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Jap Maple- Must I prune or can I leave it alone

Posted by eastatliens 7b (My Page) on
Wed, Nov 19, 08 at 23:01

Hi all. We planted a laceleaf type of Japanese Maple last year. I dont remember the specific cultivar, but when we bought it, had a forked trunk. I'm fine with how it looks, but I think I read somewhere recently that I needed to prune off one of the trunks so that it only has one central leader.

I really don't want to, because I'm scared that I'll kill it, and because I'll be setting the tree back by essentially cutting off half of it, but I'll do it if it's necessary for the long term health of the tree. I tried to attach some pics, hopefully they show. So what do you guy's think? Is it o.k. as is, or should I pick one trunk and cleave off the other?

If I need to prune, I'm going to do it in a few weeks whenever the leaves decide to fall. That's o.k. right?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Jap Maple- Must I prune or can I leave it alone

You don't need to prune :-) And I would advise against it. Japanese maples very often never develop a single leader and it is not a requirement of healthy growth to do so. They tend to be a much more of a shrubby form than a clear tree-like form and multiple 'leaders' - if you can even call them that - with acute joints are very common. Some growers will put braces or spacers in those joints to encourage spreading or to develop a wider habit but it is a choice and not necessary.

It's difficult to determine exactly what cultivar you have, but it's pretty safe to say it's NOT a laceleaf. While the leaves are deeply lobed, they are just palmate, not dissected. And virtually all dissectums have a cascading, pendulous habit rather than growing upright.

And please, use just the initial 'J' or spell out Japanese when referring to these types of maples. The shortened "jap" is considered pejorative and not PC :-) Many take offense at this terminology.


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RE: Jap Maple- Must I prune or can I leave it alone

Side-stepping the political argument, you do indeed have an Acer palmatum, not sure which cultivar, but it is not a dissectum, as has been observed. I would definitely prune off the the smaller (thinner)trunk and allow the main trunk to fill out. This will not hurt the tree, and in fact will make it much more handsome in the long run.

I would wait to prune any other branches for a year or two since you will be making a major cut if you remove one of the trunks. Best not to stress the tree any more than necessary. I would also use wound paint on the cut, just to keep insects out and protect against sap leakage.

Its a very nice tree, and with care will bring you many years of beauty and enjoyment. Good luck with it!


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RE: Jap Maple- Must I prune or can I leave it alone

  • Posted by bboy z8 WA USA (My Page) on
    Thu, Nov 20, 08 at 23:27

Wound paint doesn't do anything.


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RE: J Maple- Must I prune or can I leave it alone

Thanks for the responses guys!

I certainly didnt intend to use a slur, or have any idea that such a thing would be taken that way but hey, thanks for the heads up!

You guys are right about the it being a palmatum, I had one of those "no it's not" moments right after I pressed post. I'm still a relative newbie- I just bought my third JM a week ago-a coral bark. I know I have the original tag somewhere around my house, I'm going to dig it out this evening.

Anyway on topic, since it's seems like the contention on whether to prune is around how acute the fork is, gardengal48 did mention braces or spacers, which sounds like an attractive middle ground to me. So, essentially I just get a piece of wood and put it between the two trunks to ecourage a wider habit right? Anything special beyond that?


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RE: Jap Maple- Must I prune or can I leave it alone

  • Posted by bboy z8 WA USA (My Page) on
    Fri, Nov 21, 08 at 15:15

Let's get a few more opinions:

Training should consist only of staking and the removal of badly placed or crossed shoots. When established, keep pruning to a minimum

--Brickell/Joyce, Pruning & Training (1996, Dorling Kindersley, London)

The typical habit that should be encouraged is one in which the branches, originating from low down, almost at ground level, grow up at a sharp angle supporting a twig and leaf pattern of great beauty, many of the lower and outer branches sweeping down almost to ground level where they can be seen to best effect. Often, the only pruning necessary is on neighboring trees in order to encourage the free branching and unrestricted development of this species... This advice may also be applied to the many varieties and the most common mistake is to crowd specimens, thus spoiling growth

--Brown/Kirkham, The Pruning of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers (2004, Timber Press, Portland/Cambridge)

J.D. Vertrees advocates regular pruning of these right from the start on pp. 65-68 (2001 edition) of Japanese Maples, saying that it brings out the beauty of them and that in a collection of many kinds (like he had) there isn't room to let them all grow unhindered. Such an approach of course requires that the person doing the pruning be experienced in undertaking such operations successfully, otherwise the plants are easily spoiled.


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RE: Jap Maple- Must I prune or can I leave it alone

East,

Unless you're expecting heavy snow loads in the distant future you are fine letting the tree develop naturally w/o using any devices to manipulate the crotch.


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RE: Jap Maple- Must I prune or can I leave it alone

Re: the spacers - that's exactly right! Cut a piece of wooden lath to size, notching the ends. Wedge between the branches to encourage the spread. Do not force the branches apart too much all at once - this is a gradual process - and avoid abrading the bark if at all possible. An alternate method is to tie a wieght close to the end of the leaner branch, the weight (a large rock, brick, etc.) resting on the ground and the string/rope taut (but not too taut!). You can gradually tighten the slack, increasing the spread between branches.

While I agree too tight crotch angles on most trees are to be avoided, what is being missed/ignored by some posters is that Japanese maples in particular are not pruned in a manner similar to all other trees. In fact, Brickell in an earlier pruning publication groups them in with a category of deciduous shrubs, as their growth habit and pruning requirements more closely fit this situation than they do typical taller growing shade trees.

"Group 1 (includes Acer palmatum and Acer japonicum, aka Japanese maples) consists of a number of deciduous shrubs that do not regularly produce vigorous replacement growths from the base or lower branches of the plant. The extension growth of these plants is produced on the perimeter of a permanent framework of older branches. The growth habit can be thought of as the crown of an oak tree without its trunk."

He also includes Amelanchier, Cornus florida and C. kousa and a variety of deciduous magnolias in this grouping - all small growing trees with low branching, often tight crotch angles and a more shrubby rather than tree-like habit. Just because a plant is considered a tree does not mean it necessarily gets pruned like all other trees. One must consider the growth habit and requirements of the specific plant in question.


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RE: Jap Maple- Must I prune or can I leave it alone

Let me chime in here. I would leave it alone, but what do I know. I have only been trimming maples for scion wood for about 50 years now. Any day now I might become proficient at it.

I think the bigger concern is its close proximity to the side walk. It can't be more than a foot away. If this is so I would think about moving it before too long.

Dave


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RE: Jap Maple- Must I prune or can I leave it alone

All arguments aside on whether pruning is necessary because of the crotch angle we see in the pictures, why not take a lookt at this from the view-point of esthetics? Do you like they way the tree looks with these two trunks, or does it bother you? If it bothers you, take one out. If you like it, leave it in. Do you like the lower limbs, or do they bother you? If they bother you, take them out. If you decide you want to leave one of them, then leave it. You're the gardener here.

As far as the habit of JMs goes, there is tremendous variation in habit, branching pattern, and size. Some JMs do indeed grow more like shrubs and may only reach two ro three feet in height. Others get quite large and have a more open "tree-like" appearance. Some grow tall and narrow, others vase-shaped, others low and spreading - wider than tall, and still others cascading or mushroon-shaped. Its useless listening to advice on shaping your tree until you know what cultivar it is and what its natrual habit will be. If its a dwarf or semi-dwarf plant, you may not want to prune it the same as a plant that gets 35 feet tall. Find out what kind of tree you bought, and then you can make sound choices on pruning and shaping once you have the correct information. But above all, I would say to prune and shape based on what YOU like - not what anyone here or in a book somewhere likes. The tree is yours, the garden is yours, and the look and feel you create in the garden is yours. Be true to your own taste and esthetic. The tree will be fine. Honestly!

Regards,

K4

P.S. I still like wound paint. Again, personal preference and experience.


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RE: Jap Maple- Must I prune or can I leave it alone

I couldn't agree more with K4 about figuring out which cultivar that you have. I'm assuming that it was Bloodgood or one of the other large palmatums that is ubiquitous to just about any business that sells Japanese maples. However, this may not be the case and it may be a cultivar that has a small mature size. The fork would not be issue with the structural integrity of the tree if it is a smaller cultivar but I still think it takes away from the aesthetics. The trunk is meant to be a focal point with the palmatums in the same way it is with the bonsai version of these trees. IMHO, the focal point in this case is ruined by the close proximity of the smaller leader. If it was more of a U-shaped junction and there was a bigger gap between the leaders then I might find it more attractive.

Whoever considers acer palmatum in general to be shrubby in appearance really needs to get out more and observe the world around them. There are literally hundreds of 30-40 ft "shrubs" in my area if that is the case.


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RE: Jap Maple- Must I prune or can I leave it alone

So she's a "Burgundy lace" for anyone who was playing along at home...It looks like it'll top out at around 10-12 ft., so it's more than half way there. I think I'll try to do some spacing just so that I don't end up with a rubbing problem down the road.

Dave I've thought about the fact that it may eventually crowd the sidewalk, but we just love where it is. To quote El Duderino "It really ties the whole house together" (wondering if people get my obscure Big Lebowski references). Actually we'd probably just move the sidewalk if it became a problem-it's already all cracked up...

-EastATLiens


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RE: Jap Maple- Must I prune or can I leave it alone

I have access to the original Burgundy lace. I would say the tree is approx. 30' tall and approx. that wide also. It was found by Vermeulen Nursery in Neshanic Station, NJ.

I just don't think you can leave it there and prune it to stay small.

Dave


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RE: Jap Maple- Must I prune or can I leave it alone

Pictures of the original AP Burgundy lace
The tree is Appox. 25' x 25'. The trunk is approx. 30' cal. The age is approx. 50 years old give or take a few.
The originator was

John Vermeulen & Son Nursery
Neshanic Station, NJ

Dave

Here is a link that might be useful: www.davesnursery.com


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RE: Jap Maple- Must I prune or can I leave it alone

Dave,

Excellent photos of 'Burgundy Lace'.

K4 and Tree, taking a look at a mature plant it's clear your pruning suggestions have little merit. That tree is loaded with tight, naturally occurring crotches that support a beautiful and sturdy framework.

Tree, you suggest that there is a way to anticipate structural development 20 years down the road on this Acer palmatum, LOL that's the only funny thing you posted.


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RE: Jap Maple- Must I prune or can I leave it alone

Thanks herman,

That is why i got the close-up of the trunk. in all my days doing this i have very seldom witnessed an AP without multi-stems. the only way i can see to achieve is to start off with a small graft and keep removing the branckes as it grows, but then i do not think that the beauty of the plant will ever be realized. one mans opinion take it as you will.

I still maintain that eastatliens move the plant before it is to late.

Dave


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RE: Jap Maple- Must I prune or can I leave it alone

The term 'shrub' is not a botanical definition but a horticultural convention that is used to describe the habit of growth of a classification of woody plants. Ultimate size is not an overriding concern. There are a good many shrubs that can equal or even exceed the maure height of a number of tree species - for example, I have a 60 y.o. 25' tall lilac growing in my own garden and there is an enormous English laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) planted at a local university that is easily 25'+ tall. Neither of these would typically be labeled as "trees" yet they easily reach tree-like proportions.

FWIW, 'Burgundy Lace' is described as a shrub or shrub-like by more than one resource. From the USDA Forest Service: "Growth habit is more like a large shrub with branches to the ground." And from the van Gelderens' encyclopedic 'Maples for Gardens': "A shrub up to 6m (26 feet) and as wide, heavily branched." Because of the low branching, shrub-like habit of this cultivar, I would agree with Dave that current placement could be problematic. However, it's not going to achieve 20'+ with an equal spread in any big hurry, if at all, and relocating the sidewalk when the time comes is a very viable option to not moving the tree now if the current placement is to the OP's preference.


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RE: Jap Maple- Must I prune or can I leave it alone

  • Posted by bboy z8 WA USA (My Page) on
    Sat, Nov 22, 08 at 20:42

Definitions of "shrub" vary. The terms "shrubby tree" and "shrub-like" are also used.


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RE: Jap Maple- Must I prune or can I leave it alone

I see that censorship is alive and well on the Gardenweb.

I've seen a lot of Japanese maples in my life and I've seen many with multiple branches low on the trunk but never one that has several trunks coming out of the ground like in the photos that Dave posted. It truly does look like a shrub. That look is not my cup of tea for a Japanese maple. If I want something that looks like a lilic then I'll go buy the lilac. IMHO, the Burgandy Lace was not pruned properly when it was younger although that it strictly from a viewpoint of aesthetics and not structural abnormalities. Looking at it's branching structure, I don't see any branches that resemble the acute angle on the maple in this thread. I still maintain that the latter needs a pruning job to correct for a structural defect. A tree that gets this large is going to act like a sail. Consequently, the wind is going to get leverage on any tall trunks that branch low on the tree. I am not saying that a Japanese maple needs to be pruned to look like an oak tree or any other really large tree. What I am saying is that sound pruning practices are applicable for any plants above a certain size. It is irresponsible and amateurish to suggest otherwise. It is also hypocritical to suggest this for some trees but not others not to mention confusing for anyone new to the Gardenweb.

I must respond to one of the deleted posts. Basically, it was stated that this tree will not recover and fill out from pruning off the second leader. K4 hit the nail on the head in his response which was that the tree will throw out a lot of new growth next year after this leader is pruned off. This new growth will provide plenty of opportunity to shape the tree into a far better look than it has now. Without question, the tree will quickly fill out and I question the practical experience of anyone who states otherwise.


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RE: Jap Maple- Must I prune or can I leave it alone

  • Posted by bboy z8 WA USA (My Page) on
    Mon, Nov 24, 08 at 18:25

Yes: A small specimen like this is more tolerant of radical changes in its structure than one that is more fully developed. Cutting a whole trunk out of a young tree is not the same as when it would involve sawing out a section several inches in diameter, along with all the smaller branch tissue and foliage it was supporting.


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RE: Jap Maple- Must I prune or can I leave it alone

"IMHO, the Burgandy Lace was not pruned properly when it was younger"

Tree, #1-- there is no cultivar 'Burgandy Lace". The photo that Dave posted is the original 'Burgundy Lace' #2 -- The tree is grown by the Vermeulens, their nursery is legendary, there is nothing suspect about their pruning practices or horticultural know how. Do I understand that you're saying the original 'Burgundy Lace' looks like a lilac? Seriously? Tree, what is in your cup of tea?

Bboy "Cutting a whole trunk out of a young tree is not the same as when it would involve sawing out a section several inches in diameter," let's drop that comment in the painfully obvious file.


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RE: Jap Maple- Must I prune or can I leave it alone

I would like to explain why I think this tree looks like it does with the multi-trunks coming out of the ground like it is.

First and foremost we must remember that this is the original and being the original it is not a graft.

In a propagators desire to make and produce a plant, that we think will be a hit, we tend to start the trimming process of the plant early on and take as much and unfortunately more than the seedling will allow. (I know I am guilty of this for I fear that the plant might die and any possibility of reproduction will be lost forever.) This will produce many eyes to form low at the crown of the root. (I have one such maple that I am working with now that I have named A.P. Jacus Potus. It is a truly unique leaf of an odd form that leafs out in a deep burgundy and fades to a salmon color then all green in the summer. Second flush leafs out as a salmon color.) The plant is going on 4 years old and has very short inter-nodes. I was able to produce 2 plants so far and will hopefully produce up to six more this year. The problem with trying to get as many developed as possible is the fact that I have to keep trimming the seedling which keeps producing branches low on the plant near the crown of the root. I do not anticipate the grafts of this to do the same thing for the trimming takes place higher up on the plant.

I hope I am making some kind of sense with this, because in my mind I can see what I want to say but it seems that it is coming out awkward in writing.

So in the end I do not think that the Vermeulens did anything wrong in the trimming except that they did not let the tree achieve a particular size before the start of production.

In the end trimming of any tree is in the eye of the beholder and what looks good to them might not be good to some one else.

Dave


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RE: Jap Maple- Must I prune or can I leave it alone

Dave thanks for taking the time to explain and make those points. I thought your comments were useful, informative and made perfect sense.

Good Luck with your plant. Hope you hit the jack pot with 'Jacus Potus'


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