Help save an old and beautiful Japanese Maple

Discussion in 'Maples' started by Wombi, May 24, 2023.

  1. Wombi

    Wombi New Member

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    Location:
    Boston, MA (Hingham)
    I am a beginner, looking for a community to help me out with about a few different varietals of Japanese Maple. I purchased a dormant (15 years) nursery a couple years ago, and live in the previous owner's house and garden. I have little experience, but am learning how to take care of this collection of beautiful trees and plants.

    The maple in question is the centerpiece of the garden next to a footbridge over a dry creek bed. When I purchased the property in 2021, it was in good health. Last year 2022 we had an extremely dry summer, and the town would not allow watering. Last winter was very mild, but then had a day where temperatures got to -12 degrees F as well as some late frosts. I live in Hingham, Massachusetts, which I realize isn't the right place for this forum, but this seemed to be a very active community focused on Japanese Maples, so I'm writing for help here.

    I've attached a few photos. The tree seems to only have leafed in about half its branches this spring. I'm looking for any advice on how to care for this plant, as well as suggestions as to what varietal it is. Its leaves are bright red in spring, green during summer, and red (but less bright) in the fall. This spring I gave it a bit of 10-10-10 fertilizer spread by hand.

    Thank you so much for your help! <3 Also - please be direct. If its hopeless, just let me know!
     

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  2. maf

    maf Generous Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    Location:
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    Hi, welcome, looks a nice garden you have acquired!

    There are a few JM cultivars with the small 5 to 7 lobed leaves that leaf out bright red in spring before turning green in summer. 'Shindeshojo' is one of the most well known but there are a few others that are very similar.

    As for the health issues my guess is a self pruning reaction to the drought stress of last summer. The - 12F, while not ideal, is still within the hardiness range for these plants, as long as it was still dormant at the time.

    As for practical advice, prune out all the obviously dead wood and see what you are left with, and see how it reacts over the next few months. A mulch of bark chips or similar would help. If there is a more serious problem it will continue to decline, but if only a reaction to drought stress it should show some improvement as long as there is not another drought!

    Good luck!
     
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  3. emery

    emery Renowned Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    Normandie, France
    Hi @Wombi , welcome to the forum. It is maples-oriented, not geography-oriented. I lived in Boston for many years, and retain many contacts there, so I know that Hingham is a good place to grow maples.

    Your maple does look a bit like 'Deshojo', but understand it will be impossible to make a sure identification from the photos. Lovely garden, though, what a find!

    I wonder if -12F, during an otherwise mild winter, might not do some damage to the aerial parts of the tree. That's pretty cold, but not unheard of, for the South Shore, if I'm not mistaken. Coupled with the preceding drought, it might have been just a little too much stress for parts of the tree; but this is a natural process, the tree sheds some branches so that others will remain healthy.

    Regardless, it looks as if the rest of the plant is OK. I would not fertilize, but as Maf says keep it mulched, (without burying the trunk!), and get rid of dead wood. Do a "scratch test" before cutting major branches all the way down, if it's green, don't cut.

    Cheers, -E
     
  4. Wombi

    Wombi New Member

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    Wow - so incredible how quickly you both have addressed my questions! Thank you both! I will scratch test and prune as instructed and keep you posted.
     
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  5. Otto Bjornson

    Otto Bjornson Contributor

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    Location:
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    As mentioned remove the dead wood, insulate the surface roots with mulch,then trim to shape to your liking.
    Over the years I have trimmed several cultivators with the same visual type of appearance. All survived and thrived eventually.
     
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