Spring has well and truly arrived and the maples leafed out a good few weeks ago. I keep all the acers here fully outdoors all winter, on the benches as this keeps them dormant as long as possible so they don't become a problem leafing out while the weather is still too cold. We all know the basic first task of letting the first pair of leaves open and then get in and nip out the emerging extension shoot before it gets too long. This is fairly standard to keep the internodes short and to direct energy to weaker inner shoots.
The tree above was fully defoliated last year as it had developed all the growth on the branch ends and very little inner growth. This had actually occurred in Japan as the tree was imported winter 2013 but it was overdue a repot and had got a bit weak. Following an excellent repotting at my supplier the tree stayed healthy so I added it too our stock here soon after. Mid summer 2014 I removed every leaf which triggered buds everywhere including all over the trunk which was handy as I want to add more branches to the future design. This is not a thing to do too often on a Palmatum, and I only hold total defoliation back for specific trees that need rebuilding from the inside.
Starting 3 weeks ago the centre shoots were pinched out each day as the tree responded to the warm weather and sunny days. I only do this to the strong vigorous areas and let the weak inner shoots extend if they have the energy to do so.
This is just the first part of the spring maple work as the precious inner buds and weak shoots need light or they will be shaded out and die off but we can't just chop off the outer leaves or the tree responds as if defoliated and opens more buds.
We cut of one leaf from every outer and strong pair
By doing this half the leaves are removed from the outer canopy, halving the shading and increasing light penetration to the inner tree
Doing this is nothing but a benefit to the tree and doesn't effect the overall image either
Here is a spare branch showing pre pruning
And now one of every two leaves are pruned off
This allows more light in to the inner and lower parts of the tree
Later in the year the tree may still appear too shaded as the leaves harden off and inner growth strengthens. There is one further string to our bow to continue letting in more light and that is to cut each remaining leaf in half. This still will not trigger the dormant buds to open ( we don't want them triggered) but it will let the maximum amount of light into the tree......
Remember we are improving the winter image, we don't really worry about the tree in summer and it is fine to have it covered in half leaves by late summer. Maples in spring are lovely but soon after become a big mop of leaves and turn into shapeless domes that then loose all inner shoots and look rubbish in winter. A little pruning and thinning now ensures a fantastic winter image tree to enjoy.
Subtle changes that improve the health and quality of the tree but it doesn't ruin the overal enjoyment of a maple in leaf. This is the perfect time to do any wiring needed too, so a few branches were wired and guyed as required
This stunning mid sized tree is available for sale