Pruning Azaleas in May-June. Follow These Instructions For Better Shape and Many More Flowers.

Azalea two years later for blog

Two years after shaping, cleaning, and fertilizing our neglected azaleas we were rewarded with quite a show

Late May to early June is the time to work on azaleas. If you prune them, clean them up and fertilize them during this period, you will have beautiful plants with more blooms the following spring. Here’s the rationale:

  • Proper pruning will encourage the stems to branch out
  • Branching forms new stem tips—and lots more of them
  • Azaleas bloom on these new tips, so—more tips makes more blooms.
  • Most azaleas form new growth in the summer.
  • Fertilizer will help them to form the new growth.
  • They form flower buds for the following year in August and September.
  • The flower buds on azaleas must go through a cold period followed by a warm period in order to flower.

Years ago I wrote an illustrated article that explains “The Basics of Pruning.” The article is short, to the point, and informative. You will learn about what happens when we trim a plant and then you will have the ammunition that you need to become an expert on the subject.

Click Here To Read “Pruning As an Art Form, The Basics of Pruning.

Two years ago, Dekie and I pruned and shaped some large azaleas on the edge of our driveway. I wrote an article about it then. The picture at the beginning of this article shows the results of our azalea renovation.

Click Below to see the article on how it is done.

Prune Azaleas in May-June. Fertilize Azaleas, Avoid and Kill Poison Ivy

Azalea before pruning:

azalea before pruning

Not long ago the azalea pictured at the start of this article was all straggly and falling over. There were very few blooms.

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Shaping Plants of All Sizes. Part one of a series

I was pruning a few bonsai trees for a client. This task allows plenty of time for pondering and I got to thinking about the number of ways I apply bonsai techniques to other pruning situations.

Pruning bonsai trees to maintain and enhance their shape

Pruning bonsai trees to maintain and enhance their shape

One of my first and most popular articles that I wrote some time ago is about “The Basics of Pruning”(click) which tells about ways in which the plant responds to different pruning actions such as cutting tips and removing side growth. Aside from the fact that I shape and maintain a lot of sculptured plants for clients, My wife Dekie and I enjoy plant shaping as a hobby. I periodically bring home old scraggly plants that nobody wants and we shape them up for our collection. We plan to use our collection for a decorative project in our back yard next spring. (the shoemaker’s children being barefoot applies here). Here’s a picture of Dekie working on a new acquisition:

Sweetie works on shaping a dwarf tree

Sweetie works on shaping a dwarf tree

Someone planted two Leyland cypress in our yard a number of years ago and they are too close together, too close to the property line, and a stupid choice for a small back yard. I was getting ready to take them out 6 years ago when someone told me that if you cut the top out of a Leyland cypress it would die. That didn’t sound right to me so I came home and cut the tops our of ours. That was six years ago. We’ve kept them pruned to the top of the neighbor’s eight foot fence. They ain’t died yet.

Shaping a Leyland cypress for strength, compactness, and size

Shaping a Leyland cypress for strength, compactness, and size

On one of my jobs we kept pruning a Hollywood juniper that was in a large pot. It finally got to the point that it needed to get out of the pot and in the ground so we put it in a place that needed a nice plant. I work on it about twice a year. We are working on turning this location into something nice. I will include that before this series is completed.

I've been pruning and shaping this Hollywood juniper for years

I’ve been pruning and shaping this Hollywood juniper for years

This dwarf cryptomeria has been in a put and used in a foundation planting for over three years. We will trim it this fall and it will begin a process of miniaturization.

A well shaped dwarf cryptomeria

A well shaped dwarf cryptomeria

In my work I really abhor the use of Leyland cypress and/or Bradford pear trees. They are over-used, space consuming, smelly, and problematic. They are famous for growing too rapidly and falling apart in storms. I am being kind here. I could say some bad things about these plants.
However, if these trees are shaped properly, they will serve well. I have told you above about the Leylands in my yard. Here is a Bradford pear that my friend Santos planted in his yard 15 years ago. He prunes and shapes it every year. I have seen this tree withstand snow storms that have torn other Bradford pears apart.

Shaping this Bradford pear has added strength and durability as well as beauty

Shaping this Bradford pear has added strength and durability as well as beauty

And today I’ll finish with a black pine that I plant years ago and have maintained faithfully. This is one of my favorites.

Japanese black pine. I've maintained it for ten years--don't know how old it was when I installed it.

Japanese black pine. I’ve maintained it for ten years–don’t know how old it was when I installed it.

Thanks for visiting Johntheplantman. As I have said, I am currently working on a full-color book on pruning techniques for ornamental plants. My wife and I are excited and we would love your suggestions and recommendations for what you would like to see in it. Leave a comment, if you please—John P. Schulz

The basics of pruning–What Happens When We Prune a Plant

 

Pruning season is coming up. I wrote this article some time ago in answer to the many questions I receive about pruning. It’s really a very simple process.

Growing a plant is one thing.  Shaping plants well is an art form and adds another dimension to your plant growing experience.  Here is an article that tells you what happens when you prune.  This information applies to just about any kind of shrub or tree.

This jade plant has been worked on for several years.  Time for more pruning

This jade plant has been worked on for several years. Time for more pruning

I am using a jade plant for pictures because the buds show up well.  The jade tree is also really good for an indoor bonsai.

To start with, look at the tip of a stem and notice the small growth bud.  This is called an “apical bud”.

The apical bud

The apical bud

At the side of the stem, just where the leaf comes out, you will find a very small growth bud.   This is called the “lateral bud

New growth will come from the lateral bud

New growth will come from the lateral bud

Here’s how plant growth works.  The growth of the stem and buds is regulated by a group of hormones called “auxin compounds.”  The apical bud is dominant and it draws all of the auxins up past the lateral buds.  This enables the apical bud to develop and causes the lateral buds to remain semi dormant.

removing the apical bud

removing the apical bud

When the apical bud is removed by pruning, the lateral buds in turn become apical buds and start the elongation required for turning into a stem.  In a jade tree, the branching forms as two stalks as in the picture below.

This is how the new growth will come out after pruning

This is how the new growth will come out after pruning

Pruning helps the main trunks to develop and get bigger and stronger; this gives you a stronger and healthier plant.  If you remove the lower leaves and/or growth from the stems, the stems will turn into well defined trunks.  This is the principle behind bonsai, topiaries, and other shaped trees and shrubs.

remove lower leaves to enhance trunk formation

remove lower leaves to enhance trunk formation

I haven’t been there for a long, long time, but I once visited a monastery in Conyers, Georgia that specializes in bonsai.  The priest who was in charge said, “you should prune a tree so that a bird can fly through it.”  I have remembered that concept and I use it a lot as I shape such trees as Japanese maples (click here for an article on pruning Japanese maples).  Here is the picture of the jade tree after the pruning is finished.

All of the tips have been removed and it is time to grow it out.

All of the tips have been removed and it is time to grow it out.

One of my next articles will be “how to start your very own bonsai.”  Keep in touch.

Some rather entertaining adventures of johntheplantman may be found in the book “Requiem for a Redneck” by John P. Schulz. Try the Kindle version

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FOAJCGO

 

Time: The Fourth Dimension in the Garden

Patsy Hubbard and I were looking around her “yard” the other day. She said, “It sure does look good this year.” I replied, “Yes, and just think, it only took thirty years.”

“I hope you are taking pictures.” She remarked and the more I thought about that remark, the more I thought that it would be nice to post some pictures.

Dragon wing begonia with mountainous background

Dragon wing begonia with mountainous background

As you can see from the picture above, the scope of the plantings mixed with the hilltop setting range from small details to large vistas. One of the best performing flowering accent plants has been the “Miss Huff” lantana. This reliable perennial has grown to the size of about five feet high and eight feet in diameter. It is totally deer-proof, also.

Miss Huff latana gets big but does its job well.

Miss Huff latana gets big but does its job well.

Here’s a detail of the lantana. If you plant it for yourself, be sure to leave plenty of room.

Flowers on Miss Huff lantana

Flowers on Miss Huff lantana

Maintaining this landscape garden calls for a lot of pruning—some of it on a ladder. I would say that we do an extended pruning/shaping three or four times a year. I liked this silhouette:

Carefully shaping trees and shrubs from a ladder.

Carefully shaping trees and shrubs from a ladder.

The walkways are on three major levels and are tied in so that they may be traveled without the need of stairs. It is an ideal ride for a motorized “scooter.” There is always something pretty, interesting, and constantly changing to look at.

A shady garden path

A shady garden path

I like to grow a mandevilla vine up to the top of the pool cabana every year. This one was purchased at Lowe’s this spring and was about three feet tall. I have tried keeping these plants inside during the winter but I have found that it is easier and cheaper to just buy a new one each spring.

A flowering mandevilla grows rapidly up a chain

A flowering mandevilla grows rapidly up a chain

I built this rock fountain about thirty years ago and it’s still doing fine. I love the way it offers a microcosm of the distant mountainous vistas.

The view of a small fountain extends to the distant mountains

The view of a small fountain extends to the distant mountains

The walkway to the main entrance of the home is bordered with begonias, angelonias, Knock Out roses, and crape myrtle among other plants and is fronted by a magnificent weeping cherry.

An entrance walkway with a view

An entrance walkway with a view

Even on the hottest days there is some relief to be found on the shady pathways.

A shady garden pathway

A shady garden pathway

This has been fun. I’ll try to find some more points of interest for next week.

Thank you for visiting John the Plant Man

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?

After four years I finally figured out how to add a comment box to this blog. Let’s see if it works

How do I trim mixed flower plantings to keep them from getting leggy and spindly?

Pruning is an art form. One of the best ways to practice your pruning techniques is by taking care of your mixed flower plantings as the summer progresses. (You may wish to look at my most popular article of all time, “Pruning as an Art Form” Click here).

One of my clients loves her window boxes which we plant in coco fiber lined wire containers. Last year about the end of May she told me how good the planters looked and I remarked that we needed to trim them up so that they wouldn’t get leggy and spindly. She wouldn’t let me touch them and, sure enough, they got all stretched out and leggy and falling over. This summer—the end of May—the window planters looked like this:

A beautiful window box but to stay beautiful it needs to be trimmed

A beautiful window box but to stay beautiful it needs to be trimmed

I remarked on how pretty the window planters were and she said, “We need to trim them up this week. I don’t want them to get all ugly like they did last year.” I was impressed. Someone was paying attention! I find that the tailgate of my truck makes a wonderful portable work table. Here’s one of the planters before cutting:

Window planter before trimmimg

Window planter before trimmimg

We were just in time to do the project. Some of the begonias were getting all stretched out and falling over.

stringy begonia needs pruning

stringy begonia needs pruning

If we cut the tops out of these plants, the remaining stalks will get much stronger and the plant itself will branch out and produce many more flowers. Even though it pains you to cut off some of the flowers, you may rest assured that you will get many more in return.

Pruning the begonia properly causes it to branch out and become stronger

Pruning the begonia properly causes it to branch out and become stronger

Plants that trail and vine tend to bloom only on the ends of their stems. If we cut them back a bit they will branch out and therefore will have many more stem ends to bloom from. On this bacopa below, I’m just going to grab a handful and whack it off,

I just cut the trailing plants off by the handfull

I just cut the trailing plants off by the handfull

I love petunias but if they aren’t pruned back several times during a season they will just not perform satisfactorily. They become leggy, stretched out and funky looking. (“funky looking” is a technical term).

petunias need periodic  pruning throughout the growing season

petunias need periodic pruning throughout the growing season

Sometimes with petunias I just grab a handful and cut it off. These plants will branch out and start blooming again in two weeks.

trimming petunias helps them to branch out and stay pretty

trimming petunias helps them to branch out and stay pretty

I cut the dragon wing begonias way back, being careful to make the cut right above a leaf axil. This is where the new growth will come from

prune dragon wing begonias just above the new growth

prune dragon wing begonias just above the new growth

I was being careful to cut enough to do the job but not so much that I would freak the lady out, but she surprised me by saying, “I don’t think you’re cutting enough off.” Then she asked me to show her how to do it. The pile of cuttings on the ground at her feet attests to her aggressiveness. I was impressed.

pruning them to perfection

pruning them to perfection

Below is a picture of a planter that has been properly pruned. It will grow back stronger, healthier, and more floriferous.

A well-pruned window planter

A well-pruned window planter

An article you may find interesting “Mixed flowers in a wire basket with coco fiber” Click Here

And another one on “Plants in containers for summer color” 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?

Prune Azaleas in May-June. Fertilize Azaleas, Avoid and Kill Poison Ivy

There is a rather old planting of George Tabor azaleas on the side of our driveway and Sweetie has been reminding me relentlessly for months that they need to be pruned and shaped. The last week in May or the first week in June is just the right time for the job. Here’s the “before” picture:

Azaleas at driveway need  pruning

Azaleas at driveway need pruning

There’s a reason for pruning azaleas the first week of June, too. One of my fun mental exercises for years has been to listen to the old people’s comments on growing plants and then to figure out why their techniques work. Please note that Encore azaleas are treated differently.

As for the time to prune azaleas, it’s interesting. In June, the plants have finished blooming and are entering their peak growth stages. The azalea will set its bloom for the following spring in August. The blooms are commonly borne on the growth tips and pruning at the right time increases the number of tips so that you will end up with a more compact plant and many more blooms. You may wish to read my article on Pruning as an Art Form for a concise description of what happens when you prune a plant.

I select a place to cut that is right above shorter new growth

Cut the stem right above smaller new growth buds

Cut the stem right above smaller new growth buds

One of my goals is to open up the plant canopy to allow more light to reach the inside. This will promote lower growth which will strengthen the plant. I try to keep the sides of the plant neat and pretty but I never hesitate to open up a “hole” in the top. New growth will fill this in rather quickly.

prune so that sunlight can reach the inside of the shrub

prune so that sunlight can reach the inside of the shrub

I’m a little over six feet tall and this plant was a bit taller than that. I try to watch for danger when I’m working in overgrown shrubbery and my diligence paid off this time. As I worked, a giant poison ivy vine was sneaking up on me. I saw it just in time and backed up. I planned to approach it slowly and carefully.

poison ivy snuck up on me like a snake but I avoided it

poison ivy snuck up on me like a snake but I avoided it

The only really good way to get rid of poison ivy is to spray it but I don’t want to get any spray on the azalea so I placed a garbage bag over the azalea and carefully moved the poison ivy stem on top of it.

carefully place plastic between the poison ivy and the azalea

carefully place plastic between the poison ivy and the azalea

Using a generic form of Roundup with glyphosphate as the active ingredient, I sprayed the tip of the plant. The chemical will enter the system of the plant and should move on down the stem and kill the roots.

Spray with very low pressure to cover weed but to not get it on the good plant.

Spray with very low pressure to cover weed but to not get it on the good plant.

This is a good time to fertilize the azaleas, also. I grabbed a bag of azalea fertilizer at my local nursery. The analysis is 9-15-13 with the addition of iron, copper, manganese, and zinc. If you don’t know about fertilizer labels, they are explained in my article “Choosing the Right Fertilizer”

azalea fertilizer

azalea fertilizer

And here’s the “after” picture. Remember what I always say—“Happy Wife, Happy Life.” Now she will be free to find something else to remind me to do.

Azaleas pruned "just right"--Happy Wife, Happy Life"

Azaleas pruned “just right”–Happy Wife, Happy Life”

Thanks for visiting Johntheplantman. Tell your friends about it. One other good thing to do in June is to build a really neat sprinkler. Click Here for Directions

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?

Front Door Plants—Starting a Topiary Project

I’ve been working with plants professionally for 35 years or so. During that time, one of the most requested tasks has been to “find me something distinctive to go on the front porch (or by the door).”  Usually it takes a lot of time and searching to find just the right plant for the job. It dawned on me several years ago that someone should be growing specially shaped plants for the front porch. It also dawned on me a shorter while back that that “someone” should be me; after all, I’ve been working on the concept for years.

Topiaries in containers are wonderful accents for entry ways.

Topiaries in containers are wonderful accents for entry ways.

I have access to a small and private piece of land in the country that can be used to grow the plants. While I was working on preparing the site I decided to go looking at plant material for the project. I ended up purchasing a hundred plants to start with. The grower agreed to keep the plants until I had the site ready for them and I brought two of the plants home with me to show to my wife, Dekie, and to play with. One of the varieties is cryptomeria ‘Black Prince’. It looked like this:

Cryptomeria 'Black Prince' ready to be started as a topiary

Cryptomeria ‘Black Prince’ ready to be started as a topiary

The objective is to grow specimen plants that will finish out somewhere between three and five feet in height.  I am thinking that we will grow them in matched pairs because—well, because a door has a right side and a left side. At any rate, we’ll experiment with that as we go.

Dekie and I spent a fun afternoon studying one of the plants and figuring out just how we would approach the shaping. To start with, I isolated three main stems (or trunks).

Selecting the main stems or trunks for the topiary project.

Selecting the main stems or trunks for the topiary project.

The “apical bud” is the growth bud at the very end of each of the tips. I’m not going to touch this right now. If this apical bud is allowed to grow, it will give me the height that I need. I will watch as this bud develops and elongates, protecting it until I feel that it is at the proper height for cutting.

The apical bud on the cryptomeria will be allowed to grow taller

The apical bud on the cryptomeria will be allowed to grow taller

I carefully trim the sides of the three trunks that I selected. I will cut the “lateral buds” (or sideways growth) to encourage the bottom growth on these trunks to branch out and become lush and full. This means that I will be shaping the bottom sections of the plants while they grow in height. When the two selected sideways trunks grow out to where I want them to be I will cut the tips and begin the shaping process.

Trimming the side or lateral growth on cryptomeria to induce branching.

Trimming the side or lateral growth on cryptomeria to induce branching.

Over the years I have developed a potting mix using compost, finely ground bark, peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite. I add a bit of lime to adjust the pH and I lace it with just the right dusting of a time-release fertilizer. I think that as the topiary project proceeds I will finish the plants off in five and/or seven gallon containers. For the trial plant, I just planted it in a three-gallon pot to see what happens.

re potting the tree into a three gallon pot for growing on.

re potting the tree into a three gallon pot for growing on.

Here’s a picture of the very first plant for the “Front Door Plants” project. I guess I need to get a bit more professional on my photographic backgrounds—or, I could tell you that I really wanted to show the other side of the fence.  At any rate, the plant is two feet high from the top of the root ball and the side growth has been carefully trimmed. I’m going to set up a special file on the blog and update it periodically. Let’s watch the project develop. I think it will take two to three years to reach the picture I have in my mind. After that, who knows?

Cryptomeria 'Black Prince' topiary started 7/24/13. Approximate height from top of root ball 2 feet.

Cryptomeria ‘Black Prince’ topiary started 7/24/13. Approximate height from top of root ball 2 feet.

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You may wish to check out my article on The Basics of Pruning.

An article on pruning an overgrown topiary

And another article on Foundation Planting With Containers

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?

Pruning for Betty. Japanese Maples, Topiaries and Bonsai

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 was thinking, "I've pruned this tree every year for a long time."

I was thinking, “I’ve pruned this tree every year for a long time.”

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.

dissectum japanese maple after pruning

dissectum japanese maple after pruning

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.

This shows the leaf configuration for the "dissectum" Japanese maple

This shows the leaf configuration for the “dissectum” Japanese maple

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:

This is the leaf profile of a "palmatum" Japanese maple

This is the leaf profile of a “palmatum” Japanese maple

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.

After years of shaping I'm going to back off on pruning this beautiful palmatum

After years of shaping I’m going to back off on pruning this beautiful palmatum

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:

John the plant man pruning the palmatum tree in 1991

John the plant man pruning the palmatum tree in 1991

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.”

John Schulz starting a bonsai of a cameocyperus "boulevard" in 1991

John Schulz starting a bonsai of a cameocyperus “boulevard” in 1991

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.”

The Boulevard bonsai is the tall one in the center.

The Boulevard bonsai is the tall one in the center.

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.

Japanese pine ornamental topiary with sedum ground cover

Japanese pine ornamental topiary with sedum ground cover

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.

Hollywood Juniper or "torulosa" juniper pruned to topiary.

Hollywood Juniper or “torulosa” juniper pruned to topiary.

Thanks for visiting John The Plant Man.  Share it with your friends

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?

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Pruning an Overgrown Topiary

I really enjoy creative pruning.

My friend Tommy called me the other day. It seems that we had planted a large yaupon holly tree in his front yard a number of years ago and I shaped it into a topiary form. Tommy has kept it pruned for a number of years but now he is getting too old to want to get on the ladder any more.  Notice the wording—not “too old to get on the ladder”, but “too old to want to get on the ladder.”

At any rate, Tommy called and said that his favorite tree was getting out of hand.  Here’s what I drove up to:

This tree is carefully placed as an accent and it truly needs a bit of shaping

This tree is carefully placed as an accent and it truly needs a bit of shaping

We studied it for quite a while and then went after it with hand clippers and motor pruners.  Here’s how the project ended up.  Tommy was happy.

A tree yaupon pruned into a topiary form.  Anyone want to go visit Whoville?

A tree yaupon pruned into a topiary form. Anyone want to go visit Whoville?

I hope we passed the audition.

Here are some other articles on pruning that you may enjoy. Click on the title.

Pruning a Japanese Maple

Pruning as an art form: The Basics of Pruning

Tree forming, shaping a bush into a tree: Tree Forming in Landscaping

Bonsai:  How to Start a Bonsai

Bonsai Maintenance:  Pruning an Overgrown Bonsai

Thanks for visiting John the Plant Man

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?

Pruning a Japanese maple

Pruning a Japanese Maple

Japanese maples are special and as such they require special treatment.  They are such cute little trees when we plant them but after a while they get much larger.  It is a matter of personal preference as to whether the tree looks better in its natural state or whether it is more desirable to prune it.  I am generally of the latter opinion. Using modified bonsai techniques on a Japanese maple in its developmental stages makes for a beautiful, well shaped specimen when the tree gets larger. Here is a picture of a tree that I have neglected for a while:

Japanese maple needs shape and definition.  Time to prune

Japanese maple needs shape and definition. Time to prune

A wise old bonsai expert told me long ago that, “One should prune and shape the tree so that a bird can fly through it.” I try to follow that advice and I find it to be helpful for the overall long term health of the tree as well as from a design standpoint.

Looking at a Japanese maple trunk

I want to see the trunk

The trunk of the maple tree is usually very nice and I would like to see a bit of it on this specimen.  I look into the canopy and study the tree to see what should be removed.  All cuts are made carefully and followed by standing back to study the next move.

There are some larger limbs that I will remove to open up the tree canopy. These cuts are made one at the time.

Removing limbs to open up the canopy of the Japanese maple and to accentuate the trunk

Removing limbs to open up the canopy of the Japanese maple and to accentuate the trunk

A lot of small new growth needs to be removed.  Removing these will further open up the view of the trunk and the path of the bird.  It will also allow the trunk to gain strength by not having to share nutrients with the weak new growth.  Some of these twigs will be cut off and others will be just snapped off with a downward jerk.

removing small growth inside the maple canopy

removing small growth inside the maple canopy

When the thinning process is completed, I go through and carefully cut tips from the outer reaches of the tree.  This will encourage branching and a degree of miniaturization.  At this point the job is finished.

The pruned Japanese maple looks like this:

A well pruned Japanese maple

A well pruned Japanese maple

I have a story that lets you know when the job is finished.

My good friend and client, Betty, has about twenty Japanese maples in her yard.  I have been pruning and shaping them over a period of twenty five years.  One time I was shaping one of the trees and a visitor asked, “How do you know when you have cut enough?”

I thought for a few moments and answered, “I keep cutting until Betty is rolling in the driveway screaming. Then I know I have cut enough.”

Here are some related articles:

Creating a topiary,https://johntheplantman.com/2012/02/26/plant-in-the-wrong-place-make-a-topiary/

Tree forming, https://johntheplantman.com/2011/08/14/tree-forming-landscaping-from-the-inside-out/

The basics of pruning https://johntheplantman.com/2010/01/09/pruning-as-an-art-form-the-basics/

Want me to prune your Japanese maple? Contact me at wherdepony@bellsouth.net

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?

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