Major pruning can be undertaken without any worry of damage and trimming during the growing season can also be helpful in controlling shape and size. Transplanting, even of older trees, can successfully be done at the right time of year with the correct planning and moving from container growing to open ground cultivation is a simple task that requires no excessive preparation.
Pests are mostly absent from a healthy, vigorous Japanese maple and this applies equally to fungal infections. A drying up, dying or dead tree, particularly if it happens shortly after you've bought it, is rarely the fault of the gardener as symptoms don't happen overnight, but with the correct advice and care most can be brought back to health.
Fuller details of caring for, pruning and all the other information to grow Japanese maples well can be found in the cultivation section.
If you are looking for information on grafting Japanese maples there are a number of articles in the propagation section if you fancy having a go!
The first article is written by and reprinted by kind permission of Ken Tilt, after whom the palmatum cultivar Dr. Tilt is named and is a description of the method used by Harold Johnston. Harold has been propagating for more years than most of us and is responsible for introducing numerous outstanding cultivars; Abigail Rose and Beni shi en being two of many.
A second article on budding and grafting woody plants has now been added. Many of the techniques described are applicable to Japanese maples. This article is reprinted by kind permission of R E Bir and T E Bilderbeck; Extension Specialists, Nursery Crops and T G Ranney; Assistant Professor, Horticultural Science, North Carolina State University, College of Horticulture and Life Sciences.
A grafting slideshow and faq has now been uploaded and the sequence of events illustrates the entire process of producing a new plant. The method shown is probably the most widely used in commercial production and lends itself to both winter and summer use. The text and illustrations have been reproduced by kind permission of Dr. William B Shell.
Information specific to summer grafting has been uploaded and a further slideshow has been uploaded illustrating an alternative method to the traditional side veneer graft. A Grafting Aids section has been added and this contains information on tools and other subjects of interest to the propagator.
It might seem odd for a Japanese maple nursery to be giving away the tricks of the trade as it were, but most of the information is already on the internet; it's just a question of finding it. By gathering it in one place it might encourage the enthusiastic amateur to introduce something distinctly different: there is still no variegated linearilobum on the market! Some illustrations of possible future introductions can be found here and there are probably many more waiting to be noticed in a corner of someone's garden. I will also put all the articles together eventually as a .pdf file for those of you who might want an easily printed reference.
There is also the possibility of producing new cultivars in the laboratory where greater control over the required characteristics can be achieved. The process, known as somatic embryogenesis or protoplast fusion, aims to join the cell nuclei of two or more separate cultivars to produce a brand new cultivar that is then grown on in vitro. My own experiments nearly thirty years ago, using enzymes used in Heinz baby foods to break down the cell walls prior to fusion, resulted in predictable faiure although I did develop a taste for stewed apricots and rice! The technology then was back of the envolope stuff although huge prizes were on offer in the orchid world for the first un-related bi-generic hybrid. The technology has now become quite sophisticated and is routinely used on a wide range of trees and shrubs.
Also to be added shortly to the cultivation section will be articles on pest and desease control without chemicals and better compost. Essential information on better compost can now be found here. A small sundries section will also be placed here in time for next year's growing season. This will contain items that are used at the nursery in the production of Japanese maples such as rock dust, Azotobacter and Trichoderma and which can be of benefit to gardeners. A directory of sources of propagating equipment and supplies for USA and UK gardeners will be uploaded soon.
Finally some inspiration! The two illustrations below are of plants that are well over 100 years old and are as vigorous now as they were in the nineteenth century. The photographs were taken in late summer, by which time the red of the early part of the season had faded to bronze. When these were planted the range of cultivars available was nothing like it is today and good red forms were non-existent. The tree in the centre of the right-hand illustration is in a steep valley and the photograph was taken looking down on it; its size is not immediately apparent but is approximately 45ft. tall and and slightly less across. The cultivar in the foreground is Katsura, one of a number of plants grown by me for this garden; 12ft. wide and 8ft. tall and, at 17 years old, a mere sapling! The plant in the immediate left foreground is Karasugawa, a cultivar that apparantly shouldn't be grown in full sun. Behind Karasugawa and slightly to the left is Seiryu; planted on a steep slope at the same time as Katsura, it is now as high as Katsura is wide. The lack of some leaves is due to the shoots being knocked against the spiked plant alongside. A larger picture can be seen by clicking on each illustration.