Follow Up: “Three’s a Crowd” after care.

A little over two weeks ago I posted an article about de-foliating, wiring and styling a triple trunk Japanese Maple.

finished!  Looking forward to seeing how this tree develops during my time at Aichien.

The final shot.

Shortly after this article went out I received a few comments about the timing of the work performed.  The main concern brought to my attention was that Japanese maples are known for being a bit slow to recover and keeping that in mind, will the tree recover properly due to the short amount of time left in the growing season?

In this article I will share a few of the things I have learned from Mr. Tanaka about Japanese maples, after care and general timing of work.  Additionally we will take a look at some photos of the trees progress and what is being done to ensure strong growth before the end of the growing season.

The growth characteristics of Japanese maples have a tendency to vary significantly.  That being said, it is best to schedule their work on a case by case basis versus applying a blanket schedule and technique to all Japanese maples.  Some trees grow really fast and strong, others can be quite delicate.  The triple trunk maple mentioned above is a very strong growing tree, once the leaves mature they can be rather large, and generally it puts on new growth quickly.  This makes it a good candidate for late season work.  If for some reason it was a little weaker this year, no work would be performed.  In such a case good maintenance would be required and once the tree was strong again larger work could safely be performed.  The take away from all of this is to know your tree.  Observe its behavior closely and have a good understanding of it before deciding to work it over.

In the pic below you can see just how full and strong this tree was prior to the work I performed.  Most mornings before breakfast I walk the yard and cut any new shoots from the deciduous trees.  Many of the Japanese maples need little attention.  This particular tree however, is constantly throwing out new shoots.  Maybe once or twice a week I would snip a few off.

with leaves

Before the work.

When a tree is this strong we can be confident that if all goes well the tree will recover quickly.  A minimum of 4 weeks left in the growing season will likely be required.  If the tree is a bit weaker 6 to 8 weeks may be a safer choice.  Either way, being the end of August in Nagoya there was still plenty of time to recover.  So the timing is under control and we’ve got strong healthy material to work with,  seems safe to move forward…

But wait, there’s more!


Bugs!  There are a number of pests that can easily slow a trees recovery time or kill it entirely.

A strong tree and just enough growing time left in the season is a great start, but it’s not enough to ensure success.  For example, lets say the tree is doing good after the work is performed and 2 weeks in to recovery it suffers an insect attack.  This could set it back another 2 or 3 weeks, not to mention the fact that the three would already be on the weak side from the work performed.  It may not recover.  So good timing of pesticide is crucial.  If the insects are under control and the tree is strong we’ve got a really good chance for success.  Two days prior to working on this tree we did our third pest treatment of this season, using a fairly strong pesticide and fungicide on every tree at Aichien.  Killed the bugs, a few lizards and left me with a chemical burn that resulted in a glowing red face and arms for the remainder of the day.  Nice, right? I don’t even want to think about what it probably did to my lungs.  Ok, with the pest base covered the confidence in this trees ability to recover from the work was increased.  With all bases covered working on the tree at this time seemed like a good choice.

So what’s next, after working on the tree?  After care!

Cool and shady.

Cool and shady.

The above pic is of the area where this tree has been spending its recovery time.  Its an open and airy hoop house, with heavy shade cloth to block out about 50% of the sun.  That massive Korean horn beam to the left is doing a pretty good job of providing shade as well.  The open end of the hoop house is just beyond the hornbeam.  Mid day sun can easily can enter there.  This type of after care, providing the tree with just the right amount of indirect light, is a very important part of the recovery equation.

Once the tree starts growing, there is one more after care step that can added to help ensure balanced recovery.  Shoot pruning.

keeping the new growth at one set of leaves.

keeping the new growth at one set of leaves.

After the first week in recovery the maple began to build up some momentum.  At this point its growing fast enough to need a bit of shoot pruning daily.  Each morning I give it a quick once over and take any new shoots down to 1 set of leaves.  This prevents strong areas from getting to strong and gives weak areas a chance to catch up.  This process will probably continue through the remainder of the growing season.  Then, this triple trunk beauty will get a break during winter and when next spring rolls around its going to come out swinging!

On a side note, this tree was not re-potted this year.  Even if it was recently re-potted this would have made no difference.  Performing this work at this time still would have been perfectly safe.  Additionally, having just done this work it will still be safe to re-pot next spring.  It’s likely going to need it!

That’s it for this installment.  Hopefully I’ve been able to answer some questions and clear the air a little.  I’ll close this one out with a current picture of the tree, taken today, two weeks after the initial work.

As always, thank you so much for reading!  Be sure to check out the photo blog on Instagram by searching for TreethePeople.  Questions, comments and requests are always welcome.  You can reach me via the contact page on this site.

Until next time…

Danny Coffey

2 weeks after defoliating, wiring and styling work.

2 weeks after defoliating, wiring and styling work.

Side view

Side view


New leaves.  Looking great!

New leaves. Looking great!