How do I help this Japanese Maple survive winter damage?

greenmulberry(5-Iowa City)May 2, 2009

It has become clear that the ends of the branches on the top 60% of my Crimson Queen Japanese maple are dead. Winter was too hard I think.

The bottom has leafed out nicely, but the buds (?) on the ends of the branches up top are crispy, brown and dried up, and not going anywhere. Everyone else's Crimson Queen that I have seen in this local area is nicely and leafed out top to bottom.

It did get to record -29 F this winter, (it's second winter here) and we had a warm spell followed by frigid weather in March, I was really hoping my maple wouldn't be harmed by all that. What makes me so sad is that I covered the bottom half with a pile of leaves, and all the covered branches are fine, but the top is clearly dead. I will remember that lesson for next year ad cover the tree better. It is (was) over three feet tall and quite wide, so not easy to cover with leaves.

I have been coming to terms over the last two weeks that my lovely tree is now a stumpy shrub. I am very emotionally attached to this tree! It came through the first winter here without missing a beat, so I thought I was doing good.

. . .

Today, I noticed that all up the trunk of my J. maple, little bright red shoots are coming out. It looks like new branches are sprouting on the trunk. How exciting! There are about 5 that I noticed, up the trunk that I formerly thought was dead. They are about a 1/4 inch long.

What can I do to help this tree recover? Should I cut the dead branches off? I was thinking leaving them on may do some good. I usually don't fertilize but add some compost as top dressing here and there, but I was wondering if maybe the tree could use some miracle grow or something to give it a boost? Not sure if this is an appropriate time to fertilize a JM.

Trees are not a topic I am very experienced with as far as my gardening knowledge. This is my only Japanese Maple. I was wondering if someone could tell me what the right approach is at this point to ensure my precious crimson queen makes it?

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Don't do anything until fall. You may continue to be surprised. Wait and see to what extent it recovers. Before the deciduous leaf drop, you will know what is alive. You could gently cut into the cambian bark layer also to look for green. Then prune back all the dead growth. You will need to train a new central leader to get back your height from one of the most vertical new branches. It can take years to reconstruct a lace leaf JM since they are relatively slow growers. I would feed it lightly to help. the recovery with an acid fertilizer unless you native soil is acid already.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 7:49PM
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greenmulberry(5-Iowa City)

Thank you for the insight. I dearly love this tree, this was a VERY nice specimen given to me as a gift the I would have never been able to afford otherwise.

I am very hopeful that more new growth will show.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 11:01AM
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