Want to move an older tree - need advise

mary_pnw_7b(Oly WA z7b)January 24, 2007

My father died a few weeks ago and before we sell his house I want to move his Japanese Maple to my yard. It is the short weeping kind and has been in the ground for a long time. The trunk is about 8 inches in diameter. I need advise. The last thing that I want to do is kill it, as this tree really meant a lot to him and I would be devastated if I lost it.

I was told that it might help to dig down to cut the roots now, so that it would establish new feeder roots before I pull it out. What do you think?

This tree is about 3.5 - 4 feet from a sidewalk. Do you think this will be a problem? How much of the root ball should I take? The drip line is about 5 feet in diameter.

Any advice is really appreciated. I don't care what it costs to move it (within reason) because it is priceless to me, so if you think I need to call in professionals let me know.


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myersphcf(z6a IL)

If it really means soething to ya and you have the $$ I would not cheapskate it and try to move it yourself...You probably CAN do it yourself( be aware it will be a MUCH bigger job than you will ever visualize just looking at it!!) with help from at least one other person and you most likely wont do much damage but why bother unless you need the excessive exercise which it WILL take. Check out WHO you have do it perferably a local high quality and reputable nursery and get an estimate ...and tell them exactly what you want done and that you expect NO damage otherwise you'd do it yourself!!! The idea of starting new feeder roots BEFORE you move it seems useless IMHO especially this time of year( but any time of year IMHO)...dig the sucka and move it quickly and let all the new roots grow in it's new site. If you are into muscle building and want to do it yourself call Julie ( I guess they have those out there) to mark any underground elect, gas or sewr cable etc lines...and Good luck ...As I said do yourself a favor and hire a pro to do it. David

    Bookmark   January 25, 2007 at 11:15AM
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tcharles26(usa texas)

Sorry about your father.

David knows more about japanese maples than I. But plants are plants and I differ on one or two things..

RE: "[if i] cut the roots now [....] it would establish new feeder roots before I pull it out"

You're referring to root pruning and it's always beneficial (even for deciduous trees). That's because roots respond to pruning the same way branches do. They make more. And the new roots are better.

But I guess that's neither here nor there, because if you were going to root prune it you would do it now and then remove it next year at this time. And you probably dont want the house on the market that long.

RE: david's advice to tell the landscape / nursery guy/ or arborist you expect a perfect result...Well, its ok to tell them its very important to you. But dont expect anyone to be super eager to take a job for someone with unrealistic expectations.

RE: needing professional assistance in the first place. You probably do. At least some muscle labor. I'm 29 yrs old, in decent shape, and like doing that kind of work. I recently removed a woody shurb (about 6 feet tall and as wide) to plant my new JM in the front yard and it took almost an entire day and left a 4'X3'X3' whole to plant the new gallon plant in. And that was done with liberal use of a pick axe on the roots which you won't want to do too much.

An eight inch diameter trunck sounds like a big ole maple. If it goes well it will be worth all your work. Good luck.


    Bookmark   January 25, 2007 at 4:21PM
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tcharles26(usa texas)

oh, and you asking for "advice" not "advise". The former is a noun and the later a verb. Sorry....can't stop myself....


    Bookmark   January 25, 2007 at 4:25PM
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myersphcf(z6a IL)

The only reason I would not wait for new roots to establish before moving is because it is now likely dormant ...root growth will be little and if you wait you will cause it MUCH more stress once it "wake's" up this spring...Thats why I suggest digging and moving it now and letting it grow next spring in it's new inviorn ...
As far as a pro nursery yes of course nothing in life is perfect I just think you need to "advise" them that you want a great job ...maybe "perfect" is the wrong term...they will more likely have the equiptment to keep much more of the root system in tact maybe even a clam shell digger...
If you do it yourself you had better have a chain saw ready for those larger roots and be prepares to mangle the root system somewhat ...but JM's are very hardy and it will likely do fine but I'd not expect much this next summer when it will be growing back much of it's root sytem which ever way you move it... although if done "right" with as much root sytem spared as possible it may actuaally look fine this summer vis a vis a pro move job would still be my "suggestion" David

    Bookmark   January 25, 2007 at 5:35PM
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mary_pnw_7b(Oly WA z7b)

Thanks for the advice. I do hire a guy on occasion, and although not a professional arborist he has moved some pretty large rhododendrons for me and did a great job, but I suspect that this root ball is going to be very large. Any guestimate what professionals charge for this type of service?
If we do choose to hire our guy again, should we wrap the root ball in burlap, or would it be okay to just transport it as long as we plant it right away?

Thanks for mentioning the big hole. That didn't even cross my mind. I guess I will need to bring along topsoil too.

tcharles, good catch! Can you believe that part of my job is proofing? I had to chuckle ~ I do the same thing all the time.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2007 at 12:50PM
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tcharles26(usa texas)

Sorry no idea what it would cost to hire an arborist, but you could get your phonebook and call a guy. I'm sure you're rhodie mover could do the job, especially if you're helping.

As for wrapping up the rootball, this is just a guess but my instinct is to definitely pack the rootball with soil wrap and wet as soon as possible. Roots start to die pretty fast. Just a guess. I dont usually move stuff, just kill it and start with something I like better.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2007 at 5:24PM
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myersphcf(z6a IL)

Cost will likely depend on how far the two areas are from each other and how easily it will be to get to both spots get an estimate or two...remember morn sun and afternoon shade is best for most any JM at it's destination...you DON'T want to move it twice ;>)...as far as wrapping T is correct itr depends on how long it is exposed but laying it on top of wet burlap or even a sheet and lightly wrapping it once it's out of it's hole is probably a good idea although this time of year it is not so crucial and alot depends on the soil and whether it stays with the root system giving it protection ...if it's sandyand or alot of the root system is exposed I would wrap it up...and most any pro would likely do so unless it is clam shell dug then it will have a ton of dirt attached anyway ...use the soil at it's new destination no need to take more than what natuarally comes with the dug up tree...and dig the end hole first even if it's just a guestimate so you can get it in asap( if clam dug they would do that anyway and use that dirt to fill the old hole) David

    Bookmark   January 26, 2007 at 6:48PM
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You don't want an arborist - they are far more focused on tree care, removal and pruning but not on transplanting established, mature, specimen trees. I'd ak at local nurseries or look through the Yellow Pages for professional tree movers. There are a number of such specialized outfits up here in the greater Seattle area, so assume you would find a few also down the road :-)

And prepare to fork out some serious cash. This is a BIG job and will produce a large, heavy rootball. Specimen Japanese maples we sell at the nursery typically have a rootball very close to the spread of the canopy, especially for weeping dissectums. As much as several thousand $$ is not out of line for a major transplant - distance will also play a big factor.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2007 at 6:20PM
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myersphcf(z6a IL)

WOW that is really alot!!! I guess your economy is much better than ours as I have heard on the west coast...tree removal by most experienced folks around here...even larger stuff involves in the several hundreds NOT thousands it's not like their doors are being knocked down for biz this time of year around here they just want the work...in the spring they are more dinero..but a cup of "normal" coffee is a little over a 1$ so I guess it depends on where you live ... but if it's a nice tree it's still worth it ...David

    Bookmark   January 28, 2007 at 8:46PM
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David, there have been a number of threads here - many dealing with the "value" associated with mature trees (typically that the poster is contemplating selling). In many cases, the cost of moving the tree in question will exceed the value considerably, or if included as part of the deal, may double or triple the value. If the tree has any significant size associated with it, this is not a cheap undertaking anywhere in the country.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 6:47PM
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myersphcf(z6a IL)

GG It has been a while about 5 or 6 years or so but I had two large sugar maples moved from a friends place about 30 miles away ...each way .... They an reputable tree nursery.They used a rear clam shell truck mounted digger and dug my hole first then removed the tree planted at my house and pushed the dirt back in their hole and repeated it for the second one ...the total cost was about 75$$ pr tree ..they did a good job and these trees were about 15 feet tall and caliper of 8-12" ...they are now about 30 feet tall and thriving... both places were accessable... street level there and one front yard one back yard at my place NO FENCES...with inflation and gas etc i'd expect the same move both trees ...easily accessable...OFF SEASON as that one was... to be in the 500-800$$ range for both... well worth it ...with a smaller Jm I'd expect it too be in the 250-400$$ range here MAX...I think there is a wide descrepency in costs for this service from area to area and I think you are likely right in your figure there but NOT here ...and I reiterate off season ...it is about mid 20's days teens to single digits night here of late and the bigger nurseries are NOT doing much outside so if they get a call you'd propbably will get a good price compared to what you will get in late march or april which is more what your weather is like NOW ...David

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 7:17PM
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myersphcf(z6a IL)

I would suggest getting some estimates as i stated originally since that is is only real way to find out...David

    Bookmark   January 29, 2007 at 11:18PM
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tcharles26(usa texas)

Here in Texas I've seen companies use a "tree spade" to move very big trees. It's not something you can go to the home depot and rent for the afternoon, but I would guess that you can find one with an operator for less than 'thousands of dollars.'

An example of what I am talking about can be found by clicking the link.

Here is a link that might be useful: I need one of these

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 9:21AM
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I have seen a lot of good advice given here, but I need to chime in with just one element of the process: If you move this tree yourself, you need to consider the kind of soil the tree is growing in and how stable it is. If you have sandy/gravelly soil the root ball is more likely to fall apart. And, if in the process of moving the tree with its root ball, there is a high likely hood that it may be shaken a bit, it will fracture or fall apart regadless of the properties of the soil.

So, what do you do? Speaking as a person who has moved a number of trees myself that were too large for me to really handle easily, here is what I recommend.

Dig the tree out slowly by trenching all around it and then trenching underneath it as far as you can. The tree should be left on a kind of pillar of soil. Then you wrap it and then, most important, make a wire cage out of some kind of heavy grade woven wire (I used cattle fencing wire) and construct this cage and tie it so it is tight to the root ball. Now, sever the remaining soil under the tree, tilt it on its side, and finish the wire cage underneath the tree. Now you are ready to lift it, and if you have a hard time levering it out of the hole and getting it into a truck with complete gentleness, the root ball will be stable anyway. When you plant it, dig a hole somewhat wider than the tree, partly so you can tilt the tree this way and that to allow you to remove the wire cage you have built.

The real issue here in deciding if you can do this yourself is the size of the root ball and its weight. This tree is 8" which is large, but the top portions of the tree are not proportionally large. I have had discussions here in these tree forums before with others on the appropriate root ball size for different trees. I have tended to recommend larger root balls than some others that offer advice here. At a minimum I would think you need something three and 1/2 feet across. And I would think 28 inches in depth would be a minimum. This thing will weigh several hundred pounds. If it were me I would hire someone with proper equipment and/or who would use the wire cage I recommend. But I have moved trees by slowly and laboriously dragging them over the ground and then even more laboriously levering and inching them up a ramp into a truck. With a little creativity you can surprize yourself by how much you can handle.


    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 10:35AM
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mary_pnw_7b(Oly WA z7b)

Thanks for the great advice everyone. I do have 2 big guys that I do think can move this. One thing that will be a challenge is getting it out of the fenced yard. We will have to lift it over a fence so it will be a challenge regardless of if we hire it done, or do ourselves. Where would I purchase burlap? A fabric store, or would garden stores carry it? The cage is a great idea ~ we will definitely do that.

The dirt at my dads is that wonderful dark loam; beautiful soil. On the flip side, I have very sandy soil. How do you think the tree will adapt to this? Should I amend the soil in the new planting hole?

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 11:38AM
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Can you cut through the fence in some way? If you have a large enough root ball, I would wonder if three men could lift it over. I cut through a fence to move one of my trees, but then it was just a simple fence to keep deer out of my garden and it was easy to repair. Maybe you could set up a ramp on one side, get the tree pushed to the top, then brace it, and have your three men get on the other side and lift it down the other side. But two men on one side and one on the other (or vice-versa) is not really going to make it possible to get this thing over the fence.

As for the sandy soil for this maple tree, I am not the best person to give advice. But if you love this tree, I would order a full dump trunk load of good topsoil and some way or other get that mixed with (and or partly replace) the soil already on the planting site to a width of about 10 feet or maybe even a little more on all sides of the tree and to a good depth of about 28 inches or more, especially directly underneath the planting spot. This is some expense and maybe even more work, but what the heck, you love this tree. And if you were to buy a tree like this and have someone plant it for you, you would be spending about $750, or more, I would guess.

As for the burlap, I am not sure where you can get some. Sometimes garden centers have some. Maybe even a fabric store. Maybe Home Depot. I got a big stack of old burlap feed sacks at a farm auction sale years ago.


    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 12:24PM
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mary_pnw_7b(Oly WA z7b)

We will have access to a boom truck, the kind used to hoist a person up to trim a tree or work on electrical wires. So we will use that to get it over the chain link fence if we can't get it through the gate.
Money is no object here; as far as good topsoil goes that will be easy, thanks for that advice. I am soooooo worried that the tree won't make it that I have even questioned my decision to take it. My dad loved that tree, and although it would mean the world to me and be so wonderful and special to have, it would not be worth it if it didn't make it. I would be devastated. So if anyone thinks that it would be too big of a risk for the tree, please let me know.
I do think that we have what it takes to move it. We do plan on wrapping the root ball and making a wire basket to put it in as spruceman suggested. I want you to know that all of your advice has been very helpful and appreciated.
My one concern is that my husband is talking about wrapping the trunk with the type of foam that you use to insulate pipes and then lift the tree by wrapping rope around the trunk. This worries me, as I know that it will be heavy and I am afraid that it will cut through the foam and cut into the trunk. Any thoughts on this?
I do plan on contacting a tree removal service too, but I am in San Diego right now on business, I get home late on Thursday and the memorial is Saturday so it will have to be next week. We are big DIY'ers so I think we could do as good a job as anyone, with the exception of a clam digger. What I do know is that the window is tight and I need to get it out soon. My self imposed deadline is Presidents day weekend.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2007 at 11:24PM
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myersphcf(z6a IL)

Good luck with the tree I think you are a bit too worried I think it will be just fine you'd probably have to crush it with your lift to kill the sucker and probably not even then ..Jm's are not easy to kill at that age...now first year ebay grafts, that folks seem so hot to trot about, well that another story...my concern is you guys having a heart attack getting it out. What ever way you do it take your time.start early and be prepared to work late.. amending the to be planted space is questionable IMHO JM's can take a variety of soil types and the current thinking is agaist amendments...let us know how it goes ...David

    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 10:00AM
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Do not lift the tree by the trunk, no matter what kind of protection it has. Your root ball should be 300 to 400 pounds or more and that is just too much weight.

When I talk about the wire basket, I am talking about really, really constructing a heavy woven wire container for the root ball that will be very strong and very tight on all sides of the root ball, top and bottom. These can take a good long time to construct by cutting and bending pieces of heavy woven wire and getting them tied together very, very tight to the root ball. Except for the very bottom, this basket is to be constructed around the root ball before it is lifted out of the hole. The bottom can be constructed after tilting the tree to one side before lifting. Constructing this thing can take a couple of hours or more to get right. Often larger trees in retail nurseries have trees in these baskets--they are quite common and seem to be preformed. The ones I make look terrible compared to these commercially made ones, but with some effort I can make them so they can get the job done.

But once you a good strong basket made, a good way to lift the tree will be by this basket. Get a rope or chain and attach it to the top/sides of the basket in at least three places for stability (more is probably better to avoid having too much stress on the basket, depending on how heavy the wire it is made of and how it is constructed). Or maybe best you could place a kind of sling under the root ball to lift it.

But if you can hire a professional who really knows what they are doing, that is probably the best option. I gave all the advice I did with the understanding that you really wanted to do the job yourself. And if you do it yourself, care and PATIENCE is the key. If I were moving a tree like this, I would not expect to get the tree dug and securely basketed in less than a day's work, with the actual moving happening on a second day. But then I am 67 and in spite of my vigor, I can't really do 8 hrs hard labor very easily any more.

As for your tree surviving--the odds are very, very good if the job is done right, but I doubt that anyone you might want to hire the job would offer any guarantee.

As for soil amendments, re David above. Do not amend the soil with any fertilizer or other soil conditioners, but adding good soil to mix with your perhaps too sandy soil does not fall under the category of soil "amendments" as such. But David says that these maples can stand a variety of soil types. I guess my concern is that if the soil is really sandy it may not hold enough water and nutrients for the tree to grow like it did in its former location. Perhaps you can have someone come and evaluate the soil.

But my experience is that adding good rich topsoil to an existing site where the soil does not seem good enough for good tree growth (either on the surface and/or mixing it in) does not cause problems. In front of our new house that we had built 5 years ago I wanted to plant two Norway spruce trees in the traditional "bride and groom" pairing(by the way trees I "basketed" to move safely), but the soil was very, very thin in this spot. So I brought in 1 1/2 full dumptruck loads of soil and added them to the surface to give a good A/B soil horizon thickness. Well, the trees are doing beautifully. These were trees that I dug up from a special place several years before and had growing at my Western MD tree farm for the last 8 years or so--they are a special strain that I found in WV and got permission from the owner to dig up. They are in their third "home" now.


    Bookmark   January 31, 2007 at 11:32AM
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mucknmire(zone6 NJ)

As others have already mentioned a tree that size with rootball will be extremely heavy. You would probably have to dig at least a 4 feet dia. rootball. I don't think you will be able to do it yourself even with two strong guys.

I moved a weeping 3 feet tall dissectum jm with a trunk dia. of about 3-4 inches and branch spread of about 4 feet. I dug around the tree about 2 1/2 to 3 feet diameter by 2 feet deep. It weighed a lot. My brother-in-law and I barely managed to muscle and roll it out of the hole and used a hand truck to move it but kept getting stuck as the wheels dug into the lawn.

Just last October I decided to remove a Bloodgood that was planted by the former owner. It was misshapened and ugly so even if it was quite large about 12 feet high with a dia. of about 6-7" I wanted to get rid of it. I dug about 3 feet around the tree and had to go at least 3 feet down to get to roots small enough to cut with the pick. After working on this for hours I had to quit but a neighbor helped me the next day by pulling the tree in one direction to expose more roots for cutting. It was a massive job for one person and I could barely get the tree out of the deep hole even knocking off as much dirt as I could off the 2-2 1/2 foot rootball.

I pruned off all the smaller branches except for 5 feet of the main trunk and larger branches so I could use it as a lever. I was about to cut it up and throw it out on the curb for the township brush pick up service but had second thoughts about just discarding it so I planted it in a hidden corner of our yard instead. After removing much of the roots and all of the small feeder roots and branches I don't know if the tree will survive. But I moved it when it was pretty much dormant and I did notice that when the weather was warmer 2 months after planting that it was weeping a sweet fluid as ants were lapping up the liquid. So hopefully this means that it has formed new roots and will live. The weeping stopped as soon as the weather turned cold.

Japanese maples are very tough. The dissectum we moved showed absolutely no sign of stress even when it was moved midsummer! No dropping of leaves or drying at all. Pretty amazing as I thought there was a possibility of losing the tree.

Good luck. I would hire a professional tree service or tree nursery with a clamshell digger.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2007 at 8:53AM
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mary_pnw_7b(Oly WA z7b)

We have decided to move it ourselves using all of the advice you folks have so kindly provided. I will amend the planting hole with some good topsoil. I do have two other jm's that are growing just fine in our sandy soil, but it is nowhere as rich as what this tree is growing in right now. Spruce, thanks for settling the issue of wrapping and pulling it out by the trunk. He needed to read it here. :-) I also hadn't thought about the wheels sinking into the lawn, so that was great info. Our ground is very wet and soft right now, so I will make sure that we put down plywood or something so it will roll easily.
Now I just need to figure out where I am going to put it!! I will let you know how it goes.
Thanks to all of you for the great advice!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2007 at 2:19PM
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I would love to hear the story! Too often we give our best advice and even become involved in the situations we are trying to help with, and then.......nothing. We never hear what was finally determined to be wrong, or what was finally done, or what finally happened if our advice was followed.

Maybe sometime someone should come back here and say something like, "Sprucey, your advice stank and caused me to ruin my tree." then I could avoid giving the same stupid advice the next time. But if I really help someone, it would make my day to know!


    Bookmark   February 2, 2007 at 8:14PM
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mary_pnw_7b(Oly WA z7b)

I have received such priceless information here. You can rest assured that I will report back. Your words of wisdom have prepared us for this laborious challenge that we have ahead of us. I am feeling confident, and I am going to summarize all of the information presented here into a cheat sheet so we will have it on hand. I will also copy all of the funny things said here too, to motivate us when the going gets tough!

I still need to figure out where to put the darn thing.

I promise to write the best hour by hour pictorial that I am capable of as soon as we get big beauty in the ground.
I am ordering the dirt tomorrow, to be delivered next week. We plan to take it out on Presidents Day weekend.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2007 at 10:12PM
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mary_pnw_7b(Oly WA z7b)

Okay, so here is our plan:

Dirt will be delivered and we will pre dig the hole large enough (well - probably not, be we will make our best guess) and amend the hole with some good garden soil. I will water it in well.

We will take the rest of the soil over to my Dads when we go over to move the tree, so we can fill in the hole that will be left from the tree.

We plan to start digging 3.5ft  4ft out from the trunk. (ThatÂs all the room I have on one side due to a side walk.)

When we get down to about 3 feet so it is sitting on a cone, we will wrap the root ball in burlap and tie it off. We will tilt the tree until we can get the burlap underneath it and wrap that off too.

We will then construct a wire basket to go over the burlap using the same technique we used to wrap it in burlap. We will tie this off so it is nice and tight.

My knot master (sailor) husband will construct a sling made out of very strong rope, that we will tie off when we get it properly secured around the root ball.

We will also create guide ropes to ensure that it will not tip over one way or another.

We will use the boom truck to lift the tree by its root ball, and will use the guide ropes to keep it stable. (I will recruit some of the neighbors to help with this part.)

We will tie it up inside the truck to keep it from tipping.

We will break for a much needed beer!

When we get "Big Beauty" home, we will measure the diameter of the root ball to make sure the hole we dug is large enough. We will also measure the height to ensure the planting depth is correct. I will likely plant it a little higher to allow for settling and a few inches of mulch.

We will take it off of the truck the same way we got it on using the boom truck. However, we will likely have fewer guide helpers unless I can guilt my sister into coming over to help.

So here is where the challenge comes in. We may need to take it down several terraces if I plant it in the place that I am leaning towards. My thoughts are to put it on a tarp and drag it across the yard. But this is where I am stuck. How do we get it down over the retaining wall? It will also need to go down a five foot wide flight of about 5 stairs!! Darn ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ I thought I had it all figured out!!


    Bookmark   February 2, 2007 at 11:23PM
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mary_pnw_7b(Oly WA z7b)

I have settled on the spot for the tree. I will NOT need to move it down stairs or terraces. So no need to reply to the last paragraph my last post.
Thanks for all of your help.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2007 at 12:26PM
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Mary, I'm so sorry for your loss. Having your Dad's jm will be a nice living memorial. I'm wishing you the best of luck in this move.

This posting is interesting to me since I have a lace leaf jm that I root pruned last year and I'm staging a short move now. This tree is far smaller and we haven't the emotional attachment you have. I am incouraged and feel better informed thanks to reading these posts!

I'll check back to see how things went for you.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2007 at 2:45PM
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tcharles26(usa texas)

I hope the original poster lets up know how it turned out. Maybe a digital picture. Hope it goes well.

Something else occured to me. While its dormant you could take a few scions and have someone graft it for you. That way, should the main project fail you could have a clone. I think there are a few nurseries that do that kind of "custom propagation". Alternatively, someone on this board could probably help.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2007 at 3:12PM
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njacer(z7 NJ)


Sorry to chime in so late on this topic. I dig and move trees around my garden very frequently and may be able to offer some additional advice. I had contract diggers come in late this fall and dig 21 larger maples to move to new locations. If you are looking for help I would check with a local nursery if you have a favorite. I am talking about the nurseries that actually grow material and not just buy the plants. They may be able to sell you the burlap and twine for your project and may even be able to suggest a digger they use. The people that I used dig for many of the local growers and I caught them at the end of their fall digging season with help from a local nursery. The total time was about 9 hours split over two days. The cost was about $650 with me supplying the burlap and twine. On a good day moving trees in my gardens I can move two to three trees. Bringing in contract diggers was the best way to accomplish my project.

Now for the not so good news. I moved trees ranging in size from 1.5 inch diameter and 6 to 8 feet tall and the largest being 4.5 inch and about 12 to 15 feet tall. Most of the trees were in the 24 to 30 inch range in root ball diameter with 4 or 5 over this size. I have a small John Deere 4WD tractor that has a rated lifting capacity of approximately 900 lbs. I was unable to lift any of the trees over 30 inches. We had a 46 inch diameter root ball that weighed in excess of 2000 lbs and this was only about 4.5 inch trunk. This is not something you want to try to lift or drag without a machine.

Another helpful way of getting the tree out of the hole after it is balled is to tip the tree to one side and partially fill the hole. Compact the soil and then tip to the other side and back fill. Repeatedly using this method will allow you to get the tree to ground level without the strain of lifting it up out of the hole. It is less stress on the tree and your back. This will also allow you to secure your rigging around the ball to lift the tree with your boom truck.

Good luck with your project.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2007 at 8:11PM
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mary_pnw_7b(Oly WA z7b)

Thanks for the back filling advice, I can see where that could be a big help in lifting the tree out. The grafting idea is a great one too. Could I take the cuts after we move it?

Unfortunately another sudden death in the family (the 3rd in 5 weeks) is putting me on an airplane to LA on Friday, so I will not be here for the move. My daughters step dad, (whom she was very close to) died suddenly, and I have to go be with her. So I have to put total trust in my DH to be gentle and do it right. I will ask him to take some pictures at different stages, and I will post them here.

I am concerned about the size of the root ball but after talking to Brian (our helper who has moved several trees) he seems to think that he will be able to lift it out of the hole with his truck. My latest concern is that they will have to cut some rather large roots. Any advice on the max size to cut? Lets say there is a 2 inch diameter root that goes under the sidewalk. Is it sure doom if they have to cut it? Could they put rooting hormone on it or is that not a good idea?

    Bookmark   February 13, 2007 at 8:43PM
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tcharles26(usa texas)

RE: he seems to think that he will be able to lift it out of the hole with his truck.

I have a full size half ton truck that can pull about 9000lbs and has carried about 2100 in the bed. I don't know what kind of truck we're talking about. And towing and carrying isnt necessarily the same as lifting, But with at least a full size truck, some cables, pulleys etc. you can move alot.

I didnt know John Deere made tractors. I thought they made riding lawn mowers. :)

RE: Lets say there is a 2 inch diameter root that goes under the sidewalk. Is it sure doom if they have to cut it? Could they put rooting hormone on it or is that not a good idea?

No. Yes. No. No, it's not doom, you have to cut the biggest roots. Yes, you could put rooting hormone on it, but no it's not a good idea (as far as I know). A rooting compund is a synthetic plant hormone that induces root growth in lieu of other growth. Digging up a plant causes similar hormonal changes in the plant anyway. That is not a common horticultural practice to my knowledge.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2007 at 11:14PM
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When I bought my house the backyard was overgrown. We hacked out a 10 ft tall wild grown silver maple growing through a hedge. As a lark we decided to re-plant it. That summer it was down to 3 leaves and we kept waiting for it to give up the ghost. The next year it leafed out with about a few dozen leaves. But we kept very good care of it... especially keeping the soil nicely watered. It was planted in a good spot in a well prepared hole. Now about 7 years later the tree is doing fine and you could never tell that it had been through so much. The point of this story is that a good regimen of care after you re-plant the tree will go a long way. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   February 15, 2007 at 5:45PM
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I love your idea of moving the tree as a memorial for your father. It will mean even more to you after the work of moving it! It will take the boom truck or a tractor to move that root ball. Some years ago I had to move my favorite Japanese maple. It had been in place for about 7 years so it was not nearly asbig as yours but it was still a big job. We had to replace the sewer line and it came out of from unde rthe foundation right under the tree. We planned on being gone for the Easter holiday so it made sense to have the work while we were gone. I dug the tree and drug it around to the north (shady) side of the house where it sat for the next 10-12 days. I didn't wrap the root ball but we have heavy clay and it wasn't going very far so the root ball stayed relatively intact. AFter the sewer line was put back and the fill had a chance to settle for a few days with a sprinkler running on it I replaced the tree at the original spot but planted it high because I knew it would settle. It is on the east side of the house an thus protected from hot afternoon sun. It never showed a bit of stress from the move.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2007 at 12:42AM
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esamart(z5 (Finland 2))

Fall 2005 was rainy and this already slanting appletree inglined a lot when clayish ground became soft while carrying a lot of apples.

Here is a picture May 29 2006 when I already started to dig. On baground there is a large maple which has rotten trunk and now I am able to take it down when this appletree is away.


I used a shovel, axe and pressure washer which was exellent but messy tool to cut roots and clay. Then I fell it to the right and put three 2 by 4's to the hole as rails. I used 4000lbs winch to drag it to surface.



On ground I alternated two old steel roof sheets and my teen dother was strong enough to winch while I held the tree up. I bolted another winch to a birch stump and we routed the tree thru the garden about 25 meters using pulley wheels tied to other trees.


I planted the tree to a nice sunny place. Because the roots suffered I cut many branches. The top curves to south and two branches arch other way so I am able to walk under them while working in the garden. I made dams for water to soak well to the root area. During the summer heat leaves wilted some but they became fine when I watered again.


    Bookmark   February 19, 2007 at 3:35PM
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mary_pnw_7b(Oly WA z7b)

Okay, so here is an update. The tree did not get moved last weekend. Our tree guy Brian's dad died so we had to postpone. Although I am truly sad about the reason that it didn't get moved, I really wanted to be involved, so we will reschedule hopefully in the next few weeks.

We are getting to the time here in the PNW where the days will be getting warmer. So it may break dormancy before we have a chance to get it out. I am feeling encouraged by the recent posts. It seems that jm's are pretty resilient. I will certainly baby it when it gets in the ground.

I am hoping we can get it moved the first weekend in March. That will allow time for my back to heal. While I was in LA I couldn't resist digging up some plants to bring home in remembrance of Collin. I threw my back out in a major way and can barely walk. Getting old is a B$%#@*)%*$! I suppose this is a good reminder to stretch first, especially at the beginning of gardening season!

I will be sure to take good pictures to post and tell you how it goes.

Thanks, for all of the words of wisdom, and for sharing your experiences! They have been priceless!


    Bookmark   February 21, 2007 at 10:28PM
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I am wondering how your transplanting of the maple tree went. I would like to know what happened, even if things did not go as planned. I think I and others who have read about your plans could learn something from a report.


    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 11:49AM
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I was just reading thru the thread.

I'm planning to move a laceleaf tomorrow. The tree is about 6' high, 6' wide, has a caliper of 3 1/2", and is about 15 - 20 years old. I've hired a guy with a Bobcat equipped with forklift blades and a bucket. The tree is located on a small, sloped lot and about 15' away from the street.

The plan is to dig a straight line trench either side of the tree, probably as close to the dripline as possible. Then hand dig to create a "pillar" and put burlap around the top of the pillar, maybe even go over that with something like chicken wire fencing. The last step of the removal is to cut into the pillar with the forklift blades, lift it out of its current location, put it on the back of a truck, and bring it over to its new location.

This weekend it will be April and I'm located in Portland, OR. Any words of advice?

Your input is appreciated.



    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 6:41PM
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Yes, I think your plan to do the trenching is perfect--not everyonbe has the patience to do that, but to just dig around a larger tree and try to lift it without getting the angle to cut underneath the tree usually results in a badly broken mess of a root ball.

But I don't think the chicken wire is strong enough to serve as a kind of "basket" as I described in the discussion above. The wire is not strong enough to provide real stability.

I have access to a rather heavy gauge woven-wire cattle fencing--the kind with 5 x 5 inch openings at the bottom reducing to 3 X 5 openings at the top (or vice-versa). I think this was something like 12 gauge wire. I am not sure you can find something like that unless you go to a farm supply store and buy a 300 foot roll, but if the root ball will suffer some shocks in lifting and transport, something like this is best. Nurseries that have large dug trees almost always have them in these "baskets." Maybe if there is a nursery like that near you they can tell you how to get some of the kind of wire they use.

The only other advice I can give, advice I should have given in the above discussion, is if there is some unexpected substantial loss of roots, I would carefully thin out the top growth of the tree to reduce the work the roots will have to do. Many in this forum disagree with me--we have had this discussion before, but over many, many years of transplanting trees, I have convinced myself that this works.

In fact I did this again just this week. On the spur of the moment, and with a torn rotator cuff that will need surgery I am restricted in what I can do, I had a man who was delivering a large tree to plant, move a fastigate English oak for me.

This tree was about 3" caliper and 13 feet tall. This guy really "hacked" it out of the ground and lost almost all the roots. I have trimmed out much of the top while preserving the shape of the tree, and I will be surprized if it dies. But if I did not thin out the branches as I did I am sure it would have been a goner. If it dies, I will report back to this topic.


    Bookmark   March 29, 2007 at 7:16PM
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mary_pnw_7b(Oly WA z7b)

Hi Spruce and everyone,

Unfortunately, we have yet to move the tree. We have rescheduled several times, and he has cancelled each time ~ we were supposed to move it last Saturday. The death of his father has really taken its toll ~ which I can certainly understand, but never the less, I am frustrated. I really hope it is not too late. I still plan on moving it, but without the boom truck I don't know how we are going to get it over the fence. So now I am thinking that we may just take the chain link fence down and hire a fence company to stretch it to put it back. I am going to make some calls tomorrow, and a friend is going to get me the name of a guy that moved a large tree for her and has the right equipment. The house is going on the market soon so we are running into time pressure not to mention that it is just about to pop open.

Now my concern as to whether it will make it is weighing heavy on my mind. Is it possible to give a transplanted jm too much water?

I will take lots of pictures when we do finally get to move it and post them here. Wish us luck ~ ~ and if you have any additional words of wisdom let me know.


    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 8:56PM
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If your soil is reasonably well-drained, I would err on the side of too much water rather than not enough. But don't keep it really squishy wet--I would let it dry out some between waterings, but not enough for the surface to get actually dry, as would be indicated by the color of your soil when it is dry, or by a feeling to your finger of dry soil. And, of course, mulch well.

Now that you are moving the tree just a little late, which may be OK, I would consider the option I describe in my last post--that of thinning out the foliage a little. Here is how I do that:

First, if there are lower branches that you are considering removing anyway, do that now.

Next, if there are any branches that are really close to each other, remove one. For example, sometimes trees grow one branch immediately above another. If you see that remove the lesser one. The same with any branches that are growing right next to each other.

Next, if there are any branches that cross one another, remove the smaller crossing one.

Next, if there are any branches in the upper part of the tree that are competing with each other and are not needed to fill out the crown, remove what does not seem necessary for the shape of the tree. But always leave the strongest and most vigorous branches.

Finally, thin out the growth in the interior of the crown--there may be some smaller branches/twigs that have been outgrown by the outer parts of the crown. Many of these smaller branches will die later anyway, but if you remove them at the time of transplant, it will reduce the load on the roots during the time of transplant shock. You can spend a considerable amount of time doing this if you do it thoroughly and carefully--you may find dozens of small branches/twigs to remove. But don't overdo it so the tree looks like just an outer shell of foliage--go slow and see what you can do. You may be surprized at how much you can remove without diminishing the appearance of the tree much at all. Sometimes trees actually look better.

Using this method/guidelines, I have sometimes been able to remove about 1/2 of the leaf area of a tree (almost always about 1/3), thus reducing the stress of transplanting, without diminishing the appearance of the tree. And if I have to thin out a tree a little more than I would have preferred because of some severe stress I anticipate, it fills out again within a year or two.

As I said in my pervious post, some contributors to this forum disagree with my recommendations here. I have not done controlled experiments, but since I have been doing this--a good number of years--I have never lost a tree that I thought was going to have severe transplant stress. Before I used this method, I lost many, if not most of the trees I was concerned about.

One note, however: I have never done this with a Japanese maple like yours--how much you can do and how it will affect the appearance of a tree depends on its growth form/habit.


    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 11:34AM
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mary_pnw_7b(Oly WA z7b)

We got a hold of Brian today, and we are supposed to move the tree tomorrow!!! I feel confident that he will show up because he needs the money. Keep your fingers crossed. It is going to be a job, because we are experiencing heavy liquid sunshine today in the Pacific Northwest and the ground will be very wet. Hopefully the rain will let up, but I don't care if it is pouring tomorrow ~ we are going to move that tree!

Spruce, should I do the pruning before the move or can I do it after we get it in place? I have sat and studied this tree for a long time and it could definitely use some thinning. I can't believe that I am revealing this, but I had a long conversation with it too! :-)
Our soil drains very well; it is sandy loam so I will be sure to water often. I will create a little trough extending out to the root line to make sure there is not runoff.
I am so excited ~ I sure hope it happens tomorrow! I will let you know.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 2:54PM
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Best to do it after the move. If everything goes perfectly and you get a really good root ball, you won't need to do much pruning to enhance survival chances. But if you plan to do some pruning anyway, then do it soon after the move and it will have the added benefit of reducing the transplant shock for the tree. And if there is a problem and you lose some significant portion of the roots--more than would be normal for a transplanting, then you will have an idea about how much you should try to prune.


    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 4:40PM
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mary_pnw_7b(Oly WA z7b)

Okay ~ so we moved the tree today. Brian never showed up, but we went ahead and did it ourselves. We can barely walk. We followed the plan for the most part. What worries me is that no dirt stuck to the roots, which was pretty amazing to me. We misted the feeder roots to keep them moist once we got it out of the ground. He has the most incredible dirt; it really should be farm land.
I am so exhausted right now, but I have so many questions too. I did take pictures which I will post. I really want you to see the root ball, so I will try to get them up tomorrow after work, but that takes some prep work to get them to display properly.
We had to cut some pretty large roots, which concerns me. We did the best we could but I still cried all the way home. This tree has got to make it. We planted it right away and watered for about 40 minutes to get all of the air pockets out. I pruned a bit, but am going to find a professional to do the rest.
Should I put compost on it? My compost bin is full and ready; I have plenty.
The tree is just starting to leaf out.
Although it took us 8 hours, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, probably because of the dirt. We didn't encounter one rock. This beautiful rich black loamy soil was never ending. I have moved it to well draining, but grey, sandy soil. This is why I ask if I should top dress it with compost.
I will post pictures soon.
I want you to know that your advice was priceless! Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 12:12AM
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I think you will be fine. A little compost won't hurt, but I would not give the tree anything stronger. A flood of nutrients at transplanting time just gives the tree extra work to do. Mulch is the most important thing. Keep the tree moist, but not sopping wet. Some time between waterings is best.


    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 8:34AM
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mary_pnw_7b(Oly WA z7b)

Adventures in Dirt!!
What a wonderful experience. It really wasn't bad at all, at least for me. I love dirt, I love digging in the dirt, and I LOVE that tree! His dirt is the kind every avid gardener dreams about. Black, soft, loamy, rich soil and I didn't encounter one rock. If my sister would allow me to, I would bring a back hoe in and bring it home!

I am sure that the experience can be very different depending on the soil you are faced with. Although it took us 8 hours (with very few breaks) it wasn't as tough as I thought it would be.
We followed our plan. We started digging at the edge of the canopy and just kept digging. So the roots that we got go all the way out to the canopy. We did have to cut some rather large roots, some as large as 2.5 inches. That was very hard for me. Trees are certainly not my area of expertise and I just wonder how they can handle that.
When we got down to about three feet, we weren't running into any other roots, so we started digging under the root ball. We still found a few large roots right in the center under the tree that we had to cut. After that we just started rocking the tree until it started to move. Unfortunately, I didn't buy enough burlap to cover the entire root ball, so we improvised with newspaper, wet towels and moistened cardboard. Since most of the dirt fell off we did not construct the cage. We tilted the tree to back fill it to raise it up to a level where we could get it out of the ground. It really didn't weight that much, however, my guess is that it would have been better to weight more and have more dirt around the root ball. After we drug it around to the back so we could get it loaded in the trailer, I misted down all of the roots.
As soon as we got home, we planted it. Of course, the hole was too small, so we had to dig it out a bit more, which was tough, because at this point we were both ready to drop.
We also had to dig some larger holes within the hole to accommodate some of the larger roots that pointed down. So will the big fat roots grow new feeders off of them?
Then of course when we finally thought that we had the hole large enough and the tree in place, it was apparent that the tree really needed to be turned around 180 degrees to truly look its best. DH was not too happy about that, but he complied with my request.
After we filled it in with dirt, we watered for about 40 minutes just to ensure that we got rid of all the air pockets. It is still moist today, so I will not water.
I have left a message for an arborist recommended by my local garden center. The tree is in desperate need of pruning, but I am just not confident enough to do it myself. I have not heard back from him yet. Another question: How much stress will it put on the tree if I don't prune it immediately? I could do some, if truly necessary, but I would rather have a professional do it.
Sorry for the really long post, but I am so relieved that we got it out of the ground and moved to my new future "Dad" garden. I will make this area beautiful in his honor, and this tree is the king! I have posted some pictures below. Let me know if you think that we got enough roots, and anything else that will help this beauty survive the shock of such brutal action.

This is the tree, we just got started.

This was not really how he wanted to spend his day . . . can you tell.

This was after several hours of digging.

Although the dirt not sticking to the roots made it lighter, I would have felt safer having more dirt.

This is just before we started rocking the tree. We found one large root directly under the tree which we had to cut.

Here I am rocking the tree. This was a huge moment!

Of course the hole we had dug wasn't large enough. Are they ever? Notice the difference in the color of my dirt versus my dads. See why I want it!

The canopy was tilting backwards and it really needed to be turned 180 degrees. I do think that this can be pruned into a truly magnificant tree!

Here is the final look at the tree. It really could use some serious pruning.

We were definitely spoiled in the move of this tree due to the soil that we had to dig in. I wish we had just tackled this on our own back in February when the tree was dormant. Oh well. I will baby it with all of the great advice that I have received here. Thanks everyone!!

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 10:49PM
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Thanks for the pictures. Even though you did not get much dirt with the roots, you did get a lot of roots. I think it looks good. It sure is a lovely tree.

One thing I would advise, however, and I admit I am not an expert on Acer palmatum, would be to reduce the crown as I suggested with more pruning. I can see that you have done some, and you said you would try to get a professional to do the rest for you. But if you can't get someone, I would do it yourself. I can see why you feel it is difficult, but maybe you can translate the guidelines I wrote before from the more usual kind of tree to the one you have.

I would go slow, doing just a bit at a time, but there seems to be a lot of opportunities to take out some foliage without really damaging the structure/appearance of the tree. Remember it will grow and fill in nicely, and if you should make some small mistake or take out too much, it will grow back. If I were to try to prune this tree carefully, I would probably spend two hours or more on the job.

But the tree may do fine without any of the pruning I am recommending--you did get a lot of roots. But to be on the safe side.... --I know what the tree means to you.


    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 7:19PM
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Those photographs look stunning!!! Must be a really old tree.

Wouldn't it be good if you raise the bed higher - that way people can actually see the trunk of the tree more clearly - gives off this bonsai effect.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 9:00PM
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mary_pnw_7b(Oly WA z7b)

It is comforting to know that we got a lot of the root, because it sure didn't seem like it at the time and I have never moved a tree before. The arborist is coming on Friday. It was a real funny conversation to me; he is booked out pretty far, but when I explained everything to him, he fit me in on Friday. It was like I was talking to a Dr. "I can see that this is an emergency situation" he said. He grilled me on every last detail of the move; I think just to make sure that it wasn't a lost cause. We did good - thanks to you Spruce.

He said that the way he prunes these type of trees is from underneath; he actually lies on his back under the tree in the beginning, which I thought was interesting but also makes sense. From my description, he thinks it will take 2 - 3 hours ~ it would take me 10 for sure. He charges $40 an hour which I think is a bargain. We talked about the tree for at least 30 minutes, and I feel very comfortable with him ~ he is passionate about trees.

JumboJimmy, I love your idea about raising it a bit, but to be honest, I would be too afraid to dig it up again. The tree is old, at least 15 - 20 years.

I feel such a sense of relief, like a 1000 pounds have been lifted off my shoulders! I am hopeful that it will leaf out okay this year, but I will be patient and watch over it closely.

My sister took all of his roses (not my thing), and I got this beauty! Now I just need to figure out how to dig up his yard to bring his dirt home! Just kidding.

Take care everyone. I will post a picture after my tree Dr. does his magic on Friday.


    Bookmark   April 3, 2007 at 10:26PM
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Sounds like your are in good hands with the arborist you got. Post a before and after picture of his work, and anything else you can tell me about what he did--I am always looking for opportunities to learn something.


    Bookmark   April 4, 2007 at 10:05AM
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My husband and I are getting ready to move two established red filigree JMs and definitely had some questions, this forum ended up being the best resource we found, and I am very glad to hear it was a success. I am eager to here more about what the arborist had to say... thanks to everyone...

    Bookmark   April 8, 2007 at 6:20PM
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mary_pnw_7b(Oly WA z7b)

We had an incredibly hot and beautiful day here in the Pacific Northwest on Friday, and I couldn't recall ever setting a time with the arborist, so I finally watered the tree around 3:30. The heat was really stressing it and some of the leaves were starting to droop.
Rick finally showed up at 5:30 ~ after all he had to squeeze me in ~ we actually never set at time.

He was awesome! He was the real artist type, and simultaneously a tree surgeon. He studied the tree for a while, and then just started cutting. He did point out some areas where the tree either broke or wasn't pruned properly and it was having trouble healing over the wound. I learned a lot! He cut very close to the branch when he cut, and he really did do most of it from underneath ~ at least in the beginning. He said that the tree was stressed not only from the move, but from lack of much needed pruning. I don't remember what he called one area that was diseased, atrophy or something like that, but the disease was visually spreading down this major branch to the trunk, so it was good that this gem got a hair cut.
I have included a picture below. It was hard to get a good shot and it is much fuller looking down from the top and you can't really see the major cuts, but I included this particular picture to show the bonsai affect. I absolutely love what he did. It rained Saturday and Sunday which was good for it. It looks really happy today and I didn't spot any weeping leaves; they have actually opened a bit more.
I am feeling cautiously optimistic, but Rick is going to come back from time to time to check on it to make sure that it is healing properly. We loved his work so much that we have hired him to do his magic on a few other trees on our property that need help.

This ended up costing $25.00 and a beer! What a bargain!!!
Here is the before look.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2007 at 10:32PM
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mary_pnw_7b(Oly WA z7b)

I wanted to add a few other things as well. First, I agree with you anthena_owl, the information on this thread was awesome, and I want to thank every single one of you. I feel like we went into this move with our eyes wide open, and reading all of your individual experiences helped a lot. I never knew that moving a tree would require so many decisions, or planning.

With the move behind us, I am also really glad that we did not use a clam digger. There is no way we would have gotten as much root as we did.

Rocking the tree to one side and back filling, made it much easier getting the tree out of the ground. We loaded it onto a piece of plywood (after wrapping it) and drug it through the yard and simply hoisted the plywood into the trailer and tied off the tree to keep it stable for the drive home.

I am so glad that I posted pictures, because just the mention of the word bonsai, allowed me to see it. Rick saw it immediately too!

I have posted on garden web for several years and this has been by far the most caring advice I have received and I really appreciate it because this tree is very important to me. So thanks again EVERYONE for sharing. Spruce, you gave me the reassurance when I would start to panic the confidence to move forward. Thank you for that!

    Bookmark   April 8, 2007 at 11:02PM
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ademink(z5a-5b Indianapolis)


This was a fascinating thread and I'm SO glad that your move was a success!!!

Please keep us posted on how this wonderful gift from your father is doing. :) It's truly a treasure.

On a side note...I have never heard of a tree being stressed from lack of pruning. Can anyone shed light on that for me? (If he meant b/c it had diseased areas...that makes sense to me. But just in general...stressed from lack of pruning...?)


    Bookmark   April 18, 2007 at 12:22AM
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We have had some debate about this more than once in these forums. When a tree is transplanted and there is an issue with not getting enough root, or the tree having leafed out already, or some other issue that can increase transplant shock/risk, it is my belief, based on many, many years of transplanting trees, that it is good to reduce the total area of foliage so the roots can keep up with the trees demand for water. I have treated trees where the transplant shock was unusually high both ways many times, and the times I have done judicious pruning as I have described under this topic and others, I have never lost a tree. When I have ignored the issue and left the tree alone, I think I have lost about 2/3rds!

If you want to weigh in on this issue, please do.


    Bookmark   April 19, 2007 at 7:48PM
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mary_pnw_7b(Oly WA z7b)

Since I am in no way, shape or form an expert on trees, I will try to explain what I meant by lack of pruning the best I can. There were a lot of smaller branches that were just dead. So, he took all of those off just to clean it up. But there were also nubs where larger branches were either broken off, or improperly pruned and a few showed signs of disease. He pruned these sections even with the branch.

What I do know is that the tree is doing better than my highest expectations. It has leafed out beautifully and seems to be happy.
The arborist that we hired shares the same philosophy that Spruce does, that you reduce the stress when you prune transplanted trees.
Mine sure seemed to appreciate it.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2007 at 2:06AM
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I am happy to hear that the move was a success and he tree is doing well. It is amazing how much we tree lovers put into our trees, and the special meaning this one has for you adds to all that. When I give advice in these forums a little piece of me goes out with it, and I became especially involved in your project. When I saw that there was a new post in this topic the thought crossed my mind that maybe something bad had happened. Delighted to hear that the tree is "happy," and seems destined to give everyone pleasure for years to come. Congratulations on your efforts!


    Bookmark   April 20, 2007 at 2:50PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

I have never seen a Japanese Maple that didn't need pruning,....weeping or otherwise. I have moved and pruned hundreds over 30 years of landscaping and redoing yards. You could have gotten by with a much smaller rootball. All those roots sticking out should have been pruned flush with the rootball. Doing that makes it stay together better. Easier to wrap and move too. Too large a rootball puts a lot of strain between it and the trunk when moving.

Link below shows one I moved a few years ago in July. Not the best time, but it was going to get destroyed by construction if it wasn't moved. I got it home to a safe place. ;-)
Despite their delicate looks, Japanese Maples are a pretty tough tree given reasonable moving practices. Overall, you did pretty good. The results speak for themselves.
So....when you going to finish the pruning?

    Bookmark   April 21, 2007 at 11:22AM
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ademink(z5a-5b Indianapolis)

Spruce, I understand now - thank you! :) I didn't realize that the statement was made in conjunction w/ the act of moving the tree....I thought he just meant in general (make sense?).

I'm so glad to hear that the tree is recovering so well, Mary! That is AWESOME news! Great job going the extra mile to make sure that it was a success!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2007 at 11:49PM
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For all other Tree and Shrub Care services, please contact us or visit our website:

Superior NW Tree and Shrub Care, Inc.
Woodinville, WA 98072
Toll Free: (877) 775-8733
Phone: (425) 788-9590
Fax: (425) 788-3987
Website: http://www.superiornw.com

    Bookmark   March 16, 2008 at 1:35PM
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pnw_katie(8a Tualatin, OR)

Let me just say, I am new here. After reading this thread I can see that a lot of people using this site have very big hearts, and seem to put a lot of thought into responses. Not saying that I will treat every word as garden gospel, but I'm not as wary about the info....welp, off to prune my jm...
You all warmed my little heart!

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 9:27PM
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mary_pnw_7b(Oly WA z7b)

Yes, I agree that this was awesome advice and a great thread! As an update, I want everyone to know that my jm is doing great and looks gorgeous! I have fallen in love with Japanese Maples since then and now have 5!

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 10:41PM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

Wow. What a great group of people...though I expect no less here. I am going to need some pruning advice in the not to distant future...I know where I'll be asking!


    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 9:31AM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

I loved this thread! I need to move a much smaller tree, and spring is coming, so this was very helpful! I'm bumping it because I found it so valuable!


    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 12:43PM
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mary_pnw_7b(Oly WA z7b)

My tree made the transition very well. This advice was priceless!

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 5:49PM
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minflick(9b/7, Boulder Creek, CA)


Could you take a current picture and show how it is 6 years later? That would be wonderful to see....

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 11:04PM
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We moved a 12 foot Shishigashira with that size trunk very easily.

Dug trench around a 42" root ball down about one foot. JM's have shallow root systems.

Slid a tractor bucket under one side, then underneath the other at the one foot level and slid it a few inches to break off the remaining roots.

Tied the trunk to the bucket, lifted the ball, and moved it 50 feet.

Paid the contractor $160 for two hours work. No die-back - perfect result.

If you need to transport some distance, you might talk to a nursery about limiting exposure to the air.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 8:22PM
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