'Autumn Blaze' Maple Budding On Trunk, Branches Dormant

blackthumb77May 21, 2011

By way of introduction I should say that I'm almost completely inexperienced in matters of flora and my knowledge comes almost exclusively from my mother-in-law or the internet. Both offer tons of answers; neither, it seems, are that reliable.

I recently bought an 'Autumn Blaze' maple ( a hybrid acer x freemanii) to plant in our backyard. I was assured that our zone, soil type and sun exposure would be acceptable. A silver maple had thrived within 15 feet of my intended location for over 80 years (it was dying and was helped along by a hurricane).

I planted the tree - around 7 feet tall at the time - as instructed by the nursery and a local gardening enthusiast. This was in early October. The tree quickly dropped its 7 or 8 leaves, but as it was a recent planting and late in the season I didn't think it cause for concern. Come Spring the tress in the neighbor's yards started to bloom and mine remained dormant.I was told that new plantings can be slow to bloom and to be patient. Several weeks later still no action, so I called the botanic garden's help line. They suggested the plant might have spent too lonmg in a grower pot and the roots could be 'potbound'. This turned out to be the case. After gently breaking up the rootball and replanting, mulching and daily watering the tree is a riot of life but only on the trunk. It started budding immediately along the trunk and now has many leaf-bearing small branches that look quite healthy. Above the crotch the branches remain pliable and colorful, but the buds remain dormant.

I'm told that the sprouts along the trunk are stealing nutrient from the upper branches, but I'm reluctant to prune. Anybody have any thoughts on this situation? I'd like to reiterate here that I am a complete ignoramus when it comes to these matters, so if I've done something stupid please bear with me and know that my intentions were good!

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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

The parts where there are leaves now may be the only parts you are going to get growth from, definitely do not remove the sprouts.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 11:56AM
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blackthumb77

Thanks for your reply. At present the trunk of the tree is completely alive with stems and leaves that look quite healthy, but above the crotch the canopy is completely bare. Is there any chance that the canopy will EVER bloom, or is it too late?

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 7:01AM
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weeper_11(2b SK)

If you break one of the dormant buds off, what does it look like? Is it green inside? If not, I think your sprouts are probably what you've got to work with.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 10:09PM
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blackthumb77

Broke one of the dormant buds off and it's not at all green inside. In fact I broke a couple off and they were brittle and dead. So I went ahead and broke off a tiny branch and it snapped right off like a dead limb and was brown inside. I think we can conclude that the tree is dead from the 'waist up'.
So now what? Like I said, the bottom half of the tree is VERY alive. Is there some method by which I can prune it in order to make it look more like a tree? I imagine it would be detrimental to just lop off the trunk right below the crotch, right?

    Bookmark   June 2, 2011 at 8:29AM
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Adam Polak

Considering you have so many sprouts from below the the first branch set, you can select ANY of the sprouts from the trunk and make that into your new tree. I have had two instances with the same tree of a similar but different situation:

I have a red/silver cross (Acer x freemanii) that I dug as a 6" seedling from my grandmother's garden. Planted it into the ground in late October of 2009 to over-winter it safely. A rabbit came during that winter and ate the stem to 1" from the ground.

Determined as I was, I dug it up, potted it up and let it sprout last spring. I nubbed off every sprout but the one closest to the cut end, and let that sprout shoot up for the duration of summer 2010. It grew almost to 3' tall.

In December 2010, after the little tree had turned the most amazing shades of hot red, we had a 4 day unprecedented snow fall (snow squalls, lake effect snow) the likes of which snapped the stem to 6" from the ground (in a new pot, in the ground again for the winter).

As soon as the ground was thawed in March, I lifted the pot and kept it on the deck/patio. Again, the stem was enthusiastic about leafing out, and all the dormant buds were activated. I nubbed them away, only keeping the highest one on the stem.

It has grown nearly 2' in the past 6 weeks. The wound has healed over completely and the stem is growing like a weed.

Moral of the story: I'm determined to grow this silly weed of a hybrid.

Moral 2 of the story: Even when you lose the top of a tree for an uncontrollable reason (weather, animals, etc) you can still succeed.

Pick a vigorous stem and cut away all others. This stem will become the new trunk and will grow a considerable amount this summer. Remove the entire dead top to about half an inch from the shoot you will keep. The removal of all others will force all the root energy into one stem.

It will hopefully prepare for winter and drop its leaves in October. Your one stem will branch profusely in the spring next year. It will look a little funny (well, a lot funny) but you won't have thrown away a perfectly good plant.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2011 at 11:28PM
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