One of the loveliest trees, Japanese Maples adds beauty to almost any landscape. The Japanese maple is my logo in my design business, and as a graphic, I could prune it however I wanted.
My maple is a cut leaf maple, but there are many varieties of the gorgeous trees, about over three hundred varieties. Some can be maintained without pruning, but others, like the cut leaf, should be pruned to enhance the appearance and keep the tree in the best of health.
The video for which I provided the link will give you an idea how to maintain your tree. It shows the proper way to prune and train the plant, very similar to what I describe in my tips. This graphic also illustrates the procedure and gives valuable tips.
Recommended Steps Pruning
All maple before and after images are from the website of Steve Pirus, Certified Arborist and WSU fellow Master Gardener. His business is in Vancouver,Washington, and if he is responsible for these maples trim jobs, he is quite good. I did not ask my friend the grower to go through the steps of pruning, because he was the one a few weeks back I was visiting in the hospital, so I searched out an arborist I felt did a comparable job. The numbered tips that I provided are what I do when pruning a Laceleaf Japanese maple myself.
Examine the tree’s form. Visualize what you hope to accomplish. You are aiming for balance. Not symmetry, but balance. Equal weighting all around. This may be achieved by an unequal number of branching, but the overall appearance will give a sense of balance. If major pruning is to be done, think of it as a three-year plan. This way the tree is not overly stressed. I know my logo is only a drawing, but it gives an idea what I am talking about. If you draw a line down the center between the trunks, you have an even weighting, roughly. Many more branches are on one side but the heavier branch on the right seems to balance it out. I did not plan this while drawing it in Illustrator, it kinda just happens by my design training. I do not consciously think about the rules.
You next step is to get down on all fours and crawl under the tree. Sorry about this, but you have to do it. You start down below to remove the older, ground touching branches. They must be removed to start exposing the trunk. Use a hacksaw or handsaw for the larger branches. Use a good set of pruners for the smaller branches. Make sure both are clean and sterilized in a bleach solution (one part bleach to nine parts water). Cut away any dead or wayward branches. By wayward, I mean straight, parallel, vertical, crossing or rubbing. After a few lower branches are removed, get up , step back and observe. Re-visualize. Time to get your tree in balance.
Go back under the tree again. Start removing on the other side from where you started. When balanced, start moving up the truck to expose more visually and open up the composition. Think of this as art, because a properly trimmed tree really is an art. Take your time and think before cutting. Once a branch is cut, this tree will take a long time to fill in an improperly cut void. If you are not sure, stand up again, step back and imagine what it would look like with your next branch missing.
What you are doing here is Crown Raising. That is a technique for when you expose more of the trunk by removing the lowest branches. Once you feel enough of the trunk is visible, you can start the next step of crown thinning.
Crown thinning involves removing branches and leaves to allow in more light and air. You want to expose the form and structure of the tree, but in such a manner that it is done with a light touch. See the above After Image. A very light hand was used.
These instructions are for trimming after the maple has fully leafed out in spring, but it is best to trim when the tree is dormant to avoid sap loss and excessive stress to the tree. But, it is often easier to trim for a beginner if the tree is in leaf.
Sealing the wounds. There is different thought on this. Japanese Maple are thin barked trees, but I usually do not seal wounds. The tree accomplishes this naturally for the most part. But in the case of insect, carpenter ant or woodpecker damage, where rot has set in, the nurseryman will seal these wounds. Other than that, he usually lets the tree to its own devices. And he cuts and trims a lot of trees!
Do not plant them so close to the house like in the two images above. It does nothing for the aesthetics of the tree. Look how natural and beautiful the first after photograph is out in a park like setting. This tree is near the house most likely judging from the image, but it was brought out and away. Much nicer.
The five-minute video can be found very small on the site above, but it opens full screen from the original source with this link in the same viewing window. If you want to return to my post hit the back button in your browser, and back you will come.
Big Update and Must See
Please go to My Weeds Are Very Sorry. They’ve promised not to do it again. Laurrie has trimmed her Japanese Maple up in Connecticut. And what a great job she has done. Take it from her, it was not as hard as you think. Many thanks go to her, for her acknowledgement and thanks.