Jim mentioned that fall is the best time to PRUNE TREES. And there are many reasons for that, not the least of which is that the leaves are off the tree and we can actually see what we are doing because it is very important that we build structure and layers in the trees. Eric asks Jim to specifically talk about Japanese maples. He has so many of them plus it's a tree where it's important for us to really know what we are doing before we get in there with pruners.
What Jim likes to do first is examine the tree looking for any dead wood or diseased wood. First take that out, cut all that out. If you have crossing branches you want to look at the crossing branches. One of those has to go, you have to eliminate it. What you want to do is select the best branch to leave and prune the other one out. On all of Jim's trees, not just Japanese maples, he first looks at the diseased and dying wood. Then looks at the crossing branches and takes those out. The next thing is and Jim uses his arm to demonstrate, let's pretend his arm is a limb on a tree. If this limb comes out, normally, you are going to have shoots that are going up and you are going to have shoots that are coming down. Remember, you want light to penetrate so that all of the shaded area doesn't kill the leaves below and the branches below. So what you want to do is keep all horizontal limbs in place. If it is coming up you cut it off, if it is coming down you remove it. When you are through you are going to have these layers that look like floating clouds and throughout the tree, light will penetrate. Instead of having too much shade below you are going to get light going into those trees and you are going to have leaves. This Japanese maple, is an example, it has been pruned so that all of the limbs coming down or going up have been pruned off. The main limb, the branches are all horizontal, they're left in place. Now look at the sunlight coming through the trees, you'll always have beautiful light but as well gives it that cloud like layer and the tree is going to do much better.