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Old 05-23-2014, 04:46 PM   #1
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Dead Japanese Maple?


In Western NY we had a long and cold winter.
I had some landscaping done last spring; they put in maybe a dozen plants and pruned a few others.
A new holly and a forsythia died and are being replace at no charge.

A Japanese maple that was planted 7 years ago, and pruned by the landscaper, also died. He assures me the pruning was modest and couldn't possibly have cause the problem. They are good to zone 5. I am zone 6, and while it was a bad winter, it didn't exceed zone 5.

So my question; was it more likely to have been bad luck or caused by the pruning? I don't want to be a jerk about it, but I have not seen a healthy tree just die.

(He came out today and replaced a holly that wasn't dead, leaving a dead one, so maybe he isn't so bright)

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Old 05-23-2014, 05:02 PM   #2
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Dead Japanese Maple?


I would guess the extreme cold, not the pruning

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Old 05-24-2014, 11:50 AM   #3
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Dead Japanese Maple?


Pruning Japanese maples at the incorrect time can cause major damage or possibly even kill the tree. The problem with a lot of "landscaping" companies today is that anyone with an extra lawnmower and pickup truck can slap a sign on the truck and start a business. If the winter was especially cold the tree may have been damaged in the winter anyway. However, if it was pruned to much or improperly it could affect the trees natural ability to recover.

Japanese maple trees should only be pruned up to two times a year. The first pruning should be in mid winter before any warmer weather has even attempted to set in. Early February is best in most states; January in southern states zones 7-10. This is a good time to do major corrective or training pruning. Prune to remove rubbing branches and branches that are growing out of proportion to the rest of the tree. You can also prune to reduce the overall size of the tree during this dormancy period. You can remove up to 1/3 of the overall plant size if necessary. Avoid late winter pruning and early spring pruning. Pruning at this time can trigger the plant to start growing quickly as soon as the weather begins to get warmer. Early growth is more likely to experience freeze damage, and possibly even kill the tree. A light second pruning just after the spring flush of growth has hardened can be done to clean up any unwanted wild growth, and make the tree more presentable.

As with all plants and trees correct pruning eliminates unsightly looking dead stems and trains the plant to look the way you would like to look. Japanese maples have what is called opposite buds. If you look closely at one of the smaller stems you will see the smallest branches grow out of the larger branch two at a time and directly across from each other. This forms a Y looking branch only with another branch in the center which is the main branch. Think of it as a Y in a road with another road going straight, so you now have 3 roads in front of you.

When pruning Japanese Maples you want to remove the center branch and leave the two branches forming the Y. It is best to prune as close to the center of the Y as possible leaving as little stem as possible. Correct pruning will heal well and become unnoticeable quickly. You can use this method from the smallest branches to large branches. This method also forms a symmetrical growing tree.
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Old 05-24-2014, 01:59 PM   #4
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Dead Japanese Maple?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Indepspirit View Post
Pruning Japanese maples at the incorrect time can cause major damage or possibly even kill the tree.
This was pruned in early June. Hard to be sure, but I expect less than a quarter was removed. Now there are a couple branches with leaves, but most are dead.
Was that the late Spring you referred to, or too early increasing the chances of winter kill.

It is a reputable firm, but the same guys that pruned it also replaced a live holly yesterday instead of the dead one.
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Old 05-24-2014, 02:43 PM   #5
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Dead Japanese Maple?


Early June would have been an alright time for the second light pruning to clean up any unwanted wild growth, and make the tree more presentable. Although many Japanese maples have a hardiness rating of zone 5 or 6 some cultivars only have Zone 6 or 7 hardiness. If the winter was more of that of a zone 5 a 7 year old tree is still young and growing and may experience problems.

Another possible cause may be because of sun scald, which is cold damage due to premature emergence from winter dormancy. This frequently happens to maples planted on a south or west side of a home, which reflects warmth and causes the plant to "wake up" from winter prematurely, reducing its cold tolerance.

If it is a reputable firm that you like and your still worried about it I would call them and see if there is a supervisor or even the owner could come out and take a look at it (if it's a larger company). When I had my company I had, at times, up to 15 different crews of 3-5 employees working at a time. Some of the employees were only there for summer jobs and others there for long term. Although you try to train them all it's hard to teach them everything and even though the landscape across the street may look almost the same, because plants are living things, the tactics maybe totally different for each one. That's hard to teach and you learn it more from doing then you do from a book or teaching.
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Old 05-24-2014, 03:37 PM   #6
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Dead Japanese Maple?


My experience with Japanese Maples is that they have their own mind. Once you prune, the cut end dies back (turns gray) to a certain growth node (not necessarily the adjacent one) where it stops. There begins the "Y" Indepspirit described. And there are times that the entire branch dies...

Is this what you have? Maybe it is not the landscaper's fault.
On the other hand, all seven of my Japanese Maples survived this brutal winter just fine (we experienced down to -4F for a few nights).
I have a long vertical bark split in one but I don't want to highjack the original post.

Yet your landscaper managed to kill a forsythia! That takes effort!

Listen to Indepspirit's advise. He is our master gardener!

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