It is time to show you a mistake I have made in the garden. Joene calls these Garden Oops, or Goops, and you can read more on her site on the first of every month.
My mistake this time was pretty basic. I made bad pruning cuts. And I knew it when I was doing it, but planned to go back and fix things. Then I didn't.
This shows you a bad pruning cut on my weeping Japanese maple. Branches should be cut at an angle close to the trunk. They should not be sticking out an inch or two like this.
This shows you what happens if the stub is left untrimmed. It dies, of course, and it prevents a healing scar from forming where the cut branch and the trunk meet.
I made this mistake on several branches. About a third of the tree, actually.
I was pruning in summer when it was in leaf. The best advice is to prune woody shrubs and trees in winter with the leaves down, but with a complicated form like this tree has, you really need to see what you've done to the entire leafy shape, and the best time to do that is in summer. There is no absolute rule about this -- pruning in summer is okay to do.
To prune the contorted, droopy branches of a weeping Japanese maple, you have to get under the cascade of branches and make cuts above you, blind, trying to look up into the canopy, with leaves in your face and twigs matting your hair.
You lie down in the dirt and squirm, prune up into the tangle of branches, get up, look at things, get down again and cut away and then do it again. I knew I was just hacking off things without clean cuts, but I planned to get the overall shape right, then go back and fix each cut afterwards.
I did not clean up the bad pruning cuts.
I did not do it after my initial shaping. I did not do it when the leaves came down in autumn and I could clearly see the dying stubs all over the tree.
Finally in January I went out and cleaned things up, trimming the pruned branches back to the main limbs, being careful to maintain an angled cut, and not making the cuts flush with the trunk -- you need to leave the branch collar intact.
In winter I could see what I was doing now that the shape was more open from my initial efforts, and now that the leaves are completely down.
This mistake in the garden reminded me of cutting my own hair -- lopping blindly with the scissors held awkwardly above my head, hoping for the best, then using the mirror after each snip to see what had been done.
Awkward bits left over.
And in the end a trip to the hairdresser to fix things.