Japanese maple tree

(Question)

Just planted it last July 2013.  The branches are green inside but the buds are small and all dry.  No growth.  Protected for winter.  Will it come cack?

(Answer)

It was a difficult winter in terms of long term freezing temperatures.  Japanese maples are sensitive to wind and cold, and are often best planted in sheltered locations.  If the branches are green inside then the plant is definitely alive.  Planting it in July, the hottest month of the year, was not ideal as the tree was more than likely stressed before it was planted.  Spring or Fall are better planting times because of the cooler temperatures, more rainfall, less stress for the tree and more time for it to get established before harsh summer heat or winter cold.

Before removing the plant, I would wait awhile as things are a bit slower this year due to the prolonged winter.  Patience is a gradener’s best friend.  Once the buds break and the tree leafs out, you will see immediately what is alive and what is brittle and dead.  At this stage, pruning to a live crotch, using clean, sharp secateurs, may produce an odd looking tree, but it will eventually produce new branches and fill in.

In the meanwhile, the long winter and frozen ground has prevented your tree from taking up water from the soil and rehydrating.  As this is a new tree, it should be watered regularly, with 4-6 litres of water a week to establish new roots.  Do this until the 2014 freeze-up and the tree will be better established and better prepared for the drying effects of the next winter.

Good luck.