Pruning a Young Japanese Maple ?

Discussion in 'Maples' started by Bobgerard, Aug 21, 2013.

  1. amazingmaples

    amazingmaples Well-Known Member

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    Hi Steven

    First things first, there is no set way to prune japanese maples since there are so many different styles from uprights to dwarfs. i find that each tree has a different manor for pruning.

    So with hime or most dwarfs I look for the biggest and bushiest. i find "hedge pruning" to be a safe and effective way of pruning but I try and thin back some of the branches at the end so they do not get to bulky at the end. (remember most of my hime and dwarf are 4' and larger so there would be a lot of pruning if i cut it one little branch at a time which is different than a 3 gallon sized tree)


    As for uprights, I look for trunk and branch structure which is strong and balance with branches alternating on all sides of the tree. Most all the trees i get are 6' and taller in this type. Branches should be going out away from the tree at about a 30 degree angle with mimimal to no branches going into the center of the tree or acrossed the tree. the crossing branches are hard not to find so I just deal with them (hack gone).

    Since i have been involved with salvaging trees, I have experimented with torturious prune jobsand to the most part I have have very good results. it seems like maples will push extra growth in these cases.

    Now with dissectums I look for good strong branching. i looke for trees taller than 30" since the foliage droops and any less just lays on the ground. Most all the branches below that will be gone as the tree grows up. I know I can't crawl uder a tree less than that to pull weeds.

    now on dissectums i try and keep up on pruning them a few times a year. i really like the haystack look so i prune back the new growth on the top of the trees just after is comes out. Yes i loose some of that great spring color. in most cases i try and keep the trees light and airy by removing most duplicating branches. Now with trees like hana matoi or brocade I just leave them a dense bush.


    ****"IMPORTANT NOTE"**** I DO NOT RECOMEND MY METHOD FOR ANYONE. YOU NEED TO FIND WHAT MEETS YOUR NEEDS.
     
  2. Atapi

    Atapi Well-Known Member

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    Dear Charlie,

    Thank you so much for the insight.
    I will keep these tips in mind on my next JM purchase. Honestly, it is always nice to pick up a 6ft tree like yours but the cost will add up very fast when I start to pick more than a couple :(.
    BTW, for the dissectum when the branches begin to weep (no longer growing vertical!). I ended up with the main branches grow opposite direction (180deg.) and when we have wet snow; it tends to split and if we are not catching it on-time we will end up loosing a major branch. Any tip on this?.

    Many thanks again, Steven
     
  3. amazingmaples

    amazingmaples Well-Known Member

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    Steven

    based on price and space in most peoples garden I feel 20 japanese maples is max for a normal garden. My garden is 3/4 of an acre and I have 130 maples in it and many are full grown dwarfs.
    I started years ago with 10" tall maples from the internet and know the fun of the "MASSES" but there is no comparing the masses to one 5' tall 6' wide mikawa yatsubusa or a 6 ' Amagi shigure.
    I learn from collecting it is best to get the most plant your money can buy. You can so to speak never over pay for trees from such growers as Buchholz or Iseli nurseries when you factor the size and quality of their trees. Their time and energy are cheap for what you get in a plant.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2013
  4. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    Here is a 7 gallon Acer palmatum 'Katsura' we picked up today for $78.00 on sale at a local garden center. I saw the potential in it, decided to go with it, and plan to make it a bonsai. The picture was taken after a bit of pruning.
     

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  5. Bobgerard

    Bobgerard New Member

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    Wow!! Its beautiful !!!!!!!!!! (And a beautiful price as well!) I have tree envy now...
     
  6. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    Thank you! It was quite a transformation for this tree. My wife called it the ugly green blob at the garden center, but then absolutely loved it when I was done pruning. I wish I took a "before picture" to show the pruning transformation that took place. It turned out even better than imagined. Thanks again for your positive feedback!
     
  7. Atapi

    Atapi Well-Known Member

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    Hi John,
    Beautiful tree, it looks like you got a very healthy one there based on the number of leaves on the tree plus those that you have pruned. I just got me a 5-6ft 'Purple Ghost' this weekend from a local nursery but it doesn't have that many branches and leaves like yours. When I am transplanted it to the ground today, I found out the roots were tangled very bad because it was kept in a small 3 or 4gal plastic pot. I forgot to take a pic of it before put it in the hole. I tried to untangle as much as I can but it still look very dense...
    So for the lesson learn for next time, how do you untangle or normally handle this type of roots bound situation?. Is it OK to cut some of them off?.

    Thanks, Steven
     
  8. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    I use a few tools to help in a situation of a root bound tree, actually I use them for planning any tree. I have a root rake, root hook, marking awl, and a pair of hand pruners dedicated to roots.

    A few things to keep in mind:

    First, remember it's the fibrous roots, generally found in the top 1/3 to 1/2 of the root mass that are important for feeding the tree and taking in water. The outer roots and the bottom 2/3 to 1/2 of the root mass typically is the longer running roots. These typically help anchor the tree to the earth adding stability, but in the case of a pot grown tree, they tend to just run circles around the pot. Extra care should be taken to protect and maintain those very important fibrous roots. Extra care should be taken to keep these roots moist as drying out contributes to transplant shock. Mist or spray the roots regularly while working on the roots.

    Once the tree is removed from the pot, I like to start at the surface. With my hands, I pull away the surface dirt and mulch. Take a look at the trunk and inspect for any girdling roots (a root running along or around the trunk instead of outward). Remove even the thinnest root, as it will only grow larger and become a serious problem for the tree. Use your pruners to cut the root, you do not want to pull the root off, because it will tear the bark where it's attached. Be sure to unbury the root flare, sometimes you have to remove an inch or more of surface soil to expose the root flare. You may also have to prune off any new roots that formed off the trunk, from being buried.

    Next work on the sides of the root ball. Generally the roots run around the outside of the pot in a counter clockwise direction. So use your hands or root rake in a clockwise direction (going against the flow of roots) to unravel them. The long leggy roots with very little fibers can be pruned off.

    Once the long running roots have been removed, you can start raking the outer surface to round out the sharp lip at the outer surface of the root mass caused by the pot wall. This will allow the roots to spread outward into the new soil after planting, it also helps the roots settle with the surrounding soil, instead of having the roots exposed when the surrounding soil settles.

    Then rake the sides of the root ball to help bring the roots outward (sometimes the root hook is needed for the more stubborn roots). Then rake the bottom roots outward, if nessasary use your hands to massage the dirt away and loosen up any compacted roots. While doing this, prune back any long leggy roots.

    If the soil in the root ball is compacted, the marking awl can be used to aerate the root mass. Gently rock and push the point of the marking awl into the root mass, note we are not carelessly stabbing it like an ice pick. If you feel it hit something, pull it out and move it over a bit. We do not want to scratch the sides or impale any major roots. Most of the effort should be along the surface, so that water can penetrate into the center of the root mass when watering after planting. Using the marking awl to aerate the root mass helps prevent the inner root mass from drying out and it helps direct the water downward instead of running outward. Sometimes people plant a tree and water it regularly, but the tree suffers because the water never gets down into the root mass, so doing this step of aeration helps improve establishment time and reduces transplant shock in my opinion.

    Make sure you take extra time to work your planting soil in and around the root mass. We want to avoid and eliminate air pockets. I find watering the tree multiple times during planting helps aid in eliminating air pockets and reduces the amount of post planting settling. Always apply a fresh coat of mulch after planting. I prefer pine bark mulch that is about 1" to 2" chips over shredded mulch. The roots need to breath or need oxygen to take up water and nutrients and it's my opinion that shredded mulch matts together limiting oxygen and water penetration. I also no longer use dyed mulches, because they don't offer any nutritional benefit to the soil.
     
  9. Atapi

    Atapi Well-Known Member

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    Dear John,

    Wow, what is a valuable lesson?. Thanks.
    Another great tip will be stored in my JM tips library. You made it sounds like a very tedious work but I am sure it will be rewarded cause we all love to see our tree to take off and grow. I google what is the 'marking awl' - one shows it like an ice pick and the other shows like a flat/arrow pointed knife, which one is it?.
    Anyway when one is using this tool to aerate the root mass, will it OK to accidentally cutting or scratching the roots?. Yesterday, I tried to untangle them by hand and I ended up pull off a few fine (thin) roots, is it OK?. I once saw a video, people use a serrated (steak) knife and just cut in 45 deg at the bottom of the root ball for every 90deg around the circle. Is it OK also?. Before reading your sharing, I normally just hit around the root ball with my paw to loose up the roots but now I know I need to work a bit more than that :).
    After planting, I also use the drip irrigation (treegator picked up from AM Leonard). It likes a big plastic donut sit on top of the tree base fill w/ water then slowly release to the tree. I normally do that for a few weeks then cover the base with pine bark mulch as you recommended.

    Thank you very much once again for taking your time to share these valuable lessons with us, Steven.
     
  10. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    It sounds tedious, but it's really not all that bad. It just takes an extra 5 minutes, more or less depending on the condition of the roots.

    I included a picture below of what I use to prepare the roots for planting. From the left, my two marking awls, my two sets of pruners (the red handled ones are for thicker roots), root rake, root hook, and my nisaku potting tool.

    It's okay to accidently cut or scratch a few roots, I would not recommend carelessly and repeatedly damaging the roots. Extra caution should be used when working around the trunk and the larger roots of the root flare, not to damage those areas.

    I have a large stainless serrated knife that I use in rare circumstances of extremely pot bound trees, where the root rake or hook can't break into the root mass. In those rare cases, I use the serrated blade to cut off the bottom 1/4 of the root mass. This usually allows an opportunity to get in and loosen up the rest of the root mass.
     

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    Last edited: Sep 4, 2013
  11. Atapi

    Atapi Well-Known Member

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    Excellent idea and great tools that you have there, I didn't know you are a roots-surgeon :).
    Even if it takes me twice the times; it is well worth it.
    Thanks John.
     
  12. Atapi

    Atapi Well-Known Member

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    Dear John,

    I just planted another tree over the weekend (Red Cloud). I picked this one because Charlie shows a nice one from his garden on Youtube. I followed your instructions above to work through the roots and it worked out well. I am able to untangled using the garden fork and a long phillips screwdriver instead of marking awl, this long screwdriver helps me to go deeper inside the roots ball. I felt like the tree is quite happy for this extra work and it looks great on the new hole.
    BTW, thank you for all the insights about the new JM garden. I will send you a few pics where i just started a few weeks ago. You are right, I will need a lots of patient for this project.

    Thanks again, Steven
     
  13. M. D. Vaden

    M. D. Vaden Active Member 10 Years

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    Many things shared, but really such a simple task.

    First, it's a Bloodgood, so we know what it's supposed to grow into. Based on that, this is what I'd do, even if it were my own.

    1. ISA shares to avoid pruning newly planted trees. I think you can still do that within reason, for another full year, just looking at the photo.

    2. I find there is impatience retaining what looks out of place sometimes. That's exemplified especially for topped maples, where homeowners have asked me to recover them. It's essential to leave some of the taller "whips" and thin them. But that's not quite your case ... but maybe it was tipped-pruned to fit a nursery row. Either way, I'd leave as much of the tallest stem branches. possibly removing one side branch. where it seems to part. But I would leave the entire height.

    3. Would not prune, except for maybe that one cut ^^^ just mentioned, at the present.

    4. Next May or June, very light thinnning.

    5. Looks like some weak formed trunks, may need light cable / bracing in about 5 to 15 years, but not now.

    6. For 2 years, keep pruning to the bare minimums, even erring on the side of leaving rubbing, crossing, etc., a year more than typical.

    7. This year may have had more elongated grown than usual.

    8. Removal of top length, merely triggers a repeat or worse of the same.
     
  14. Atapi

    Atapi Well-Known Member

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    Hi John,

    As promised although I am quite embarrassed to send you some of the photos of my JM garden that I have been working on for the last two months after I have received lots of inputs from you and few others from our forum. BTW, I just finished the first round planting as many JM trees that I have and can.

    1st photo: I took down a few big & medium trees from the back of my yard to get room for the garden so it now received full afternoon sun, from noon to sunset.

    2nd photo: I designed the shape with the circle in the middle for grass and all the JM trees will be planted around it.

    3rd photo: I completed to put in the ground ~30+ JMs from green upright, red/green dissectum, few reticulated type, etc. Majority of them are from 3 to 5 yrs old those that I started from a 1yr graft. I also bought some 5-6ft trees.

    As you said, a garden will evolve and change over time. Right now mine looks very dull and plain because the trees are still small, lots of gaps, no ground cover... so I will have to be patient to watch them growing and give them time to established. In the mean time, I have a few questions that I hope you can give me your comments:

    - Since these trees will take full afternoon sun, how do I care for them during the summer times when the temp could reached 90'. I happen to plan even a few that required 'shade' i.e. Ukigumo, AKA Shigitatsu Sawa, purple ghost, Acer Japonicum, Acer Shirawanum... will they be able to adapt to full sun?

    - Right now I plant them a bit too close to each other cause their sizes vs. spaces - is it OK?. I know I will have to move some in the next five yrs.

    - The ground that they were planted on are full of clay. I have dug every hole larger and deeper, fill the bottom with pebbles, leaf compost, rotten branches... place the root ball a bit above the ground level. Unfortunately, in the last three days we have received a lot of rain and I just checked today some of their root balls are soaking with water. Any suggestion?. I know JM does not like the roots to be wet :((. HELP!

    If you have any other overall suggestions, I am more than happy to hear.

    Thank you so much, Steven.
     

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  15. ROEBUK

    ROEBUK Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    With further regards to the pruning of Acers/Maples about three years ago i decided i would like to aquire a large Omure yama to eventually plant out and to watch it develop into a large weeping specimen something on the lines of the magnificent picture in Vertrees book.

    The hard part was actually finding something of this cultivar which had the potential to develop into my insight, finding decent Omure yamas is dificult at the best of times with limited specialist growers in the UK. Finally managed to track one down in the shape i was looking for (Pic1) but thought i would have to do some major pruning on the lower half of the tree and round the edges and middle parts, before i actually bought this tree i went to the nursery on three occasions to see the plant in all stages of the year,superb colours in the fall but still very green on the lower half.
    Finally brought the tree home last year when leaves were dropped how i got it in the car is still a mystery? then set about removing all the lower limbs selecting twisted branches and quite a few dead or dying ones also.With the tree being three trunked i was able to attach a tringular frame just below the branch line to help push the trunks outward to give a bit more diameter on the branches and create more of a drooping effect as well on the overall appearence of the tree.So far i think i have got the general form i was looking for, so it's just a case of planting out after the fall and watch it develop hopefully in to something of beauty.
     

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  16. Jaybee63

    Jaybee63 Rising Contributor Maple Society

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    That's a beautiful looking specimen, I bet it would fetch a decent price now. I saw a very large one in a local nursery recently, I guess about 10-0 high, asking price was £975

    I fell in love with the picture in Vertrees book and have planted one in our front garden, it's a modest height of 3 and a half feet but already has the drooping habit, if it ends up looking like the one you have trained I will be more than pleased.
     
  17. Schattenfreude

    Schattenfreude Active Member

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    Looks like a real beauty to me already!! Congrats on your efforts!

    Kevin in KC
     
  18. ROEBUK

    ROEBUK Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    Jaybee63..Schattenfreude..Thanks for the comments really hope this one flourish's into a nice tree.Please find some more pics of Osakazuki which needed serious cut back last year.Planted this way back in 2006 and it's never been touched until after the fall 2013.

    Pic 1/ Really outward growing far to much, covering all the light from the bottom half of the tree, good red colours on the top half in the fall but lower tree stays very green.
    Pic 2/ Heavy pruning of all the side growing branches and trimming off all central and lower growing ones, trying for an overall roundish/upright look.
    Pic 3/Today tree nicely re-growing in all the right places better looking shape slight trimming on the top maybe later on ,plus i have room to plant two small trees either side now!! so all is well :)
     

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  19. ROEBUK

    ROEBUK Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    Just a brief update to this thread on pruning J/M. Replied to this originally in Aug 2013 showing a few pics of my Bloodgood which i had been lightly pruning over the past season.

    Decided that owing to the fact that bloodgoods do tend to grow rather large and basically i didn't have enough room to accomadate the tree, thought it would be a good idea to try and shape the tree more so it would have a flatter looking top and more of a sideways/outward growing effect.

    Cut out three of the lowest limbs so i could see more of the trunk,took out the main leader which was only going one way and that was up,then cut back the remaining branches by about 6" then gently bent back the branches which were still tending to point upwards slightly then tied them back.

    Picture 1 is from 2013 and the rest are from today,what intend to do now with this tree is leave it in it's container then place the container by some low growing dwarfs acers so they can compliment each other in colour and shapes, trying to acheive something akin to a large umberella protecting the little guys.

    Looks quite well this year excellent colour and no leaf damage,would think another couple of seasons growing and trimming and hopefully it will look something like what i am trying to acheive.
     

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  20. maplesmagpie

    maplesmagpie Active Member

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    That looks great, ROEBUK. I like the shape a lot.
     

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