Defoliation of Japanese Maple

Over Spring time, I have been pinching out new growth on this Japanese Maple in hopes to shorten the internodes, and hopefully even promote some back budding. There were a few buds that formed, but there were still some very long internodes formed. Fortunately, at the same nodes for which the long internodes extended from, there were often other buds formed. The leaves formed at Spring time have a reddish tinge to it. As the leave hardens, it turns to fully green. Some initial wiring can be done here to ensure the new branches don’t push straight up.

Jap Maple Wired

By the end of Spring, the foliage on the tree was getting quite dense, as a result, no sunlight is able to reach the inner parts of the tree. With no light reaching the branches, no new buds will develop. The leaves are very large as well. This is often the case for very vigorous leaves which came out at the start of Spring.

Maple Before Defoliage

One way to force new buds to push out is to defoliate the tree. There are two ways to defoliate, either partial defoliation, or full defoliation. Since maples tend to be resistant to abuse, I decided to perform a full defoliation. When cutting off the leaves, one must make sure to leave the petiole intact. The base of the petiole is where new buds will be formed. The second wave of leaves will also be smaller, since the tree now has less energy than before.

Maple After Defoliage

After defoliating the tree, the branch structure can be seen clearly. Since there are no leaves, it’s also the perfect opportunity to prune branches and wire up branches. I proceeded to wire the upward branches down. Maples tend to scar easily, so when wiring, I ensure the wires are very lose, to allow for the branches to set, while not allowing the wires to bite into the bark.

Maple Wired

After writing down the branches, I decided to prune off the branches with the long internodes as well. Since buds form at the nodes, long internodes will ultimately limit my options for branch selection. Luckily there were still a lot of branches with short internodes.

Maple Pruned

I left the right branch long, mainly because I plan to perform an air-layer with it later on. The rest of the tree now have short internodes. In a few years when the trunk gets thicker, this would be a very impressive tree, with very fine ramifications.


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