Trimming Japanese Maple Crimson Queen lace leaf help?

I have a japanese maple lace leaf tree that is currently about 1.5 feet high. It has a diameter of approximately 3.5 - 4 feet. The way it is now it looks more like a low growing shrub. The problem is I want it to get a little taller. I would prefer it to get about 3.5 feet tall. But it seems since the branches are so long and filled with leaves that it is keeping the tree from getting taller. I realize it is a slow process, but it just keeps getting wider. I figured if I cut some of the branches so it isn't as wide it might grow taller. The weight of the branches seem to bend the main trunk down to one side. Plus I think it would look a little better if it wasn't as wide. The tree is very healthy. Is it safe to cut the branches? How much? Is now a good time to do it (MAY)?
Gary
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Gary,
Its natural shape is globose-- I'm fairly certain it's in the 'Yatsubusa' or Dwarf classification of Japanese Maples. Mature specimens look like feathery umbrellas in the landscape, wider than they are tall.
Dave

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In addition to David's very appropriate comments, I would add that ultimate heght of dwarf lace leaf maples is determined by their graft. If it has a low graft, you should expect a tree that will stay low to the ground. You can encourage some more upward growth by carefully staking and guiding the top branches, but their natural habit will be to cascade and you will not achieve significantly more height. Pruning will not alter this growth pattern and can damage the appearance of the tree. Generally, summer pruning on J. maples is recommended for mid to late June, after the sap stops running.from the spring growth spurt.
Typically J. maples are not heavily pruned. You can always remove dead or damaged branches and thin excess twiginess on certain cultivars, otherwise pruning is usually limited to enhancing the natural form of the tree by those who are accomplished in this technique. It is quite an art form.
pam - gardengal
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I think that pruning Japanese maples ruins their natural shape. If it doesn't look good, it is probably planted in the wrong spot. I doubt that it will get taller because you prune it. Conventional wisdom says that plants become fuller when you prune them because they tend to branch near the point where you cut them. Look around at the trees that the power company cuts. You can read more about pruning your maple here. It should answer your specific questions: http://www.sabot.org/articles/maple.html
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The best Japanese maples I've seen were all carefully pruned as they grew to achieve desirable form. They otherwise have a tendency to become very densely leafed & shows little of their structure, a structure that can be mediocre in winter when it does show. The problem of course is without an artful sense of form, neither one's carefully trained little bonsai, nor one's maturing maple, will look worth shit, & better to have a big dense ball of leaves than a crappily trained tree.
Several years ago when we planted Oshio Beni maple, it grew so rapidly & so well. For the first year or two it looked like a one-big-fat-cloud of leaves, with no real form, more like bush than a tree. I did not have the nerve to train it, I figured I'd wreck it, but my artistic sweety took it upon herself to begin shaping it. This induced good growth with better light getting through the branches, & it responded to the pruning's directional training with amazing obedience. It has about doubled in size & though still a small tree, only 12 feet tall, it already has a form reminiscent of a big beautifully formed tree, & will probably never again need more than touch-up prunings as it continues to mature.

This would depend on the cultivar, but judicious pruning induces swifter growth because plants respond to pruning by putting on new growth, including lengthening of unpruned limbs, because it has fewer branches into which to put energy, & better light through the limbs. But some varieties just never can be induced to grow at anything but a snail's pace, it's in the nature of some varieties to only put on a couple inches in a year, others spring upward & outward very rapidly; the swift ones will look a mess if not trained as they go.

It varies from cultivar to cultivar, & also varies depending on how one goes about the pruning job. But Japanese maples often behave marginally different from fruit trees; it's much easier to restrain the growth of one area & encourage another; nodes can easily be restrained from becoming branches, inducing the tree to put more energy into the limbs one wishes to become thicker & longer. If pruning is done in slow stages each spring (with even more limited clean-up of small bits later in the season) it is not nearly as inclined to produce scads of smaller branchings, but is perfectly happy to bulk up those branches that are being encouraged.
The appearance of twiggy bits near old prunes can be safely removed out of season before they take any energy from the tree's trained direction of growth, though the appearance of too many new twigs is evidence of too much pruning all at one time. But if one screws up & makes it look lopsided, it's good to know that spot WILL produce new growth, a part of which can be saved to repair the balance.
For our Oshio Beni I doubt Granny Artemis pruned out more than 10% on even her most "brutal" year in three consecutive years of training, so she's gone about it very slowly, with never a mistake. It has slowly gone from looking like a solid dense ball of leaves, to such a shapely beauty. Of course if one preferred the one-dense-ball look, such airiness of careful form might not be desirable, but all the best Japanese maples I've ever seen were thus trained while young.
Ideally the training starts when the tree is qui9te young & it will never be necessary to lop off any large part of the tree when it has gained good-sized branches. Trying to get good form out of an already well grown tree can cause it harm without ever achieving a desired effect.

A tree pruned for aesthetic form & training as it grows is not the same thing as trees butchered en masse after they have reached maturity.

Looks like a good article, & recommends pruning in slow stages over years to achieve desired effect -- indeed, this article calls pruning for training the "first and most important step" to achieving the eventual mature & natural look. A maple won't achieve a classic form left to its own devices, though one can certainly purchase a somewhat larger older vastly more expensive specimen already well along in its training & that one just might take care of itself from then on. I have my doubts about that recommendation to use elmer's glue to seal pruned bits though -- this seals in moisture where moisture is not desirable, which in turn invites fungus & insects, when it would heal fine if not painted over. This is certainly true of other trees, & I'd have to see more & very specific data before I accepted that "Japanese maples are the exception" which prefer to be treated by disproven methods of care.
-paghat the ratgirl
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wrote:

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I guess I will reconsider pruning my JM. I have bloodgood, and it was planted too close to my deck. It was recommended and planted by a landscape designer and I didn't have any idea that it would grow so fast or so tall. I have been very hesitant to prune it, but maybe I should at least evaluate its form and see if I can improve it while trying to adapt it to its location.
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Thanks for all the responses. I think I will leave it as it is, since you all agree unless you really know what you are doing, you will ruin it. Thanks again very much,
Gary
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