I have recently purchased a japanese maple from a nursery near by and had it installed in my backyard. It is probly over 15 years old, about 15ft tall and 8ft around with about a 5" trunk. The tree always had leaves at the nursery and seemed healthy. Since its been installed it seems like it dropped a bunch of leaves in the center of the tree and alot of the branches are gray and snap off very easily (but this only happens on smaller twigs) the large 1" diameter branches seem fine and strong. Is this normal?
As far as pruning goes, I am going to attach pictures to show you what the tree looks like. I was thinking about cutting off the real low branches to make it look more like a tree and less like a huge bush. Do you think that is a good idea? The lower branches are so low to the ground and seem like major arteries to me, so I'm not sure if cutting them is a good idea. I have never pruned a tree before, however.
My final question is on the center and higher up branches. As you can see in the picture they are mostly dead and have no leaves. Should I prune off some/most of these branches?
Also, if anyone has any suggestions on how I should shape the tree that would be great.
Here are the pics: