How to Prune Laceleaf Japanese Maples

A laceless Japanese maple often forms the centerpiece and a main focal point of a well-designed garden.

The Wonderful and Exotic Laceleaf Japanese Maple

Laceleaf Japanese maples are some to the most graceful and elegant trees that one can plant the home garden. Often, having one in a prominent location for all to see is a highly desired status symbol because of their elegance. Laceleaf maples may even be considered to be at the top tier of all garden tree—the aristocrat of ornamentals, that is, if they’re well pruned. If not, they can look more like a scruffy, derelict mess!

Laceleaf maples are from the dissectum group of Japanese maples, and are so named because of their deeply dissected or incised leaves from one side of the leaf petiole or stem to the other giving them a lace-like appearance, hence their name. To add to the perfection of these lacey beauties, they generally have seven lobes. It is a deciduous tree that forms a mounding, shrubby shape and can be a single to multistemmed tree with cascading branching and a semi-weeping habit.  The lacelef maple is generally slow-growing and typically reaching no more than four to six feet in height with a wider crown spread. 

Due to the popularity of the laceleaf maple over the centuries,  horticulturalists have developed more than 2,000 varieties with all variations of leaf colors and configurations. The bright reddish colors that many laceleaf maples turn in the autumn can be real eye-catching head turners.  

The Japanese maples originate from the hills Japan, Korea, China and into eastern Mongolia and southeast Russia. The botanical name for the Japanese maple, Acer palmatum, is credited to the Swiss botanist and doctor Carl Peter Thunberg who lived in the late 1700s. Acer  is the botanical name for maple, and palmatum refers to the hand-like look of the leaf.

The Japanese name for the Japanese maple is momiji meaning “the hand of a baby.” 

Japanese Maples Vs. Laceleaf Japanese Maples

There are several broad categories of Japanese maples from which the more diminutive laceleaf variety derives.

  • Upright Japanese Maples: Under the moniker of “Japanese maple” (the upright variety), there are hundreds of cultivars that come from three main maple varieties:

Acer palmatum. This is the largest family of Japanese maples. There are more than 1000 cultivars of acer palmatum worldwide. The word cultivar is a blend of the two words cultivate and variety  and was coined as a botanical term in the 1920s.

Acer japonicum. This is a smaller family of Japanese maple with only a few varieties.

Acer shirasawanum— This is another smaller branch of the Japanese maple family with only a few varieties.

  • Laceleaf Maples or the dissectum group of Japanese maples of Acer palmatum var. dissectum: Under the moniker of lace leaf (a.k.a. laceleaf or lace-leaf) Japanese (weeping, dome-shaped or cascading) maples, there are dozens of varieties for sale in nurseries. These trees are cultivars of the three main varieties of upright Japanese maples listed above. As such, they will have names, for example, like Acer palmatum “Red Feathers,” Acer shirasawanum “Green Snowflake” and so on. 

Other Characteristics of Laceleaf Japanese Maples

Not only are laceleaf maples known for the showy leaves, but they have flowers as well. Blooming in the spring, these maples have small reddish flowers that occur on stalked, umbrella-shaped clusters. The individual flowers have five red or purple sepals and five whitish petals. The laceleaf maple is monoecious plant meaning that it contains both male and female flowers on the same tree.  In other words, it is self-pollinating.

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November in the Garden—A To Do List

This guide is tailored for the western valleys of Oregon and Washington. 

YOU can help to make the world a better, a more friendly, loving and beautiful place by being a good steward of the spot on this earth that you are privileged to be borrowing for a time—your garden. Nathan, the Treevangelist, urges you to treat your spot on this planet like your own personal Garden of Eden paradise. Then notice the joy that it will bring to you! This is your divinely mandated responsibility.  Your trees, shrubs, flowers and the wildlife in your yard will express their smiling appreciation back to you and to others as they radiate love, joy and beauty bursting forth with vibrant and verdant life. Below is a to do list to help you to do just that.

November is the time when the plants in the garden are preparing themselves for long, dark and cold season as we inch our way toward winter. With the onset of colder weather, plants are slowing down their metabolic activity and tucking themselves in for their long winter snooze called winter dormancy. The flow of valuable food that is stored in the green chlorophyll of deciduous shrubs and trees is still making its trek down from the leaves and retreating into the protected woody parts of the plants and the roots where it will be stored until called upon next spring when refoliation occurs. At that time, the plants will awaken to the longer daylight of the sun’s warm and inviting rays, and they will begin their life cycle of food production and reproduction all over again. Enjoy this season as it’s time to break out the boots, scarves and wool for your outdoor ventures, and, when indoors have a bowl of hot soup for dinner as you throw another log on the fire and enjoy one of Oregon’s world class red wines!

Readers’ suggestions on how to improve this list are gladly solicited. If you, the reader, have any suggestions for additions to this month’s list, please put them in the comments section of this article, and I will add them to the list. Thank you in advance! — Nathan

Tree and Shrub Care

  • Fruit tree sanitation: To prevent possible spread of leaf diseases, rake up and remove leaves from around the base of fruit trees. 
  • Fruit trees pruning: After the leaves drop is an excellent time to prune trees that are done fruiting and for aesthetics, since wounds will heal more quickly in warmer weather than occurs in winter. This is also a good time to reduce the height of overgrown fruit trees, since they are likely to produce fewer water sprouts now then when pruned in the spring.
  • Storm proof your larger trees: Checking your trees for hazards and then take the appropriate measures to protect your trees from storm damage. If you’re not sure about the condition of your trees or even what to look for, call Good News Tree Service, Inc. for a free on-site consultation.
  • Large trees: After each major weather event, check your trees for damage such as broken or hanging limbs. If you have concerns or questions about your trees, have an ISA Certified Arborist with an ISA Tree Risk Assessment Qualification (like Good News Tree Service, Inc.) inspect your large trees for damage or the potential of failure due to weak root systems and defects in trunks and branches. 
  • Trees—storm isssues: With the advent of winter storms and the potential damage that they may inflict upon your trees, have an ISA Certified Arborist with an ISA Tree Risk Assessment Qualification (like Good News Tree Service, Inc.) inspect your large trees for the potential of failure due to weak root systems and defects in trunks and branches. This can be done anytime of the year, but now, before the winter storms hit, is an excellent time to proactive assess the condition of your trees for potential limb and trunk breakage.
  • Mulch trees and shrubs: Apply two to three inches of mulch around all trees and ornamental shrubs. This helps to fertilize the plants and feed the soil, and also protects them against weed growth and loss of water when the warmer  weather returns, and helps to insulate the roots against cold weather in the winter.
  • Plant or transplant trees and shrubs: After the cold, seasonal rains have started is a good time to plant or transplant ornamental trees and shrubs. Cooler weather means less transplant shock to the plants, and over  the winter and spring, they will have time to begin to acclimate to their new environment before the stress of the next summer season occurs.
  • Prune your trees and shrubs: This is a good time to start pruning your deciduous trees and shrubs after the leaves have fallen and a tree’s branching structure is clearly visible making pruning easier. If you’re not sure what to do, or how to do it, call Good News Tree Service, Inc. for a consultation, pruning lessons or to have them to the pruning for you.
  • Prune coast/shore pines (Pinus contorta) and Scotch/Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris): These two pines are especially susceptible to the sequoia pitch moth whose larvae burrow into the tree trunks during the growing season (April through September) causing the trees to exude large amounts of unsightly pitch globules. While this seldom kills the tree, the bleeding of sap is not good for the overall health and vigor of the tree. It is advisable, therefore, not to prune these pine trees during the growing season, since the pruning cuts attract the moth, which then lays eggs on the tree, which hatch into tree-burrowing larvae. Pruning should be done on your pines from November to March.

Plant Health Care

  • Arborvitae Berckmann’s Blight (Platycladus orientalis): Spray with copper twice in the fall (late Sept. and early Oct., and again in early Nov. Spray again in early spring (Feb to Mar) if disease is severe. 
  • Fertilize trees and shrubs: Use with a low nitrogen granular fertilizer. The fall and winter rains will slowly dissolve the fertilizer into the soil and down into the roots. Roots continue to grow throughout the winter, so it’s good to feed them for the overall health and vigor of the plant. You can also have Good News Tree Service, Inc. deep root fertilize your trees and shrubs via injection of liquid fertilizers and soil conditioners directly into the root zone of the tree through hydraulic pressure. 
  • Deep Root Fertilization Trees and Shrubs. If the soil temperatures permit, hire Good News Tree Service, Inc. to fertilize your ornamental shrubs and trees (via hydraulic injection) to improve their root health during the winter season and to prepare them for the upcoming spring and summer growing season. When you do this, you will notice a marked improvement in the looks of trees and shrubs.
  • Magnolia Bacterial Blight: If your magnolia bush or tree has blighted leaves and flowers (dark, irregular spots) and the new shoots wilt and die in the spring, it may be magnolia bacteria blight. To treat, the magnolia needs to be sprayed once in the fall and twice in the spring near bud break.
  • Verticillium wilt. Treat maples and other trees against this potentially lethal soil borne fungal pathogen. The fall is the best time to treat your plants against this disease, and spring is the second  best time. Maples are especially plagued by this disease. During hot weather, symptoms include smaller than normal cupped leaves in the upper canopy, often with the death of the entire branch occurring. Maples are the hardest hit trees by this disease. Other trees susceptible to this persistent and potentially lethal fungal root disease include ash, box elder, golden rain tree, mountain ash, prunus spp. (cherry and plum), redbud, tree of heaven or silk tree, southern magnolia, tulip tree.
  • Willow Twig (Bacterial) Blight: Apply copper spray fungicide after the leaves drop.

Elsewhere in the Garden

  • Put slug bait around winter flowers.
  • Plant spring flowering bulbs.
  • Rake and dispose of ornamental tree leaves, or better yet, compost them and then spread the decomposed leaves back onto your shrub beds as a mulch next year.
  • Mulch your shrub beds. Put a two to three inches of mulch (e.g. bark dust, garden compost or wood chips) around perennials and other plants that might be sensitive to subfreezing weather.  Also, spread a fresh layer of mulch (e.g. bark dust, garden compost or wood chips) on all the bare dirt areas in your yard to prevent soil compaction from rains, to prevent weed growth and to enrich and help to condition your heavy clay soils. Adding a layer of mulch (several inches thick) over any tender perennial flowers, especially if the weather turns extremely cold and the ground freezes, will prevent death of flowers like dahlias.
  • Winterize your irrigation system. Provide winter protection to in-ground irrigation systems by draining them and insulating valve mechanisms.
  • Winterize your outdoor faucets. Protect outside faucets from subfreezing temperatures, and drain and store garden hoses in your garage or garden shed.
  • Fertilize your lawn.  
  • Cut English ivy off of the base of trees. (This can be done any time of the year.)
  • Feed the birds. Dutifully maintain your bird feeders. As winter comes, birds have a harder time finding food.  Bring life and excitement to your backyard by turning it into a bird sanctuary. The birds will thank you for your generosity by providing you with hours of entertainment, and by eating insect pests that harm your ornamental trees and shrubs. 

The Hymn of a Ponderosa Pine

A year ago while camping in the high desert of Central Oregon, I wrote a hymn about a giant ponderosa pine tree, while sitting on the banks of the Deschutes Rivers. As I gazed at and pondered it, I saw it singing a silent praise hymn to the Creator, the Almighty Yehovah Elohim. You can find my psalm below. 

This fall, I found myself camping along side of another river with my wife, this time in southern Central Oregon being amazed by another giant, majestic, ancient ponderosa pine tree. This time, I made a pen and ink drawing of this 500 year behemoth.

Here are my poem and my pen and ink drawing showcased together.

Here are a couple of pictures of the actual tree.

The inspiration of this poem and its birth occurred while sitting next to the  Deschutes River in La Pine, Oregon, during the biblical Sukkot celebration (the Feast of Tabernacles) in 2018, while gazing admiringly at the mighty, towering ponderosa pine trees (Pinus ponderosa) that stand as sentinels gracing its banks. At the same time, the words of the First Psalm in the Bible were floating around in my mind.

La Pinus1 ponderosa2 at De Falls3 River waters4;

A weighty5 giant pondering6 heavenly matters. 

Rejecting your former blackjack7 past,

Basking now in heaven’s light at last.

Arms and trunks are tanned a bright orange hue8,

With muscular limbs upraised in praise to You9

To the Messiah, the radiant Sun of Righteousness10!

O piney tree by the rivers of water,

With crown aimed high—you’re a leafy psalter11.

The still small breath12 of heaven’s heart,

Strums happily your needley harp,

To all who’re attuned in full amaze—

And hear the Spirit’s psalm of praise.

La Pinus ponderosa by De Falls River’s edge—

Precariously planted on the sloping ledge?

Gravity inexorably can’t make you slip,

As you mock the current’s undercutting grip13.

Against the storms you’re resolute, 

Exempt from its slavish tribute.

The desert’s torrid breath can’t make you wilt14.

It underestimates how well you’re built.

For deeply rooted are your hairy feet,

As they sate their thirst from the summer’s heat14.

Anchored firmly against the gale.

From brutal breezes that do assail.

Resting on the solid Rock15,

Heat and wind they can’t you shock16.

To the bank of Truth17 you tenaciously cling,

Imbibing the Spiritual life14 the waters bring.

As Heaven’s wind18 fills your leafy sail,

You clap your hands19 as me you regale.

Pinus preacher at the River Deschutes,

You cry aloud from roots to shoots.

A riveting sermon loud and clear

To open ears both far and near.

Quietly praising the King above,

Silent shouting of heaven’s love!

Puzzle letters from your massive girth20,

A visible testament fall to the earth.

Of heaven’s radiance they joyously glow,

Trampled by naive hikers there below.

But when combined these letters spell,

The truth of heavens evangel21.

This tree’s a wellspring of worshipful praise,

In every tongue with limbs upraised!

La Pine’s1 ponderosas who grace your river blue,

There is much for me to learn from you.

Your arms point upwards in heaven’s praise,

Past you to Him, my eyes I’ll raise22!

This is my heartfelt prayer to You:

With Your Spirit and Truth23 my heart imbue.

From Your tree of life24 I’ll always feed

Producing an abundance of living seed.

May I be too a tree of life,

That my heart-would25 with your words be rife.

Amein.

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Champoeg State Park’s Giant Douglas Fir Tree

Another giant tree discovered…almost in my backyard!

While visiting Champoeg State Park and Heritage Area recently, I discovered another giant tree—one of the biggest Douglas fir trees I’ve ever seen in this area. I didn’t have to go far to find this one; it was just across the Willamette River from where Good News Tree Service, Inc. calls home and upstream a bit.

This enormous arboricultural wonder is located not far from the granite obelisk monument that marks the spot where the early French, English and American inhabitants of the Oregon Territory voted in 1843 to make Oregon a part of the United States instead of England. This tree witnessed this historic event!

I didn’t have a tape measure with me, but I estimate this tree to be about eight-and-one-half feet in diameter at breast height. I’m over six feet tall, and the tree is much wider than I am tall. I’m guessing that this fir tree is at least 500 years old.

October in the Garden—A To Do List

This guide is tailored for the western valleys of Oregon and Washington. 

YOU can help to make the world a better, a more friendly, loving and beautiful place by being a good steward of the spot on this earth that you are privileged to be borrowing for a time—your garden. Nathan, the Treevangelist, urges you to treat your spot on this planet like your own personal Garden of Eden paradise. Then notice the joy that it will bring to you! This is your divinely mandated responsibility.  Your trees, shrubs, flowers and the wildlife in your yard will express their smiling appreciation back to you and to others as they radiate love, joy and beauty bursting forth with vibrant and verdant life. Below is a to do list to help you to do just that.

October with the advent of cooler weather is a transition time for the garden as plants begin to prepare for winter. Autumn in the Pacific Northwest is the time when many trees and shrubs are bursting forth—yes, even shouting—with a brilliant menagerie of vibrant autumn colors. This occurs each fall as the trees’ green chlorophyll abandon their leaves in its descent into the trunk and roots where it will be stored waiting out the winter ready to be called upon in the spring to empower a foliar awakening. Left behind are the red, yellow and orange carotenoids colors to finally reveal their presence, which has been in the leaves all along being over-powered by the green chlorophyll. Relish the fall colors along with the crisp morning and mildly warm days sprinkled with occasional rain showers to help restore the verdure of the flora from the brownish overtones of a long, hot and dry summer.

Readers’ suggestions on how to improve this list are gladly solicited. If you, the reader, have any suggestions for additions to this month’s list, please put them in the comments section of this article, and I will add them to the list. Thank you in advance! — Nathan

Tree and Shrub Care

  • Fruit trees: This is an excellent time to prune trees that are done fruiting, since wounds will heal more quickly in warmer weather than occurs in winter. This is also a good time to reduce the height of overgrown fruit trees, since they are likely to produce fewer water sprouts now then when pruned in the spring. 
  • Large trees: After each major weather event, check your trees for damage such as broken or hanging limbs. If you have concerns or questions about your trees, have an ISA Certified Arborist with an ISA Tree Risk Assessment Qualification (like Good News Tree Service, Inc.) inspect your large trees for damage or the potential of failure due to weak root systems and defects in trunks and branches. 
  • Mulch: Apply two to three inches of mulch around all trees and ornamental shrubs. This helps to fertilize the plants and feed the soil, and also protects them against weed growth and loss of water when the warmer  weather returns, and helps to insulate the roots against cold weather in the winter.
  • Pines—pruning: During the cooler fall, winter and spring seasons is the best time to prune pine trees. For those into Japanese style pruning, this is the time to bud prune.
  • Pruning of trees and shrubs: You can do all aesthetic pruning of all ornamental shrubs and trees (except pines) at any time of the year in most cases. 
  • Pruning of large trees: Most trees in the temperate western valleys of Oregon and Washington can be pruned anytime of the year. If you’re not sure what to do, or how to do it, call Good News Tree Service, Inc. for a consultation, pruning lessons or to have us do the pruning for you. It is likely best to wait for cooler weather to prune stressed or sick looking trees or to do major pruning on trees. Call us if you have questions about this. Heavy pruning of some trees in the summer, especially conifers, can weaken or even kill them.
  • Tree and shrub removal and stump grinding can be done all year long. 
  • Trees—Storm Issues: With the advent of winter storms and the potential damage that they may inflict upon your trees, have an ISA Certified Arborist with an ISA Tree Risk Assessment Qualification (like Good News Tree Service, Inc.) inspect your large trees for the potential of failure due to weak root systems and defects in trunks and branches. This can be done anytime of the year, but now, before the winter storms hit, is an excellent time to proactive assess the condition of your trees for potential limb and trunk breakage.

Plant Health Care

  • Arborvitae Berckmann’s Blight (Platycladus orientalis): Spray with copper twice in the fall (late Sept. and early Oct., and again in early Nov. Spray again in early spring (Feb to Mar) if disease is severe. 
  • Deep Root Fertilization: Deep root fertilize your trees and shrubs to promote healthy root development in preparation for next springs growing cycle.
  • Magnolia Bacterial Blight: If your magnolia bush or tree has blighted leaves and flowers (dark, irregular spots) and the new shoots wilt and die in the spring, it may be magnolia bacteria blight. To treat, the magnolia needs to be sprayed once in the fall and twice in the spring near bud break.
  • Maples (including Japanese maples): Monitor the leaves of all maples and some other trees and shrubs for symptoms of the potentially lethal verticillium wilt fungal disease. If you see major branch dieback, call GNTS, Inc. for a free evaluation.
  • Verticillium Wilt: The fall is the best time to treat your plants against this disease, and spring is the second  best time. Maples are especially plagued by this disease. During hot weather, symptoms include smaller than normal cupped leaves in the upper canopy, often with the death of the entire branch occurring. Maples are the hardest hit trees by this disease. Other trees susceptible to this persistent and potentially lethal fungal root disease include ash, box elder, golden rain tree, mountain ash, prunus spp. (cherry and plum), redbud, tree of heaven or silk tree, southern magnolia, tulip tree.

Elsewhere in the Garden

  • Put slug bait around your flowers and tender perennials like hostas. 
  • Apply two to three inches of mulch (e.g. bark dust, garden compost or wood chips) on all of your shrub beds. Covering bare dirt areas in your yard with mulch helps to prevent soil compaction from rains, and weed growth, and helps to enrich our heavy clay soils.
  • Cut English ivy off of the base of trees. (This can be done any time of the year.)
  • Feed the birds. Dutifully maintain your bird feeders. Bring life and excitement to your backyard by turning it into a bird sanctuary. The birds will thank you for your generosity by providing you with hours of entertainment, and by eating insect pests that harm your ornamental trees and shrubs. Birds in the yard are not only fun to watch, but they perform the vital task of eating harmful insects. Keep bird baths full. In hot and dry weather, birds need water to drink and to bathe in.
  • This is a good time of the year to plant trees and shrubs. Visit your local nursery and select your favorite ornamental shrubs and shade trees. After planting your new shrubs, just make sure that you water them well immediately and regularly subsequently for the first two or three summers until their roots get established. 
  • Fertilize your lawn. The cooler, wetter fall weather is also an excellent time to overseed your lawn to fill in the thin and bare areas.

Botanical Gardens of England, Guernsey, Ireland, Scotland & Paris

This video chronicles my recent trip to the British Isles and Ireland where I visited numerous botanical gardens and natural wild areas including the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew near London, Blarney Castle Gardens in Ireland, Powerscourt Estate Gardens in Ireland, the Antrim Coast and Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, the Scottish Highlands, Dunrobin Castle gardens in northern Scotland, Holyrood Castle gardens in Edinburg, Scotland plus gardens in Paris. Please enjoy.

Wilsonville’s Willamette River Historic Log Raft Cable Trees

Recently, the City of Wilsonville, as spearheaded by Wilsonville City Councilor and former Wilsonville mayor Charlotte Lehan, placed a Oregon historical marker in Wilsonville’s Memorial Park honoring several cable trees on the banks of the Willamette River as State of Oregon Heritage Trees.

So what is a cable tree?

Years ago when logging was the main driver in Oregon’s economy making this state the number one timber producer in the U.S., huge numbers of trees (billions of board feet per year) were being logged out of local forests each year. In many cases, the most economical way to get logs from the forest to the sawmill was to floats them down rivers like the Willamette. Huge log rafts would be created and then cabled and chained together and pulled downriver by tugboats where they would be tied up to trees (and sometimes pilings) along the riverbank waiting their turn to be hauled to the sawmill.

I still remember in the 1960s and 1970s seeing tugboats pulling enormous log rafts through downtown Portland’s Willamette River. It was a common sight that we took for granted. It wasn’t unusual to see multiple log rafts tied up near Ross Island along the river bank. Today when you travel up the Columbia River, or along some of Oregon’s coastal rivers, you can still see many old, rotting pilings that were used for that purpose decades ago. Such practices were part of Oregon’s illustrious logging history.

Today, many of these old anchor trees are still visible, including several along the Willamette River in Wilsonville. The scars from the cables can still be clearly seen in some trees, and other trees even have remnants of old cables and other hardware imbedded in them that the trees have often grown around.

Please enjoy the photos of some of these historical Wilsonville trees.

This historical marker is located in Wilsonville’s Memorial Park about 150 feet to the right of the path that goes down to the public boat dock area.
This historic cottonwood cable tree is located in Wilsonville’s Memorial Park downriver a few hundred yards from the public boat dock.
This historic cottonwood cable tree is located in Wilsonville’s Memorial Park downriver a few hundred yards from the public boat dock.
This historic Douglas fir cable tree is located in Wilsonville’s Memorial Park about 150 feet to the right of the path that leads down to the public boat dock.
This Douglas fir cable tree is located across the river from Memorial Park in the Charbonneau District area.