I got a text message the other day saying that the Japanese maples needed pruning. I had been expecting this so I shifted my schedule around, sharpened my Felco pruning shears, grabbed my camera and headed out.
Betty has been a special friend and client for a number of years. She has also been a landscaping mentor, teaching me to adhere to rather high standards of design, installation, and maintenance. I have been pruning her collection of Japanese maples for years—she must have twenty or more of them—and to my knowledge, no one but me has ever pruned any of them.
I had decided to do an article comprised of before and after pictures of the maples but things changed. Anyway, here is one of the before pictures.
I worked on opening up the plant to show the lovely trunk and to allow light inside. When I got in there I found the rock work and mondo grass that we had planted years ago when the tree was small.
I’m not a purist, so if I’m wrong, tell me, but I think there are two main classes of Japanese maples—dissectum and palmatum. They are named for the shape of their leaves. Here is the leaf pattern of the dissectum.
The dissectum maples seem to be more weeping and not as tall in growth patterns. These plants are usually produced by grafting a piece of a dissectum plant onto the root stock of a palmatum plant. There are so many varieties of the Japanese maple that keeping up with their names is quite a task. The palmatum plant usually grows taller and more like a regular maple tree except that the leaves are remarkably smaller and the trees seem to stay much smaller:
Pictured below is a palmatum maple that was pruned for years to encourage shape in the “finished tree. I’m not going to prune this tree any more unless it is to remove some sucker growth from the bottom or to remove a few low hanging pieces that might develop.
I was standing there admiring the large palmatum Japanese maple and trying to remember just how long ago it was that we first started working on it. That was when Betty came out and, with a big grin, handed me some pictures. One of them was of me pruning this tree in 1991. Let’s see, 2013, subtract 1991—Wow, that’s 22 years! Check it out:
Well, this started me to thinking about some of the other pruning that I had done over the years. I decided to look around. Here’s a picture also dated 1991 showing me pruning a cameocyperus ‘Boulevard’ which is a wonderfully soft looking evergreen that is a bit difficult to grow. I don’t know a common name for it other than “Boulevard.”
I took a nice picture of a bonsai collection arranged on an outside table. The tall plant in the center is the exact same Boulevard from the picture in 1991. To quote John Hartford, “My, oh my, how the time goes by.”
There are a lot of plants in this yard that are remarkable. I will include a couple that I enjoy. The first is a Japanese black pine that I have been pruning for probably ten years. This small garden shows off with a ground cover of a running sedum that I like quite a bit. It is bordered with nice rocks that hardly show any more.
The plant below is called a Torulosa juniper or a Hollywood juniper. Its natural growth is sort of helter skelter and wild. We had this plant in a large urn for years and then decided to move it to the yard.
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Here are some related articles:
Pruning Japanese Maples. A how to do it article. Click here
Foundation planting with containers—another Betty project. Click here
And fixing a drainage problem with an ikebana flair. Click here
As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?
5 thoughts on “Pruning for Betty. Japanese Maples, Topiaries and Bonsai”
Enjoyed the pruning tour around this garden.
Not sure how I came to your blog, but I’m enjoying it.
I have (at last count and before my next root pruning) about 97 Japanese maples. I’ve done very little pruning because I just don’t know what or how to do it best. Got any references for the Washington, DC/Annapolis area?:)
This fall, once they lose their leaves, I’m putting 9 in the ground and can’t wait. Through a long story, these particular trees have proved able to handle fun, unmitigated, southern MD sun.
Did you forget about Japonicum and Shirasawanum types, BTW?