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lanky nursery JM specimens - bad idea?

Posted by boydmain zone 8b, coastal WA (My Page) on
Tue, Apr 27, 10 at 15:34

I am looking to buy a tall-growing upright JM to fill a gap in our garden, and would like to get a large specimen so that we are not waiting 6 years before the gap is filled. One local nursery has some quite tall (10-14') green upright trees, but they are very narrow and have little to none of that classic JM shape. To my mind they look like they have been grown too close together in a field, and then dug up and put in pots. The guy at the nursery said that once they are in the ground and with the tops pruned back a little, they will fill out quickly.

Would it be a bad idea to plant one of these and expect that I'll be able to shape it into a nice specimen tree over the next few years?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: lanky nursery JM specimens - bad idea?

It may or may not fill out. Would need a pic to give better info.

But......., if I understand correctly, you want a large specimen so you don't have to wait but you're asking if there's a chance a tree will fill out after waiting several years? Why not buy smaller in the shape you want?


RE: lanky nursery JM specimens - bad idea?

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Wed, Apr 28, 10 at 2:13

Pruning back tops would increase amount of time waiting for large tops to be produced. As well as making tops hedge-like. Non-selective top pruning at planting time is an obsolete practice.

RE: lanky nursery JM specimens - bad idea?

It is entirely common for any young tree to have a lanky, often narrow shape and sometimes sparse branching, pretty much regardless of species -- Japanese maples are no exception. The younger they are, the more ungainly they they typically appear. Trees tend not to fill out and spread their canopies until they reach a certain maturity and establishment in the landscape. Much like adolescent humans, they need to grow into their bodies :-) If the overall branching structure is satisfactory, I wouldn't necessarily hesitate to purchase one that doesn't yet show a "classic" Japanese maple form (whatever that is - it will differ widely from cultivar to cultivar) -- it will eventually.

FWIW, Japanese maples offered for sale in containers have typically been grown that way from the start, not field grown and then dug and containerized. And even these tend not to be crowded excessively in the growing field, as doing so tends to increase disease issues unless each receives sufficient sunlight and air circulation.

I'd also agree with the no pruning suggestion, unless the tree was producing some awkward juvenile growth. Any pruning of topgrowth should be done with a purpose in mind - removal of any deadwood, enhancing growth habit, correcting conflicting branching, etc.

RE: lanky nursery JM specimens - bad idea?

Thanks for the advice everyone.

tsugajunkie - The feeling I got from the nurseryman was that these would fill out within two years. They are considerably taller than any other 'nicely shaped' JM trees I've seen for sale at any comparable price, hence my temptation to shortcut.

I think I will go back and look closely for a tree which hasn't been hacked at the top, and which is showing a satisfactory branching pattern already. There were quite a few with overly narrow branching angles off the main trunk.

RE: lanky nursery JM specimens - bad idea?

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Wed, Apr 28, 10 at 15:41

Vase-like shape, with up-oriented main branches not necessarily a problem - coralbark maple, for instance usually grows this way.

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