Although the basics of spring maintenance stay the same from year to year, I’ll often make adjustments based on how the tree is growing.
My standard approach to pruning ume, for example, is to cut every branch back to two or three new buds. Here’s a look at the result of last year’s cutback.
Ume – July, 2019 (see “Directional pruning” for details)
This year, the tree produced a lot of spring growth.
Ume – May, 2020
Not all of the branches, however, had similar vigor, so I treated the stronger and weaker branches differently.
I reduced the strongest branches to two or three new buds and defoliated the outer portions of the remaining branches but didn’t prune them. Here’s what this looked like.
Ume after cutback and partial defoliation – 16″ from top of jin to lowest branch
I’ve found that when I prune shoots under three or four inches long, I can’t expect vigorous new shoots to develop. At most, I’ll get one or two buds of equivalent strength which means that these branches don’t change much from year to year.
This is fine for mature ume that already have dense branching, but it’s not the most effective approach for increasing branch density. By letting the weaker shoots continue to grow until fall, I hope to get a stronger response when the tree leafs out next spring. In the meantime, I’ll let the tree grow until fall when it’s time for cutback again.
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