I’ve blogged about this Swamp maple before, most recently last fall. The plan at the time was in finding the right leader so that I could chop the trunk and start the serious design work. With the explosion of growth now on the tree, it’s time to take this next step. Now, I’ve written before about the difficulties I’ve experienced in keeping collected Swamp maples alive past two years. Recent experience in maintaining a central root mass without any washing seems to have completely changed this equation. I don’t have enough examples yet to be sure, but I’ve got several on the bench now to test the theory. But back to this tree. As with my first experiment, it should be all right to start styling in year two. Doing this the first time caused no problems at all.

Here I’ve begun making the trunk chop. I always work from the bottom to the top of the angle cut, using my trunk splitter to cut and then lever off sections of wood.

Note 1: I don’t attempt to chop at the bottom-most point of the angle cut; it’s common to do some damage during the rough-cut part of this work, so I leave myself some room to carve below and make things neat.

Note 2: What you see here is what you will almost always see when you angle-chop a trunk – some obvious signs of decay (the work of the microbes that do it, as evidenced by the discolored wood).

Here I’ve taken off most of the rest of the excess wood. Note that dark spot right in the middle of the trunk. This is not what I wanted to see; it denotes microbial activity and may run all the way to the soil. Will this kill the tree or cause permanent damage? Only time will tell.
I’ve finished the work on the angle cut now. It’s always best to carve your angle cuts as smoothly as you can, especially at the edges where the active cambium is. This will help prevent microbial attack.
This part was more fun. I’ve done some basic wiring of branches that could be positioned now. The lowest shoot on the right is too tender to wire now – they pop off very easily when brand new. So I need to wait until it hardens off. However … I also need to keep a close watch on how quickly it extends. While I need this shoot to be strong and to thicken up in order to produce the right proportions in relation to the trunk, if it extends too fast I’ll end up with my first node too far from the trunk. I need to keep an eye on this shoot, and be prepared to pinch the central leader out to keep this from happening. When the new buds extend from this pinch-point, I can let them run farther. When doing this, the second round of growth doesn’t typically overextend the internodal length. Let me know what you think of today’s work.