Transplanting a Waterfall Japanese Maple

Welcome to the 325th Metamorphosis Monday!

My Before and After this Monday involves this Waterfall Japanese Maple. It’s a success story with a disturbing twist.

I planted the maple here about 15+ years ago when it was very, very small. It turned out to be a bad spot for it because it grew much more quickly than I expected and soon overshadowed the shrubs, which had to be removed. When I was having some work done in the yard this past winter, I paid to have it “professionally” transplanted.


Waterfall Japanese Maple


It was moved to an island where it would have space to grow. An azalea had been here but it was  moved a few feet over.

Waterfall Japanese Maple


Unfortunately, during the transplanting, this happened. I didn’t notice it for a month or two because the workers who transplanted it had caked dirt into the hole to try and hide it. This side of the tree was already pretty bare before the transplanting because at some point over the years, someone had broken off a couple of small limbs on this side. I’m guessing it was either painters or pressure washing companies when they were trying to access the outdoor faucet that was located right behind it in its old spot near the house. But the tree never had a gaping hole like this. Instead, there had been a long skinny broken branch sticking out that was about 6-10 inches long.

I’ve thought about it and here’s what I think happened. Since the skinny branch is now gone after the transplanting, and this gaping hole is here now instead, I think the men who moved the tree, attempted to use the skinny branch to pull the tree out of the ground after they had dug around it. Or, perhaps they used it to position the tree once they moved it to this spot, breaking it off and causing this gaping wound.

I removed all the dirt they had caked into the hole to take this picture. You can tell it’s a fresh wound because the wood is orange in color, not gray like it would normally be if it had been there for a while.

Damage to Waterfall Japanese Maple During Transplanting


I kept the tree watered on a daily or every other day basis all winter, then we started getting regular rains this spring which has been super helpful.  Here’s how it looked this morning. As you can see, it survived the transplanting well, except for the large wound it received at some point. So small Japanese Maples do transplant well, which is good to know.


Japanese Maple After Transplanting_wm


This side of course is quite bare, just as it was when it was near the house.

Damaged Side of Japanese Maple_wm


The azalea survived the transplanting as well, but it’s almost on top of the daffodils that are planted in this bed, so I need to move the daffodils.

Azalea Transplanted_wm


By the way, I contacted the landscape professional I hired to move the tree to ask why his men didn’t tell me they had damaged the tree during the transplanting process. He said he would come by and look at the tree. Unfortunately, he came by without calling first so I wasn’t here.

After talking with his men, who he had not supervised during the transplanting process, he left me a message saying they told him they didn’t do it. No explanation for what happened to the now missing, small broken branch that was there before, and no mention of how it managed to get dirt caked all into the hole to hide it. Yeah.

So do you think it will live? I’ve heard that it’s not good to spray that black paint-looking stuff (what’s it called) when you cut off a branch or have one that’s broken. Forgotten why now, I’ve just read it’s not good for a tree. I should probably put something over the hole to protect it, but have no idea what. Appreciate your recommendations.

Japanese Maple After Transplanting_wm


Take a tour of Arthur Blank’s (co-founder of The Home Depot) garden in this post: A Rare Garden Tour

Garden Tour of Arthur Blank's Garden, Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Gardens for Connoisseurs Tour 01_wm


Love gardening and garden tours? You’ll find many more garden posts here: In The Garden

Looking forward to all the fabulous Before and Afters for this Met Monday!

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  1. Isn’t that the way it always is? It’s always someone else’s fault. Susan, the tree looks beautiful in the island. I hope it survives the trauma it experienced. Thank you for hosting the linkup.

  2. Thank you for hosting the link up Susan. Such a beautiful tree, I’m glad it’s thriving in its new spot despite the rough treatment it received. ~Ann

  3. Thanks so much for the party Susan – sorry I can’t help with your tree ( I just plant things and then pray )
    Have a wonderful week

  4. Ugh, Susan, I know you’re just sick over this. These maples are so slow growing. I think you’re doing the right thing – just watch and try to make sure the branches that limb is supporting get trimmed of any cross-branches (sucklings) to keep the weight of leaves from hurting it further. It sure looks no worse for the wear so far. Even if it dies back years from now, you’ll always suspect this transplant and injury was the reason for it. It’s hard to supervise every worker every minute and impossible to do it all ourselves, right?

  5. Thank so much for hosting! You yard is gorgeous!

  6. Ours “gave up the ghost” after being transplanted…I miss it still. Good luck! franki

  7. Connie Crenshaw says

    It’s so disappointing isn’t it?
    I just cracked the glass on my own tablet this morning. But I was reminded of something I once heard. The Amish always quilt in a mistake in each quilt for only God is perfect.
    Don’t you love that?

  8. Jean from Georgia says

    How sad. I was surprised that a tree of 15 years was moved without damage, and hate to see that gaping hole in your tree. Have you considered calling an arborist, or maybe you should check out Walter Reeves’ web site. It is greening up well and appears to be happy in the new site.

  9. Diane Anderson-Edwards says

    My son is an arborist. He told me to let a tree heal naturally after pruning, etc. If there is disease or other organisms present, sealing will just ensure that the problem will be “sealed” into the tree.

    • Diane, I bet that’s why I read somewhere a long time ago, that it’s not good spray the black stuff out of the can over the damaged areas. Thanks for asking him…appreciate that! I will leave it alone and keep my fingers crossed it heals over.

  10. I wish I could help, but maybe a google search will turn up some answers? I used to have Japanese Maples. Loved them, but always heard they didn’t transplant well. Good to know they can be moved.

    Thanks for hosting Susan, and have a great week!


  11. So sorry about your maple, Susan! My Crimson Queen maple lost a limb when I got a new roof…in spite of begging the roofers to be careful. πŸ™ It seems to be thriving in spite of it all, however. Have a great week!…hugs…Debbie

  12. I am sorry about your maple. I hope it survives, they are hardy little trees. I wouldn’t use those landscapers again if I were you. :/

    • Definitely not. Breaking the branch is upsetting, but if they had told me about it, I would have used them again in the future. But since they didn’t tell me, caked dirt all into the hole to hide it and then lied about it when asked later, I will never use them again. I’m also going to let the lawn company who recommended them to me, know about it. Any company/landscaper can make a mistake, but it’s the hiding/lying part that breaks the trust with me.

  13. Call a certified arborist to inspect the wound, and follow their advice.
    Always, always, always use a certified arborist – especially with such a beautiful (and valuable) tree.
    Good luck!

  14. I lost a lovely oak tree 3 years after being transplanted. I believe it was due to workers leaving a huge pile of dirt on top of it (like for 8 wks but that is a different story!)during pool excavation. It did ok the first year but then slowly declined. Not sure anything could have saved it but wish I had called a Certified Arborist to evaluate first thing !!

  15. pam ~ crumpety cottage says

    Susan, what a little fighter your tree is! I feel so bad for it, being hurt like that and it being hidden so you couldn’t help it. πŸ™ Well, this is the day of the internet and yelp, yahoo reviews, etc. Maybe you can warn other people to steer clear of that guy. As you suggested, the dirt being packed in there is the smoking gun. At any rate, it seems to be doing pretty well! I wish I knew what to tell you to use. I’m sure if you do some of your typically “Susan-thorough” research, you’ll find your answer. It also seems to me that if you do put some type of solution on the wound but don’t pack in the hole, maybe some mesh screening would be in order to protect the wound and medicine from being removed by birds, squirrels and pesty bugs. Just a thought.

    Sorry that happened. He didn’t even offer you a partial refund, apparently. Poopy head. I hope your little tree survives. He’s pretty and he sure has spunk!

  16. I am so sorry that this happened to your beautiful tree…I have one of those and it certainly is growing quickly now…Obviously they did break the branch and tried to cover it up…such a shame….we have a website in our county to answer questions with regard to horticulture, etc in our area…I am sure your county does too..Thanks for hosting Susan…have a great day and off to see that gorgeous garden!

  17. Well no-one ever seems to want to fess up do they. I think the tree will be fine but only time will tell. I have been told it’s not necessary to spray anything on the wound so I wouldn’t bother. The fact that it leafed out is a very good sign but It may take another year or two to be sure it’s doing well. Keeping it watered this year will be critical so the roots can get re-established.

  18. So glad your beautiful tree is ok Susan, that is just terrible that someone tried to camo that damage…my yard and garden have been enjoying the spring rains too, but now I’m afraid everything is going to drown! Thanks for the party and enjoy some sunshine this week!

  19. That is such a beautiful tree I hope it survives and can fill in as it grows. I live in So. Cal. and we are not really able to think about much in the garden this year with all the water cut backs. It is almost impossible to find garden help that is anything more than unskilled labor. Really frustrating. Keeping my fingers crossed for that tree.

  20. Thanks so much for hosting, Susan. So sorry about your tree, but hopefully, it will be fine. Loved the garden tour too! πŸ™‚

  21. I think you should call your local county extension office. They have access to to the latest research.

  22. I am not an arborist, I am a master gardener. The tree will heal itself, don’t use anything on it. They use to say use tree tar or shellac, but it may seal bug etc into it making it worse. Poor little maple.

  23. Looking forward to seeing ‘end of season’ progress – after sun & tree interact.

  24. Susan, thanks for hosting! I need to tell my husband to stop putting the black tar stuff on our tree wounds. I love these posts about your yard and landscaping, it always looks so nice.

  25. Oh your poor bush! And a bummer too that the guys would not own up to the injury. We had a couple of bradford pear trees on our farm. The wind can be hard on them and branches will break off. On one tree…a huge branch fell to the wind…and I was sure the tree was gone. We waited and waited…actually procrastinated pulling the tree out of the ground. Long story short…it came back to life and grew back beautifully. I wish your bush a long and healthy life! Sheila

  26. Arrgh, how frustrating! So sorry you went through that, but I am glad the tree seems to be thriving. Your yard and landscape still looks fabulous, even with the wounded maple! Thank you for sharing the tour as well, and for hosting this week!

  27. Well, that is very frustrating! Ugh. I am always telling my very handy husband to hire people, but after a few incidents like this, he would prefer to do things himself. It looks pretty good now and I hope it continues to grow. Thanks for the party.

  28. We also had a large branch broken off our waterfall maple by roofers. They never told us either. This happened almost 3 years ago and our tree is doing fine. Do NOT put anything on the spot where the branch broke off. It will heal on it’s own. The breakage allowed the other branches to spread out and the maple looks great. We also need to transplant ours…

  29. Okay, hate the lying part…….. Your tree is doing well, keep it watered well during the hot summer. Do not put that black tar stuff on the wound, it will heal itself…… three or four years it will be back to being magnificent!!! The only thing I would be concerned about is insect infestation in the wound or a bird building a nest in there!! You must be able to spray something in there to prevent that…….contact a nursery or a university extension program………I know you’re fussing like a mother hen!!!!

  30. Susan, I am so sorry to hear about your Japanese Maple being wounded and the circumstances how it occurred. Sadly, it appears more and more nowadays that you have to monitor work being done when you shouldn’t really have to since it is the reason why you hire an expert in the first place. That said ; because I know little about gardening and as I live in a snow belt region , it is not unusual to discover damage to trees or shrubs after a winter season so often I have relied on an Internet Search for a solution which perhaps will assist you as well. Good luck and keeping my fingers crossed that Mother Nature and her mystical healing power will also help to repair your little tree and it will continue to flourish. -Brenda-

  31. Unfortunately it’s a lesson of being there when someone is doing something to your stuff. Maybe you need to record and photograph them in the process next time! I do hope it will flourish there in time. Plants can be very hardy sometimes.

  32. Thanks for hostessing!


  33. Hi Susan! Thanks for hosting your party for us! I’m so glad that your pretty Japanese maple looks like it is doing so well. My son-in-law gave me a little Japanese maple tree that had sprouted in his yard. I planted it and babied it over the winter but I thought it had died in the snow. I kinda forgot about it but was thrilled to find it looking healthy and putting out new leaves this spring. Maybe they are pretty tough plants…thank goodness.

  34. The deviousness and hiding the damage is what sets me off. So he asked, “Who did it?” – no one, yet it is packed full of dirt to hide the damage. I would be embarrassed to tell you that if it were me. Grrrr…. I hope your tree makes it in spite of their carelessness. I would be sure to let them know that I intend to tell anyone that will listen their integrity is missing. But, on a positive note your tree looks like it is in a perfect spot. Maybe if it is happy it will thrive.

  35. Beautiful Japanese Maple…glad it survived the move. I don’t think you should cover up that hole…I think you should consult an arborist. We lost our 15 year old during the polar vortex of ’14! I really hate starting over…it was a glorious JM…I raised it from a pup so to speak so I understand how you feel. Good luck, and keep us informed! πŸ˜‰

  36. So sad! We have a beautiful pink dogwood tree that had a similar situation about ten years ago. A large branch split from a pine branch falling on it after a storm. I was told to cut it off but I used black electrical tape (lots of it!) wound around the trunk and that heavy branch.
    I can tell you it wasn’t very pretty at first but it survives today! It has turned out to be a beautiful tree.
    My husband has heard of filling the hole with concrete. This will prevent disease and “critters” from doing further harm. Good luck!

  37. So sad! But it looks like it’s recovering pretty good. I had a similar situation with a pink dogwood. A very large branch had split and also started peeling the bark due to the weight of it. I wrapped black electrical tape around it to cover the hole and split. I put nothing in the hole just wrapped it so nothing could get in. That was over ten years ago and this tree is still alive and doing fine! Another option might be to fill the hole with concrete or plaster to seal it up, but doing this will prevent the tree from growth in that area. Good luck!

  38. thank you for hosting, I sure hope this beautiful tree “pulls-through”

  39. Your tree is still lovely! Hope it does well. If you dont know an arborist, i have had good luck contacting the landscape design department at UGA, or you could try Atlanta botanical gardens also. Your yard is shaping up beautifully, and shame on whomever tried to hide the broken branch. Rubbing dirt in it is much worse than fessing up and tending a fresh scar!

  40. So sorry to hear about your beautiful tree Susan. I think that the fact that they did it and won’t “fess” up makes it even worse. I hope that it continues to do well but I’ve always heard that you should not cover up a wound. Thanks so much for hosting and hope your week is great.

  41. Grrrr, that’s so frustrating about your workers damaging your tree, then not admitting it. How do people sleep at night? But it looks like your beautiful little tree may just shake it off. Hope so!

  42. What a beautiful tree. Contact an arborist. And if it were me, I would be on the phone demanding the owner of that landscape business to meet me. I would show him the tree and how mud was caked in there. Demand he do something about it (maybe pay for an arborist to make a house call) , refund part of your money, etc. Then if he still digs in his heels, get his business license and report him. And tell him thats whats going to happen. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

    • Beth, all he did was just keep saying, his guys told him they didn’t do it. He doesn’t care. Thanks for those suggestions, I think I will follow up on some of your suggestions.

  43. well of course his guys are going to say that. Tell him, ” do you think your workers are going to admit to damaging the tree and then hiding the fact?” Duh. is this guy a rocket scientist? Does he think the limb fell off by itself and packed itself with mud? The guy is back peddling. And tell him so. Tell him you don’t care what his workers told you. They;re lying. Then tell him to make restitution or you will report him to the contractors board. Then do it. Does he have a boss?? Go above his head if you can. I’m a total pit bull when it comes to stuff like this. I had the same thing happen with the gardener. He put some sort of iron oxide fertilizer on the grass. Well when it got watered, it turned to rust and ran off onto the sidewalk and my cobblestone walk way. Left these big rust spots! My tenant didn’t let me know until a few months later. So when I told him about it, he blamed me for it!! Told him I didn’t put anything on the grass! Still thought it was my fault and failed to show up or take measures to clean it. The idiot didn’t even have the courtesy to tell me he was quitting! Just stopped cutting the grass! I had no other recourse so I had to suck it up. Hopefully your guy has more of a legit business you can deal with.

    • That is what I told him. You know what he said about the mud…he said that was probably just mud that got on the tree during the move. Ridiculous. I told him that the rest of the trunk was completely clean and the mud was only caked just into the hole itself…and there was so much of it! It had dried up and it took me quite a while to get it all out of the hole to take the picture. He knows the truth. When I sent him pictures of the hole via email, he never even responded to that at all. No, he is the owner. I think it’s just him and his few workers, not a big company. Sorry you had to deal with the rust, I would have been so upset over that, too. There is soooo much business here in the metro Atlanta area that when someone does a terrible job and ruins something, they don’t care if you never use them again because they just go on down the street to the next job. It’s that way with every thing here…lots of work so a lot of companies just don’t care if you’re happy or not.
      It’s very hard to find really good companies/contractors/etc… who are also reasonable in their pricing. This guy had been recommended to me by the man who does my lawn care. I’m going to let him know what happened so hopefully no one else will have to go through this.

  44. Susan, I think it’s awful what those guys did to your tree and even worse that their boss didn’t offer to make it right. People can be so dishonest! I’m glad the tree survived so far — Japanese Maples are expensive. I hope you can find someone who can tell you how to doctor the tree.

    Thanks for hosting Met Monday and have a great day!



  45. Susan, thank you for hosting! I hope your tree lives- Japanese maples are such beautiful trees. I wish I could have one in my yard, but it gets too hot where I live.

  46. Your tree is lovely and doing well in it’s new home. I wouldn’t worry about the one side without branches. We had a holly tree transplanted in our previous house that was one-sided and it was filling in nicely over the years. My brother also planted a one-sided oak tree that filled in beautifully. Plants can do amazing things. Also, I’m not surprised the workers didn’t tell you about the broken branch and tried to “hide” it by filling with mud. It makes one wonder why people can’t be honest and just say it was a mistake. We had workers that removed a large branch of a tree once (without telling us) just so they could reach the area they needed to get to. And it was a very large branch too. That made me mad. Your yard is looking beautiful you must be so happy.

  47. Linda S. in NE says

    I’m so sorry that you had to experience that problem with your tree. And even more sorry that you have had to deal with contractors with a lack of moral character. It sounds like you have already figured the best way to get satisfaction is to let all professionals in the tree and yard care industry know the name of his business and what he has done. It is so frustration to deal with a company like his, because as you said, he just drives on down the street or around the block where no one knows of his reputation.
    I bet you feel like posting a sign in your yard saying, “Yes, this Japanese Maple is beautiful, but it would look even better if the XYZ Landscape Company hadn’t broken off a branch, and then lied to me about doing it”!!

  48. Your tree will live! Yea! So many looked so horrible here in our area after tornados and the 2 big ice storms we’ve had in the last decade and now that it’s away from the house, chances are good it will fill out. Let’s choose that version!! Re: your contractor – after my experience with one who actually stole a large landscaping boulder after I made them re-do a flagstone hard surface by the drive, I called the owner of the company, told him the entire story and never heard back from him. I followed it with a registered signed for letter. No response. Now, when asked who did my drive, or anything else, I tell them who the good guys are and who the bad guys are πŸ™‚

  49. This tree is beautiful Susan. I really hope it survives. Thank you for hosting.

  50. Thank you so much for letting a new blogger link up here. It was my first time here and I really enjoyed reading some of your posts. Have a wonderful rest of your week. Kimberley @

  51. Christina DeMates says

    I would cut the broken branch and let the tree heal its wound. These trees are hardy and fairly self sufficient.

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