October 13, 2010

A Web Thank You

I want to thank Garden Walk Garden Talk for the recent post on pruning a Japanese maple.  I read it, I did it, and I have proof!

My Crimson Queen Acer palmatum is the typical weeping mound that you see everywhere.  It's planted in front of my house and lately it has been squatting there, not looking very elegant or even very interesting.  It's starting to look like an old haystack:

The rabbits have been urgently telling me to prune it and they started to help on their own:

But I was at a loss.  I've tried to prune it before, but the best advice I could find left me stymied.  "Prune in winter" --- without the leaf color and frothy effect of the weeping branches in leaf, it was all just a jumble.  Where to start?  "Cut out the crossing branches" --- they all cross, it's a weeper.  "Raise the crown by removing a third of the branches"--- Huh?

Then along came the wonderfully clear, diagrammed, photographed, easy peasey instructions in Garden Walk Garden Talk's post, with great info from Steve Pirus, and a video of him that is posted on GWGT's page.

And I did it!

This time, the instructions (and video) said: you can prune in late summer with the leaves on, to see what it all looks like.  Yes.

And the best advice: lie down UNDER the tree and prune from below.  Really, that's what you have to do, and suddenly it all made sense.  Do this on a dry day... I got dirt and twigs in my hair, but lying on your back on a damp muddy day would have been worse.

Here's what pruning a Japanese maple looks like from below.  There are no photos of me squirming and thrashing around on the ground under the branches, but I was there.

Here is the worst of the crossing branches.  These two twisted trunks are the main structure of the tree and could not be separated or removed.  But I took out lots of smaller crossers that were evident from below.

This all took about half an hour and I removed a quarter, maybe a third of the branches, some of it dead stuff from underneath.  The worst part was wiggling out from under the tree after every three cuts to see how the shape was coming along, then flopping back down to do more.  I'm not as nimble as Steve in his video.  And the wispy leaves drooping in my face tickled and made me sneeze.  But it was all worth it.

Tell me, isn't she pretty now, my Crimson Queen with her little pink roses?

A very big web thank you to Garden Walk Garden Talk and to Steve Pirus's web site.  You made it all so easy for me.


  1. She looks very Queenly now Laurrie. Good job getting rid of that rag mop look.

  2. Hi Laurie,
    Thanks for the plug and happy to help. You did a great job on your tree. It is very gracefully shaped and I love seeing the trunk.

    I was away all yesterday and this is the first I got to see your post. You look like you have it sited pretty well also, out of any damaging winds.

    Hard to believe the rabbits were chewing on it. You are so lucky they did not do to your tree what they did to mine. Really lucky. You may want to put a tree guard on in case they return.

    I will add a link to your post. Others should see what you have done. Very professional.

  3. Lisa, thanks for the compliment on my queen!

    Donna, I appreciate you linking to my post on your original write up. And as easy it it was to do this pruning, it sure helps to have validation from a pro that I did it right and it looks good. Thanks!

  4. Very nice! I love those lacy Japanese Maples.

  5. Great job Laurrie. I just added a Crimson Queen to my collection, $10 how could I say no! I'll give you a call in five years and have you come up to Kilbourne Grove, you can practice your pruning skills again.

  6. Sweetbay, thanks!

    Deborah, $10 for a Japanese maple is a steal. You got a bargain, and will have a gorgeous tree.

  7. Well done, Laurrie! She is indeed most elegant looking. (No more haystack! :) )

  8. Garden Ms. S, thanks, it really is a much lighter look now at the front door.

  9. haha Laurrie, great work on transforming the "haystack" (lol) into a magnificent specimum! thx for the tip on pruning...it is not the most straightforward of trees to prune...

  10. Ellen, this pruning project turned out to be way easier than I thought it would be! Thanks.

  11. Nicely done. It looks so happy now - much like my dog after a shave. He feels so handsome and he prances around (which is somewhat difficult at 80 lbs!). I bookmarked GWGT's page too for next year as my maple is still immature. Nice post.

  12. Cat, thanks. When you get to trimming yours next year, it will be pretty easy.

  13. I am curious as to how far away from your house this J. Maple is planted. I have a vey young tree planted (I think) too close to my house and am planning on moving it but only have an area that will allow about a 6 foot spread. Yours looks pretty close as well but not too close.

    Hope you will reply- I know this is a very old chain. Thanks and great jobb on the pruning!

    1. Anonymous, the trunk of this maple is 5 and 1/2 feet from the low brick wall, which is the front of our open porch, and about 4 and 1/2 feet from the corner of the house wall where you see brick and siding on the left. I have since pruned it up even more (and mother nature helped with some winter breakage), and I lightened the canopy a lot, and it is staying well within its 4 to 5 foot area.

      Good luck -- if yours is a Crimson Queen maple, you will need to prune it or else it will look like a haystack and completely fill whatever space you have. With some pruning, though, it will stay well within your 6 foot area.


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