Newbie palmatum question


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San Jose, CA
Should be a pretty basic question here. I'm attaching two pictures of a new Japanese maple that I've been growing since spring and have some basic questions about. Right now my plan is to just let it grow to further develop the trunk/nebari. I realize that it would be better suited to growing in ground, but the poor quality soil (hard clay) in my area makes this more trouble than it's worth.
I was wondering if it's worth it to chop the trunk this winter because of the spindly growth up top or if doing so will just set me back? Also, do Japanese maples handle trunk chops well like trident's do? And finally do I need to worry about the bar branches at the bottom or is it too early in development for this to become an issue (see picture 2)? Thanks in advance.


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How big do you want the trunk or tree to be. Your ratio should be no more than 6 to 1. If your looking for a 3" or 4" trunk, then let it go and not do any cutting now. Let it grow and grow. Then when it gets the size you want, do a total trunk chop, and start over with your branches except for a leader. The more top growth there is the faster your trunk will develop. The weight of the top makes the trunk and roots form to support them. If your looking for a 1" to 2" trunk, then same thing except for you could develop some of the branches if they are in the places you want them, take off all others, and let them grow, them prune back each fall. Dont ever let more than one branch, maybe two come from any point on the tree to keep any large bulges from forming. Good luck.
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I trunk chopped a few vine maples last summer and they've pushed out shoots all over the place on the 1' trunks.

I cut back a ~4' Red Dragon Japanese Maple earlier this year and removed most of the leaves, shoots are coming out of the 15" trunk like crazy after two months or so.

Seems they're quite able to handle trunk chops given they're in good health.

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