Heavier pruning on a Japanese Maple

Last week, we started light. This week we start to address the heavy, upright branch from which the first left branch emerges.

Going back in time, it’s always been a much more vigorous area of the tree, and it’s been reduced every few years to maintain balance, but really, it needs to go. The pruning scar at the front creates a distraction and some taper issues, and the lack of movement and interest below the scar will not improve over time, rather, it will become a more glaring flaw as time goes on.


Two branches have been identified to fill the void left by removing the upright trunk just above the first left branch. Last year, I started moving a lower one emerging from the right trunk over toward that space. It was old and heavier, so a guy wire was used and the branch was moved about 30 degrees toward the left.

This winter, I started reducing the upright trunk:




And moving an upper branch into the space:

The wire was wrapped with blue tape as a sort of cushion. It will allow the wire to stay on the tree just a little longer. Over the next couple years, the branch will be replaced by thinner branches, but still maintaining the silhouette. During this time, the work on the nebari will continue, as will the reduction of those old, nasty wire scars…yikes!


8 thoughts on “Heavier pruning on a Japanese Maple

  1. So Brian, is the plan to remove that trunk altogether? That has always been the “keep it or cut it” discussion right? Still one of my favorite japanese maples I’ve seen in America.

  2. Tom, I think the “keep it or cut it” discussion was about the lowest right branch.

    Brian, your willingness to make the hard decisions is inspiring. I think most of us would be tempted to settle for acceptable branches rather than push for the best.

  3. Brian, I clicked on the “back in time” link, it is amazing to see the work you have done with this tree from start to now. Thanks for taking the time to take all the pictures and share your work and “how to”. Now if I can just do the “how to” part.

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