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This is an acer from Japan, but not Acer palmatum, it is a 10-years old Acer shirasawanum, left alone for all these years: (in the background is a chery, it won't grow larger)

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This is a view rotated by 90°:

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Even in this state, the tree is fantastic to me.

However:

  • It bothers me that it doesn't have a single leader
  • The crown is somewhat sparse
  • I can't walk around the tree, in proximity of the trunk.

Can this be corrected by pruning?

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Yes, it can be corrected by pruning. I'd take the little leader off now right to the trunk. The other will straighten. Leave the lower branches as they feed the trunk and allow the diameter of the trunk to strengthen. They can be cut off later. I am so glad you don't have staking involved. But you have to get that grass and soil away from the trunk at the bottom. Make a 2 ' diameter circle for now. Make sure the trunk is completely free of soil, weeds, grass, mulch and the roots are the only part under the soil.

We can get into more pruning detail but getting rid of the little leader and correcting the trunk/soil/grass situation is critical to do now.

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  • When should I prune it? – VividD Dec 7 '17 at 4:53
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    @VividD: before the buds will blow up (late winter/early spring). I would wait end of winter, when also snow will not be a problem anymore (if snow breaks branches before pruning, you can choose other branches). – Giacomo Catenazzi Dec 7 '17 at 8:16
  • Now is a great time to prune and clean up the base of your trees. Snow won't be a problem for deciduous trees. Not at this age. Go ahead and prune that leader off, clean the grass from around base. The lowest branch should come off next year sometime...your tree looks well spaced for branching. – stormy Dec 7 '17 at 11:54
  • @VividD I am as curious as a cat. Went to look you up and my goodness, a math whiz! You've only been on this site for a couple of months and well, you have left impressions! You've got a thriving, busy mind and wit to boot. – stormy Dec 9 '17 at 5:05
  • @Stormy I am on my travels, can't fully participate, just wanted to say hi, see you later... – VividD Dec 9 '17 at 15:37

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