Buds on Japanese beech are easy to spot – they’re the long, pointy things at the ends of branches.
Japanese beech buds
They are among the last buds to open in spring. Once most of the quince, maples, and plums are in full gear, the beech buds begin to elongate.
Once these buds start moving, it will soon be time to pinch.
The ideal time for pinching is when you can just distinguish the new leaves on a young shoot. This can be tricky due to the bronze-colored bud scales located between leaves.
Here’s a shoot that’s not quite ready for pinching.
Partially open shoot
Although the shoot looks like a relatively solid mass, removing the bud scales makes it easy to see the new leaves.
Partially open shoot after removing bud scales
Removing bud scales, however, is not necessary or desirable. Instead, we can wait until the shoots open up a bit more before pinching.
Elongating buds – ready for pinching
If the new leaves are hard to spot, gently bending the shoot – or waiting a day or two – can help.
Revealing the new leaves
Generally, all but the first two leaves are removed. Here’s a close-up.
Bud ready to be pinched
Shoots that aren’t pinched on time can be reduced by cutting, but internodes may lengthen.
Too late for pinching – time to cut
As always with pinching, it’s important to know when to pinch and when to let a tree grow freely. I’ve been working on a beech forest for just over a year and I want to make sure the trees are well established before pinching so I let the tree grow.
Japanese beech forest – mid-April
I’d planned on leaving the tree alone until May, but there were so many leaves that I decided to cut back the shoots that were open to one, two, or three leaves to let more light into the tree’s interior.
After reducing the spring shoots
Of course, not all of the trees are open yet so I’ll have a few more shoots to reduce between now and June when I’ll do some thinning and leaf pruning.
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