‘Arakawa’ Japanese Maple early Summer pruning

This arakawa has already had one haircut this spring, and has continued to grow denser. In order to keep the internodes short, I am continuing to cut back any extension growth back to the first (or second) node.

Before work

Additionally, I removed one of each pair of leaves in the crown, and outer, stronger shoots.

After work

Finally, I weakened the entrance side of the thread graft that was applied in March this year.

Weakening the graft on the entrance side

It is nearly ready to separate, but I’d like to see the cambium fuse just a bit more at the exit side:

Scuffing up the union on the exit side.

The apex area, while thinned out, looks a bit high above the rest of the foliage. I am slowly allowing the tree to grow taller and wider, so it may look a bit disassociated for now, but I am trying to keep it from getting too congested.

Additionally, the graft will be shortened when it is separated. Stay tuned for more updates!

Japanese Maple Spring Cleaning

A couple weeks ago, readers saw the last year of struggle for this Japanese Maple. Fortunately, it is on the road to recovery, and it’s time to remove wires and handle some light pruning and perform a partial defoliation.

Here’s where we left off with the last post, and start the work:

Wires dig in quickly this time of year, and scars can remain nearly forever, so it’s important to stay vigilant. Removed…

And back on the workbench for round 2…light pruning.

And finally, partial defoliation.

Remove one leaf from each pair.
A close-up of the apex showing plenty of space for light and air circulation.

Partial defoliation allows sunlight to reach the interior of the tree, encouraging bud development closer to the trunk. This is important, as it is necessary to always have new branches growing to replace older branches. Older branches slow down in vigor, get fat and set in their ways. Replacing them gradually over time keeps the tree young and vigorous.

After unwiring and partial defoliation, the tree looks a bit wind blown, but it will settle down in a few days.

A few days later, and it’s settled down a bit.

Losing trees, Japanese Maple

Almost, anyway. The aggressive wiring, followed by exceptional freezing conditions in January 2020 resulted in a disastrous year for this Japanese Maple. Here it is in December, 2020, as most of the leaves have fallen:

After removing leaves

Some issues included dieback of secondary branches, followed by coarse new growth, which was wired in the summer:

First left branch, showing lots of new growth. Most on the topside which is unusable, and most too young to wire this year:

Strong budding from the trunk at the apex, leaving lots of coarse new growth to work with.

So here is the work to do

1. Replace heavy branches with finer branches where possible.

This branch:

Remove

Rewire

Another coarse branch, midway up on the right side:

Removing the 2 upward-facing buds in favor of side buds:

Then wire:

Another example on the right side:

The two branches:

One more example:

A good example of a branch pruned back evenly and wired:

2. Reduce multiple buds to pairs:

This way:

Midway through the work:

The apex is next.

Starting by removing heavy shoots:

And the one above it:

And after the work, the apex is pretty rough, but should be possible to remake in a couple years.

Dark shot for contrast:

Clean up the moss to ensure good drainage:

Repotted in March:

Bud-pinched through the early growing season:

And the tree is off to a good spring:

I’ll keep a close eye on the wires to avoid scarring, and in a few weeks, partially defoliate the tree; removing one of each pair of leaves in the strong areas to allow light to reach the interior of the tree to help facilitate back-budding.