One interesting lesson I’ve learned is, that while a tree is never “finished”, it does go through 5-7 year cycles, where the tree is worked into a peak showable condition, shown for a year or two, and then shifted back into development mode. In development mode, the tree is allowed to grow, pump up, and the design is improved upon.
After my maple was shown at the USNBE in 2012, I became committed to working out some flaws that were pretty apparent in the photo album:
So the tree went back into development mode, and in March 2013, I thread-grafted 7 seedlings through the base to help widen it and fill in some holes.2013:
In 2014, the 3 best-placed grafts had failed, but 4 were still going strong, and the repot was rather conservative; due to the aggressive removal in 2013, and the plan to keep the tree growing strong:
Next, a tip from Kathy Shaner: use lime sulfur diluted with water, 1:1. painted on the trunk and branches to even out the different colors that belie Japanese maples’ youth.
After first application in 2013:
After another application in 2014; yellow until it dries:
And finally, some decisions around the primary branches.
This shot was taken in the winter of 2013. The yellow markings show where the branch was shortened first (1), and second (2), and replaced with other branches (3); being slowly moved into the space occupied by the heavy upright trunk. The left primary branch (4) is too heavy, and needs to be replaced with finer branches. No problem; there’s plenty to choose from. Finally, the apex is developing some heavy shoots (5); again, no problem. Plenty to work with.
Here is the branch removed by cut 2:
And as it sits after the primary branches were reworked:
The placement of the second left branch was tricky. It’s easily 15 years old, and .5″ thick, so rather stiff and brittle. I was able to move it 90 degrees clockwise, so it’s in the correct horizontal plane, but on the vertical plane, it is still too low, and crowding the first left branch. I’ll watch it this year and when it’s set in the horizontal plane it will be unwired, and I’m confident it will raise up over the next few years into the correct vertical position.
The 2015 repotting removed all the root grafts, and a couple new ones were placed. The repotting took 2.5 hours, just to get everything combed out so I could put my eyes on it.
So, comparing the photo from the 2012 show, and 3 years later; the overall shape and movement of the tree is unchanged, but the refinement is improving. Turns out, finished trees are a lot of work too!
In May, it was apparent the front graft had failed, so it was removed.
Until May, the top was held back, but the bottom half was allowed to grow freely. It made watering a challenge, but the tree showed a lot of vigor.