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Japanese Maple Pruning

September 30, 2016

Early fall isn’t really the best time for Japanese maple pruning. But, I’ve been breaking rules like this and following the “do it when you can” way of life lately in order to try to get ahead of all of the renovation tasks needed on our new, large property.

Japanese maple in need of pruning

This dwarf Japanese maple looks awful. Limbs are overgrown beyond the bed lines & it looks sparse — probably as a result of growing under layers of landscape fabric & heat-building rocks. Time to do some Japanese maple pruning!

And I’m exhausted!

But, I do try to post once a week, so here’s why I tackled this maple in late September:

  • It’s in that bed filled with overlapping layers of landscape fabric & roll-y poll-y rocks that I wrote about last week.
  • A neighbor wanted those rocks & the maple was making moving them difficult.
  • The maple looked like crap & desperately needed a bit of limbing up.
  • Even though late summer/early fall isn’t the best time to prune deciduous trees, these cuts aren’t likely to deal a death blow to this tree.
  • In fact, getting the landscape fabric and heat-holding rocks out of the way and adding a layer of arborist chips is likely to help the tree in the long run.

So, I pruned out a lot of dead material and some living branches to give my rock-shoveling neighbor room to maneuver.

Low and behold, my maple pruning unveiled a gorgeous greenish boulder with a small natural birdbath indentation!

Pruned Japanese maple tree

After removing a lot of landscape fabric & rock, pruning a few branches, adding a few plants & topping the bed with arborist chips, I could almost feel the tree sigh in relief. And doesn’t it look better?!

Once my neighbor had shoveled all he could shovel in a day, I hauled out the last of the landscape fabric, keeping a narrow edge of pebbles for drainage between the bed and the paver pathway, added a few perennials in a couple of key spots, and I top-dressed the tired soil with arborist chips from tree work we had done earlier this summer. Later, as I was putting my tools in our woodland shed, I spied an old alder branch, which I added to the bed for interest — kind of driftwood meets nurse log look. Once the soil microbes work their way up in the soil profile, breaking it up along the way, to feast on the arborist chips and incorporate the nutrients into the root zone, I’ll add more plantings.

But, there’s no rush. In fact, I’ll probably be doing more maple pruning (in winter) before I do anymore planting (next spring).

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