Pruning: Acer shirasawanum - PLEASE HELP!!

Discussion in 'Maples' started by Zig7, Jan 2, 2017.

  1. Zig7

    Zig7 Member

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    Quick Backgrounder:
    I bought this tree in 2008. In 2017, it isn't taller than 3 feet.
    It was in a container for the longest time and experienced some stress related to low light conditions and occasionally not being watered enough. It's leaves would develop a bit of a spotted curled up brown condition in early fall. For several years I wondered if it had verticillium wilt but think it's okay; the low water, in a container conditions might have accounted for the curled up leaves. Then I moved in 2014 and some of the wee branches were damaged in transit. Deer grazed it. Finally I put it in the ground in a deer proof area in 2015. It seems to be doing fine but no doubt is still becoming acquainted with its new location. In the 8 years I've owned the tree it has not grown much at all. I now live in Victoria BC.

    Despite all the above, clearly this tree has staying power!

    I realized last year that I probably needed to prune off one of the two main branches that have developed. I have hesitated to prune this tree because it's already been under stress for many years and I understand acers don't respond well to pruning. I didn't want to stress it out yet again with a major cut. Also, there haven't been an abundance of leaves on the tree which I realize are essential for feeding the plant. Cutting off limbs is like cutting off the hands that feed.

    That said, I realize the tight v-shape of the junction is not good for the long term health of the tree. I'm sensing that doing the cut sooner than later is better... but I hesitate.

    After LOTS of consideration, I think the better branch to retain is the straighter 11/16" diameter one that is more upright lending a "standard" aspect to the tree (despite having fewer leaf buds).

    I'm wondering if more experienced growers could offer advice. Should I just let the tree be or should I cut off the 10/16" branch? It has a lateral branch that is growing "into" the tree - yet another reason to bail on this branch?

    Is it best to do this pruning in late winter?

    More experienced growers might say give up and get a new one. This tree cost a lot back in 2008 and I've lugged it around and want to see it survive.

    The two main branches (all photos, March 2016)
    IMG_1348.JPG

    Diameter below branch junction
    IMG_1349.JPG

    The 10/16" branch with buds pointed into the tree.
    IMG_1350.JPG

    The 11/16" branch that I think should be retained.
    IMG_1351.JPG

    Another view of the tree with the upright (to be retained?) 11/16" branch on left and the (to be removed?) 10/16" branch on right.
    IMG_1355.JPG

    Your advice is deeply appreciated.
     
  2. AlainK

    AlainK Generous Contributor Forums Moderator Maple Society 10 Years

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    I would cut off the branch that crosses the two trunks:

    IMG_1348.JPG
     
  3. Zig7

    Zig7 Member

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    Thank you Alain. So you wouldn't be concerned about the tight 'V' junction where the two dominant branches join the trunk?
    Also, is it best to do it in the winter - like now?
    I really appreciate the drawing on my image.
     
  4. AlainK

    AlainK Generous Contributor Forums Moderator Maple Society 10 Years

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    I wouldn't: if it was trained for bonsai, I might have a different opinion, but for a garden tree, I think it will look fine.


    Also, is it best to do it in the winter - like now?

    I'd say yes, but I'd leave a stub below the first buds, and let it dry for a season or so before pruning back to the trunk.
     
  5. Zig7

    Zig7 Member

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    Thanks again Alain! That was not the instruction I expected, but I am sure the tree will recover much better since not such a drastic pruning. Cheers!
     
  6. emery

    emery Renowned Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    I think in any case it's the wrong time to take off half of the food-producing foliage. You need to wait a couple of years for major shaping, until it's better established. I also think the tree will look fine with the V, but one issue is if you get heavy snow or ice, the narrow V form tends to be quite breakable.

    Really good advice from Alain about leaving the stub to dry. I neglected to do so about a month ago in a very similar form, but a rooted cutting that is better established of A. zoeschense. Both branches of the V about the same caliper. It has been bleeding some during the warmer parts of the day, then freezing during the cold nights (this has been the coldest winter, so far, that we've seen in over 5 years.)

    Good practice is to never cut without paying close attention. Clearly my mind was elsewhere that day...

    -E
     
  7. Zig7

    Zig7 Member

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    Well, I already cut where Alain suggested in red on the photo, so i hope my timing is okay It's been unseasonably cold these past few weeks here in Victoria (lingering just below zero Celsius). I wasn't 100% sure what was meant by "I'd leave a stub below the first buds" because I don't know where the "first buds" are. I see some buds very close to the junction point so... anyway I cut it and here's the photo.
    IMG_4444.JPG IMG_4445.JPG
    Based on where Alain made the "x" for the cut on the original photos I sent it looks like I may have cut to close to the branch/lateral...
    Do acers not respond well to cuts that are at the branch collar? Hoping I did okay, Coach(es)! ;-)
     
  8. AlainK

    AlainK Generous Contributor Forums Moderator Maple Society 10 Years

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    It's a bit short actually, but shoukld be OK. I would have left a longer one to dry out before pruning back to the trunk. Bonsai amateurs use cut paste too to prevent fungus entering through the cut. On the close-up, one can see new buds: bonsai enthusisats would remove them to avoid a swelling there, but I don't think that is very important on a garden tree.
     
  9. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    I would remove the bud to the left of the ruler in the 4th picture. It is not sustainable in the long term and it's best for the tree to remove it as a bud than to let it grow as a branch and leave a wound when pruned later. You can use your finger to remove it in the Spring when the tree is starting to leaf out.

    This can be done anytime you see a bud forming that is not sustainable during the growing season, much better for the tree when you consider both liability of a larger wound and aesthetics of preventing a scar. This is even more important when a tree is grown for its colored bark as the wound wood always stands out and is unsightly against the beautiful bark.


    (Below is not intended for the original poster as I don't intend to stress you out or come across as coming down on you.)


    All the information out there about pruning Asian maples in winter is wrong. Those who blindly follow are the same ones that complain about black tips and are surprised to see bacterial outbreaks in their trees.

    It always surprised me that the people who take the time to research pseudomonas and talk about how ice crystals make microscopic wounds for the bacteria to enter over winter; and how outbreaks usually occurs in late Winter or early Spring, never make the connection with pruning over winter. They worry about the microscopic wounds created by ice crystals and then blindly make large pruning cuts for the bacteria to enter. (Of course we see outbreaks that manifest themselves too when the tree is stressed during the growing season so this may not be as obvious to some who get caught in the moment and forget to consider the history of the tree and the role they play in winter pruning.). Then we consider the dirty grafting processes and poor quality rootstock and or using infected stock plants that is rampid in the industry and some still insist on pruning in the winter! It reminds me of the definition of insanity- doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results. It's kind of ironic because I keep talking about this hoping to make a difference and always get the same result of members drinking the Kool-aid. Some get it, but most unfortunately don't.

    Prune in Spring a few weeks after the tree leafs out. The tree will form wound wood faster and close the wound in one growing season (as long as it's not too big and the tree is healthy). Your tree will look better and live longer. You will not make the common winter mistake of removing the dormant strong branch and leaving the weak one to die or not leaf out in the spring, now kicking yourself for ruining the look of the tree as you notice the big void that is now present.

    Pruning dead wood twigs can be done in winter as long as you are not cutting into live wood. The key is to not make any cuts into live wood over winter.

    I am sick of trying to convince people to look at the obvious and stop believing the misguided outdated information about winter pruning.

    I know, I'm just wasting my time...I will stop writing about it, because to continue would be insane!
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2017
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  10. AlainK

    AlainK Generous Contributor Forums Moderator Maple Society 10 Years

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    That's true, they heal much faster.
     
  11. Zig7

    Zig7 Member

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    Boo-hoo JT1! I wish your post advising against winter pruning had come sooner!! I had a sense it was bad but honestly there really is so much conflicting information out there ('spring pruning leads to excessive bleeding', etc., for example) -- which is why I posted to this forum. And being the amateur I am, I didn't properly understand the advice 'to cut below the buds to allow the stub to dry'. I couldn't tell which buds were being referenced.

    This tree has many unsightly pruning wounds. If it survives the next ten years, hopefully those will be absorbed into the bark. I will rub off buds that aren't sustainable, during the growing season, as soon as I see them from now on.

    Here's a related question: do you have a pruning reference that you consider to be "The Bible" of pruning that you could recommend? I am new to all this and don't have a mentor nearby. I have many trees and shrubs on my slightly overgrown ½ acre that I need to cut back and I'd like to NOT make rookie mistakes.

    But without question, NOW I understand what you are all advising with regard to Acers and I will be better prepared down the road. Thank you very much.

    Cheers!
     
  12. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    I plan to provide a response, more information and make some recommendations, but it may not be until next week due to circumstances beyond my control. Thanks for your understanding.
     
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  13. emery

    emery Renowned Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    Well now, there is lots of different pruning advice out there. There are arguments for pruning after the spring flush as John suggests, and letting the wound scar over is a good one. Certainly there is less chance of pseudomonas (or perhaps other bacteria) by proceeding that way, but bacterial problems are also reduced by leaving a stub to dry out, as Alain suggested.

    Indeed I have found that excessive bleeding can be problem with spring pruning, especially with maples, Asian or otherwise, that have the white latex sap, section platanoides I suppose. However when possible I do try to prune the snakebark maples after the spring flush so that they can start to heal over as quickly as possible.

    Of course, best practice would usually vary at least somewhat by local climate as well.

    It would be too general to group all Asian maples under the same advice, since there is such a wide variety, extending beyond the palmata and into other sections. But even for palmatums late fall/winter pruning has some advantages. The greatest, from my point of view, is that you can see what you're doing, making it the right time to look for crossing branches etc. Another is if you're trying to increase the size rapidly (in the nursery) late fall pruning promotes rapid spring growth; further you don't have the plant putting energy into something that you're about to take off. Bleeding can be a problem in spring if your timing is a little off, of course that's true in winter also if you leave it too long. In a large garden it's almost impossible to avoid winter pruning, since that's the time you can get around with a tractor without ruining lawns, and there's way too much other stuff to do in spring.

    I don't really tip prune, and have no great problem with bacteria caused by winter pruning, although I see plenty of pseudomonas damage otherwise, particularly with maples in pots.

    I'll note that at Esveld they winter prune. My book shelf recommends the practice: Vertrees says "Major pruning should be done during the dormant season after the leaves have fallen, from late autumn to mid-winter." Harris prefers "Late summer and early autumn ... before the onset of cold weather" referring also to Japanese palmata. Kenney recommends "Late February to early March", far to late for my climate and also probably not enough time to get it all done. Everyone is agreed that minor pruning can be carried out throughout the growing season.

    In other words, there are various opinions even among experts with many, many years of experience. I don't doubt that one could find other advice supporting spring pruning, also. John, I have great respect for your opinions, but I would venture that to declare Harris, Gregory, van Gelderen and Vertrees summarily "wrong" is a bit strong...

    Hope you're well, John, and all the best for the new year.

    -E

    P.S. @Zig7: "Pruning and Training", Bricknell/Joyce, Dorling Kindersley is a good general reference for your climate. Though certainly not at all maple-centric. Also, I'd keep an eye on the bark just above where you cut: it looks a little dicey to me. Ideally should be sprayed with a copper-based bactericide (always good practice in our mild winters, anyway).
     
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  14. AlainK

    AlainK Generous Contributor Forums Moderator Maple Society 10 Years

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    My experience is based on potted trees, for my first passion is bonsai, and on the techniques relevant to this hobby.

    For maples, pruning the roots in spring (when repotting) prevents pruned branches to bleed.

    All the trees I had that died in 2011 had not been pruned. Among those that made it through were a couple that I did prune, and wire too.

    It's probably easier to keep a tree healthy in a smaller environment like a pot than growing it in a field. And I think that the local environment is important too.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2017
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  15. Zig7

    Zig7 Member

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    Emery, given your concern for the look of the bark of my wee tree, I suppose this article is one for me to follow!
    Read This If You Grow Japanese Maple

    I'm really surprised that there isn't a Japanese maple specific pruning manual or booklet out there, especially given the long tradition of Japanese pruning and the number of enthusiasts worldwide. "Niwaki" spends about a paragraph on the topic and that's it. Are there bonsai books out there that can apply to pruning JMs in the landscape too? I have the Bricknell book and agree it is great... just not enough on JMs. And the article above says I should seal the cut I made on my Acer Shirasawanum... it's such a tiny cut. Is there a home made mixture for me to use or do i need to buy something in a big tub?

    Again, thank you all for sharing your invaluable experience and advice. You guys rock!
     
  16. wcutler

    wcutler Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout 10 Years

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    What about this from our Maple Resources page?
    Pruning: Way of Maple
     
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  17. emery

    emery Renowned Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    Different people feel differently about sealer. Your man and John (JT1) will both tell you to use it. Most bonsai folk seem to use it. I don't like it, I prefer to let the wound dry naturally, I get good healing without problems. I believe my method is more widely accepted now -- the idea being that sealant traps bacteria in more times than not -- but your mileage may vary.

    You could pick a source and then follow that advice, which would be consistent if it's a good source. John is an excellent source of advice (though we may not always agree about everything) and you won't go wrong by following his detailed instructions (if he has time to give them).

    cheers,

    -E
     
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  18. Zig7

    Zig7 Member

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  19. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    Books:
    I recommend Bonsai with Japanese Maples by Peter Adams.

    Niwaki: Pruning, Training and Shaping Trees the Japanese Way by Jake Hobson is an interesting book on pruning, but it is heavy on evergreens and not specific to Japanese Maples.

    Good videos for pruning Japanese maples, education and very conservative rules of thumb for beginners:
    Japanese pruning (part 2 of 4): Fan Pruning of Japanese upright maples



    Japanese pruning (part 3 of 4) Shell Pruning of Japanese laceleaf maples


    Here is a video that helped me a great deal years ago for pruning shrubs:


    Now the above video is not specific to Japanese maples, and more specific to shrubs, but check out the beautifully pruned Japanese maples in the background, while learning how to properly prune mound shaped shrubs.

    Another video by the same person demonstrates pruning a Japanese maple to bring out it's inner beauty:
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2017
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  20. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    Consider the following tips:
    -Don’t prune during seasonal extremes. In the heat of the summer and the dead of winter, too much moisture is lost, weakening the branch or tree causing further die back.

    -In many areas of the country Japanese maples are susceptible to bacterial infections that tend to start to show themselves in spring. Winter damage or pruning cuts offer a great pathway for this bacteria to enter the tree. Therefor I don’t prune live wood during winter. I will however prune out dead wood during winter, but I am careful not to damage any live tissue.

    -Consider viewing the tree during winter to ponder pruning decisions. Mark any decisions with a small dot of paint or a small piece of twine (never tie it tight as branches may thicken come spring). Wait for the tree to leaf out in spring and re-evaluate your decisions. Sometimes what makes sense when the tree is bare makes little or no sense once you see the impact come spring. Also, the branch you intended to keep may start to fail come spring, making the once undesirable branch very desirable.

    -Do not prune late summer as it could promote new growth that will not have time to harden off before winter. This could cause winter die back. Let available energy in fall go towards root development and not new growth on the canopy that may not survive the winter.

    -Sometimes Japanese maples will suddenly put off a long leggy growth at a fast rate. I have found it’s best to put a stop to this big push in growth, by either pruning it or removing the leaf embryo in the center of the growth (providing it has not gotten too long). I find these long whips tend to pull available energy away from forming healthy / sustainable branch development from other areas of the tree.

    -It’s best to remove unsustainable growth very early in its development. If you wait for it to thicken and grow out for a few years, then remove it, you are left with a large scar. I feel this is most important for varieties that are grown for their beautiful bark. Wound wood stands out, because it will not take on the color of the bark.

    -Lastly, don’t rush home with a new tree, plant it, then start pruning it. Give the tree plenty of time to get established. The only exception would be a damaged or problem branch that needs attention.


    The best thing to keep in mind, when pruning Japanese maples, is how they grow. Leafs are in pairs along the branch. You will notice the placement alternates between leaf pairs (or bud pairs this time of year). One pair will grow in the horizontal and the next pair on the branch will grow in the vertical. Use this knowledge to properly plan your cuts. If you cut at a horizontal pair of leaves (or buds), two branches will form horizontally (left and right). If you cut at a vertical pair, you will have two branches form, one upward and one downward.

    For Pictures Showing horizontal and vertical buds to provide better clarity, you must check out my other post:
    Pruning: - A good book for pruning/shaping

    Usually you want four leaf pairs (or more) to form before making a cut, when trying to develop branches and form. If you cut back to the first pair, you are taking the chance of the new growth failing. I usually let the growth develop at least 4 leaf pairs and then cut back to the second or third pair (dependent upon bud orientation and desired growth direction)

    The rest of it just comes down to good judgment, planning, and understanding balance.

    There are many theory's out there on when is the best time to prune. Many have their advantages and disadvantages.

    I find in my climate Spring is best a few weeks after the tree leafs out, my trees are at their healthiest during this time. The climate is still very forgiving too, with adequate moisture and comfortable temperatures. I also feel it gives the tree time to form wound wood to start the process of closing the cut, before the heat of summer moves upon the area. In general, this is also a time where disease is not a problem either (unless we are having unseasonal weather, that is why I choose to use the term "In general").

    I don't like to prune during seasonal extremes. For my area that would be Summer and Winter. I believe drying winds dry out the cambium layer, causing the cut to die back further; I also find that it weakens the branch or tree. In the Summer, the tree tends to be in survival mode and moisture is at a premium. Pruning cuts cause too much moisture loss during the extremes of Summer and Winter in my opinion.

    With late season pruning, I feel the tree is putting energy into root development. We do not want to divert that energy into the canopy through pruning. We also run risk of new growth sprouting, in response to pruning, and it may not have time to harden off for winter. When this happens, the tree has wasted energy in something that has now failed and this die back opens up opportunities for early spring infections. It does not make sense to me to invite bacterial infections by having open wounds going into winter and early spring.

    Through experience I find that Winter pruning can contribute to bacterial infections and black tips. Generally the worse time for bacterial outbreaks is late winter and very early Spring in my climate. In some areas trees are very prone to late season infections too, which is another reason not to prune in the fall, these infections become an outbreak in late winter and early spring. Also, it's a good idea not to prune after rain when the tree is still wet. The rain water can carry bacteria that can enter the fresh wound of a pruning cut. Sometimes wet branches scream prune me as they are hanging low, but it's not worth the risk.

    Winter is a good time to take a look at the overall form of the tree and maybe cut out any dead twigs (grey in color), but I am careful not to cut all the way back into live wood. By looking at the tree in winter without leaves, you can plan pruning strategies for the growing season. But I do not like to make any cuts. One reason, is sometimes the tree does not leaf out like you planned. What I mean is that maybe you decide to keep one branch and remove another in the same area of the canopy. Come to find out in the Spring that the branch you kept was the weaker of the two and maybe it fails in Spring or many of the buds fail to leaf out. Now you are forced to remove that branch too and are left with a big hole in your canopy. The other reason why I don't like to make pruning cuts in winter is because of the bacterial disease outbreaks it can cause or lead to in late winter and early spring. Of course my thoughts of not pruning during seasonal extremes as mentioned earlier in this response still applies to Winter pruning.

    With all this being said, I am sure there are some that disagree and in some areas of the world, the climate is different, and my logic does not apply. It's always good to become very familiar with your climate and how your maples respond to the seasons. At the end of the day, it's best to stick with what works for you.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2017
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  21. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    Long shoots and unusual growth
    A few things to consider on the subject of long shoots. To prune or not, considerations, and what may cause them.

    When a large push of growth starts, I like to take a closer look first before I decide how to proceed.

    First, look at the distance between leaf pairs to make sure it is true to form. Generally speaking 2" or less is acceptable. Use the more mature stems on the tree as a guide if you are unsure. Unless you have a super dwarf, then 2" maybe too large because it's not true to form for the variety. On the longer side, for some varieties closer to 3" is acceptable. If the distance between leaf pairs is too large and not true to form, then I remove the shoot all together.

    Second, are the leaves true to form. Is the leaf shape, size and color typical for the variety. If not, then remove the new shoot. One word of caution in regards to color, sometimes the color of late season new growth may not be the fresh bright colors of spring and for many varieties this is normal. Of course, if you are looking to discover and graft new varieties of Japanese maples, then watch this irregular growth and see what it does, otherwise for the rest of us you are best off removing it.

    One caveat to the above, if it's an exotic variety, then sometimes the new growth leaves may look like it's not true to form, but then next season all the leaves will emerge in the spring with the proper leaf shape, color, and size. So do your research if you venture into growing such a variety and do your homework before pruning. One example of this in my collection is Acer palmatum 'Shin higasa'. The second push of growth in summer has small, but slightly larger irregular shaped leaves. Next spring all the leaves are back to what is normal for the variety. So knowing your trees will help guide your judgment in pruning.

    After taking a closer look, now it's time to consider the time of year. As for late season growth; no set date will cover all areas, since we all live in different climates and some experience earlier and harsher winters than others. My advice is if this push of growth is late in the season, then remove it. It is not worth taking the risk of it not hardening off in time for winter. Also, there are a whole host of problems / diseases that can occur over winter on growth that is fueled by nitrogen or excessive moisture during the growing season. This long push of growth is a huge liability to the health of the tree and a beacon for disaster if not removed. It is not worth the risk, play it safe, and remove any late season large pushes of growth.

    Assuming the time of year is during the normal time of season for growth and the growth passes the closer look tests above, now it's time to take action.

    If you catch this push of growth early enough, it's best to pinch out the leaf embryo in the center of growth. The leaf embryo will be between the last pair of leaves at the end of the new growth. It will look like tiny little fingers or hands held in the praying position. Gently grasp it between the tips of two fingers and gently pull it off. Sometimes I feel it's best to use two hands. One to support the stem and developed leaf pairs and the other to pinch out the leaf embryo. Why not just prune? Well my theory is pruning promotes growth and pinching the leaf embryo stops growth. If this growth in question has potential to be abnormally abundant, then we do not want to prune, because then in a week or two we will now have two new shoots coming out of where we pruned that are abnormally abundant in growth. If we pinch out the leaf embryo, this abundance of growth is stopped in its tracks. The abundance of energy fueling the growth can be dispersed more evenly amongst the rest of the tree.

    If you notice it too late and several leaf pairs have already formed. The shoot is already too long for the pinch out the leaf embryo technique, then we must prune.

    A good rule of thumb for pruning this shoot is to start from where the new growth formed and count outward along the stem two to three leaf pairs and prune there. Before you cut, take a look at the location of this shoot and how it interacts with surrounding branches. We need to consider future growth direction before deciding what leaf pair to make our pruning cut. The orientation of the leaves on the stem at the pair you prune will show you what direction future growth will go. It is so surprising to me that so many people don't pay attention to the orientation of leaf pairs when pruning. They just look at length and cut, ignoring the orientation of the corresponding leaf pairs. This just leads to future conflicts of branches or destroys the form of the tree when this very important detail is ignored. We must remember that where we prune, two new shoots will form at that place and the direction of growth will follow the side of the stem that the leaf is positioned on (generally speaking the leaf pairs alternate their position along the stem, one pair is orientated horizontally and the next pair down the stem is orientated vertically or 90 degrees from the position of the subsequent pair.)

    Food for thought. Slow and steady wins the race in my opinion; it's better for the health of the tree and the overall ascetics. We need to remember that we are not growing tomatoes or giant pumpkins. Sometimes I think people get caught up in the mentality of bigger is better, so they push too much growth out of their Japanese maples, while dreaming of how large they want their Japanese maple to be someday and to them that day can't come soon enough!!! Remember the tree will always grow larger, but we must lower our expectations on how fast that happens.

    We must remember that some of the most beautiful Japanese maples in the world today are old and started growing in a time that was not obsessed with instant gratification fueled by nitrogen and the mentality that bigger is better. The beautiful form and character of it's gracefully curved and simple yet complex network of branches did not occur after years of nitrogen fueled long lengths of growth in one direction over a season. Instead, it happened by slow and steady growth over many seasons. Growing Japanese maples correctly is an exercise in patience that is rewarded by great beauty. Some of the most precious things in this world occurred slowly overtime. Many took years, decades, and with some natural and few living things, even centuries to reach their sought after and admired state. Simply put, a great Japanese maple is like an expertly crafted fine wine, they get better with time; and nitrogen or excessive seasonal growth is a very poor substitute for what can happen so well naturally over time.
     
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  22. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    Maintenance pruning:
    I do not know of a guide to recommend. A simple way to maintenance prune is to prune off any upward or downward growing stems of new growth from the bottom half of the canopy. Remove any dead branches (brittle grey in color). Remove any rubbing branches, study both before removing one of them, so that you remove the one that makes the most sense for the tree.

    Prune back any new growth to around the second leaf pair out from last years growth. Pay close attention to the leaf orientation where you make your cut. For example if the branch is growing horizontal, then make your cut at a pair of leaves that are horizontally positioned on the stem. This will keep the direction of new growth going horizontally. Sometimes people prune at a vertical set of leaves on a horizontal growing branch, this only causes problems later, when the new growth is going upwards and downwards, which will conflict with surrounding branches. Prolonged pruning ignoring leaf orientation on the branch will eventually ruin the form of the tree and lead to a lot of conflicting branches. Always consider the direction of the branch and the orientation of leaf pairs when deciding where to make your pruning cut. It takes a little more time and attention, but it will help keep your trees looking good long term.
     
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  23. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    You may also consider...Sukiyaki Living Offering back issues of their journal by topic. Articles are written by craftsmen who studied in Japan and are considered experts in their craft. They offer topics of interest like Japanese maples.
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    Topics

    Every other month, JOJG discusses various aspects of the Sukiya Living Environment. Topics range from centuries-old design philosophy to modern, how-to construction techniques. A special emphasis is placed on architecture, craftsmanship and Japanese garden maintenance.

    Each issue discusses both basic and advanced pruning techniques, as well as design and construction secrets that are never mentioned in coffee table books. Every issue includes "Viewpoints" essays by experts in the field, and a Q&A section where readers can ask questions of the editorial staff. Of special interest are the "Myth" articles that attempt to correct misleading information that circulates online and in poorly-written books and brochures. The Journal also publishes book reviews, leadership profiles, a Calendar of Events, and an advertising section called "The Japanese Garden Marketplace."

    JOJG's "Survey-type" articles are historically significant. These articles examine scientific data and rank items such as the best books or the best gardens, both in Japan and in the West.

    Regular Article Topics Include:

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    The Japanese Bath (7 subtopics)

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  24. wcutler

    wcutler Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout 10 Years

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    I've added this to the Maple Resources page, with a link to your posting with such detailed info.
     
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  25. Zig7

    Zig7 Member

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    Wow JT!! You are so kind and generous with that fantastic information.

    You have provided me (and others reading here) with materials equivalent to a lengthy course of study on the topic of Japanese Maple pruning and where to get more info. Thank you so, so much. I just finished reading it all and watching the videos and must tell you I have benefited tremendously by your sharing heart. Your love for Japanese maples comes through loud and clear and I very much appreciate that you have treated my neophyte's request for more information with such serious support and encouragement. I am humbled by this and am truly grateful.

    Being on this side of the information, I'm pretty sure I shouldn't have made that cut I made last week (in the pictures above) since we were in the midst of a deep freeze for Victoria (-3C at night), but I do have other JM's in pots and in the ground so will have other specimens to work with regardless of the outcome. Slow and steady seems to always win the race, no matter what we are talking about! I will continue to absorb as much as I can and I will try to track down some of the books and journals you suggested. I do have "Niwaki" and found Jake's discussion with regard to JMs and the "hand" form to be intriguing, if not frustratingly stingy (when compared to his discussion about pruning evergreens) yet a great book to have as a reference.

    Finally thanks for singling out a bonsai book. There are so many and I didn't know where to start.

    I'll end with this little bit of info: that I was lucky enough to spend 5 days in Kyoto back in 2010, just visiting the various (seemingly innumerable) gardens there. I was so taken by the beauty of the pruning I saw. Although I am not embarking on creating a Japanese garden in my yard at the moment, I still love everything about Japanese maples (their bark, forms, sheer variety but esp. how the leaves of one tree can evolve so dramatically over a growing season). We are lucky to have them in our gardens.

    Okay. I will stop now!! Thanks again to ALL the contributors to this thread!
     
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