Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Some thoughts on maple pruning

Sometimes when pruning a Japanese maple you can get some undesirable results. This one is the most annoying one where the two terminal buds both grow forwards parallel to each other.


Its a hard situation to recover from and usually you end up just having to cut back behind the bad node. If you allow the buds to grow on these parallel branches the foliage collides and makes an unsightly mess. Fixing this afterwards with wire is difficult as opening that join up to 90 degrees mostly results in splitting.

My aim with pruning this way is to set up the tree for good ramification after mid season defoliation or for the following years growth. Im trying to plan my growth more on my trees so taking care with the pruning is becoming very important. Selecting the correct point to cut back to so that the new growth goes where it is wanted is the prize.

It comes down to the timing of the final pre-defoliation cut backs. Sometimes I get over zealous and cut back too early. The soft stalk isn't woody ( lignified ) and dies right back to the node creating this problem. The node needs to have some wood between the buds to fork nicely.

I now don't bother with bud pinching or cutting back too early as I get these ugly nodes. Once the branches have hardened off I cut back a little - I try to leave at least 3 nodes on the branch early in the season. Sometimes when the tree is over zealous I do cut back big chunks. I certainly don't do any of the bud plucking with tweezers.

Usually the first growth branches will terminate with one of the ugly nodes when it runs out of puff. Its important to remove all these ugly terminal buds. Hopefully there are 4 or 5 nodes behind it to work with.

I can already see the new buds forming at the base of the current leaves - I'm going to wait a while longer until they are pushing out. When I cut I leave a nice long piece of stalk in front of those buds. This stalk can be trimmed back during the winter when its completely dead.

Hopefully I end up with a nice open V when the branch splits. The image below contains a nicely split branch - almost 90 degrees.There is a neat piece of dead stalk left that can be trimmed back later.

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