tender stems growing more horizontal causing the thinnest to get weak and fail over winter. It comes down to judgement from seeing the tree in person and looking at how the vertical stem impacts the overall appearance and balance to the tree.

    With that said if it appears to be completely vertical and conflicts with the leader, you may consider removing it with some needle nose cutters. ( Bulky bypass pruners may damage the other stems close by when trying to remove, if this is the case then don't remove it as it's not worth the risk)

    The other option is to shorten it and not remove it all together.

    Again, it may only be something that gives me pause in the photos but may not be a problem when you look at the tree from different perspectives in person.
     
  6. kgeezy20

    kgeezy20 Active Member Maple Society

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    You're absolutely right about the small shoot going straight up from the clump. It does. I feel like it would actually make a better leader than the current one that is so crooked. It appears that the current leader was a very vigorous shoot from last year.
     
  7. emery

    emery Generous Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    Hi Kyle, I'm concerned by the blackish spot(s) I see near the graft union on this tree. Looks like some pseudomonas, and if so can be quickly fatal to a 1-2 year graft. If it were mine I'd be spraying there with a copper-based solution.

    As for the question, I would stake the current central leader. It didn't look whippy to me. I wouldn't do any pruning yet because the graft is so young, I would wait for next year.

    cheers,

    -E

    P.S. great tip John about the plastic wrap, thanks for that!
     
  8. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    I thought the same thing at first. But I believe it is a grafting sealer that some of the growers here in the US use. It's like a black tar that wears away but looks like pseudomonas as it does and leaves behind a black stain.

    Kyle you may want to double-check with the person you bought it from to be sure.

    PS. Thanks, glad you liked the tip and took the time to read it. My friend Elpiedio showed me, and I thought it was brilliant! He has a lifetime of growing experience and is known as the best propagator by all the wholesale growers in this area. I am lucky to have such a great friend.

    As I type this over morning coffee my wife reminded me the staked plant is close by and she was kind enough to take this picture (as an example in case my description was not good enough and/or for those who don't take the time to read my long a** replies ;-). The bottom one (or first photo) was his demonstration closest to the pot. The second photo was my simple attempt. This was done on a honeysuckle vine.
     

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    Last edited: Jun 11, 2017
  9. kgeezy20

    kgeezy20 Active Member Maple Society

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    It's funny you mention that blackish stuff near the union, Emery. I was concerned about that too until I realized it's some sort of sealant that the Mr. Maple guys put on their grafts. It's on every single grafted tree I saw at their place, so false alarm thankfully.

    As for staking the central leader, that's what I will do. I'm going to try to do it just as John suggested.

    All the best
    -Kyle
     

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