Pruning and wintering japanese maple

(Question)

Hi. I planted several japanese maples this spring (London area) which are doing well. In August after some really great rainfalls, each had one stem that did a huge growth spurt up to 3 feet long. I read somewhere not to cut them back so didnt. But if I burlap around them for winter, will have to go far too high up just for the one stem. Should I cut back the long stem? also have bunny problem. Will winding burlap around bottom of trunk keep bunny from damaging trunk? many thanks.

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(Answer)

Hi,

Winter kill on young trees is always a worry.  Constructing a burlap wind barrier around the tree is always a good idea but there are limits to how high you may want make that barrier.  The choice would be yours to make.  You can risk the loss of part or all of the growth spurt by doing nothing or protect and save it.  Whatever winter kill is evident in the spring should be cut back but your tree should survive and new growth take its place next year.  Indeed, depending on how you would like your trees to look, cutting back the new growth a foot or so in the spring will force new growth from the sides of the stem and make the tree grow thicker.  Looking at the picture, it seems the tree is meant to remain more compact but again the choice for its future shape is yours to make.

There are many products available (such as plastic tree guards and cylinders) to protect the trunk of young trees from rabbits. Fencing the area with chicken wire 18-24″ above the snow line and buried 6-12″ below ground can protect against rodents as long as it does not interfere with the root system of other plants.  Your local garden centre should have several options available for you to consider.  You may want to consult with them to find the right product for your needs.