One on my first plant addictions, that began years ago and will never be cured, is an affinity for all things Japanese maple. I just don’t see how anyone can pass on a maple! Not only are they stunning architectural plant specimens to admire, but they always have outstanding fall color as well. Three main species of Japanese maple to utilize are Acer palmatum (typical garden maple varieties and hence the name of my own disease), Acer japonicum (downy maples), and Acer shirawasawanum (the full moon maples). There are many beautiful varieties available to home gardeners from all these species that come in a myriad of colors and textures to surprise even the pickiest of plant people. With hundreds of distinct flavors around there truly is a maple for every spot in the garden!
Japanese maples are extremely easy to grow, if given the proper growing conditions. Number one around our Pacific NW gardens is drainage. Good drainage = great Japanese maple specimens. These trees make great understory specimens and also stand-alone focal points. Most will thrive in partial shade with half day sun, but pay attention to the variety you choose – there are some that will take all day sun and others that will like only morning or dappled sun to shade. For example, red upright growers like ‘Bloodgood’, ‘Fireglow’, ‘Twombley’s Red Sentinel’, ‘Moonfire’, and others will take full sun. Striking variegated ones like ‘Tiger Rose’, ‘Floating Cloud’, ‘Peaches and Cream’, the ghost series and others prefer protection from scorching afternoon sun. Don’t forget about the lace leaf varieties – the beautiful mounding/weeping specimens we see all around the area. Bright reds and purples for sun and some nice green and variegated ones for partial shade. To me every yard must have a lace leaf maple planted somewhere!
I have many customers that call me their “plant enabler” and “maple dealer” – both terms I am frankly proud of these days. Folks simply stop in and look for the ones that catch their eye for color and structure, feeding their own maple addictions. If you visited our nursery this time of year the spring foliage color would amaze you – it is almost better than fall! Varieties like ‘Shindeshojo’, ‘Orange ‘Dream’, ‘Akane’, ‘Coral Magic’, and many others have stunning brink pink, orange or coral foliage in spring. Some like ‘Tsuma Gaki’ or ‘Murasaki Kiyohime’ come out lime green with red edging. Craving bright yellow in spring? Try ‘Yellowbird’, ‘Summergold’, or Golden Full Moon Maple (Acer shirawasawanum ‘Aureum’) – these beauties simply glow gold this time of year.
Now let me try to help “enable” you to become a Japanese maple lover as well. Want my secret? Try growing some fun ones in pots – everyone has empty pots around the garden or you can get a nice glazed container to utilize. Use a mixture of potting soil and compost to ensure good drainage and long term nutrition. There are many good choices for container growing in a wide array of sizes and growth habits. For shadier spots, try variegated ones like ‘Abigail Rose’, ‘Rainbow’, ‘Geisha Gone Wild’ and ‘Hana Fubuki’. For sunny pots try some bright red dwarfs like ‘Kandy Kitchen’, ‘Elizabeth’, or ‘Hime shojo’. Make sure to check out‘Mikawa Yatsubusa’ – to me the quintessential maple for lime green color and branching, simply one of the best. Container growing is a fun way to try some for a number of years and then transplant them into the garden for permanent enjoyment. And then you can get more to fill the pots you just emptied out… and thus, the addiction cycle continues!
So please don’t call the police on me – I am just trying to help gardeners satisfy their lust for cool plants and foliage. See our website, www.sunnysidenursery.net/japanese-maples/ for a list of all of the flavors we carry. Come discover the world of Japanese maples at our class this Saturday at Sunnyside Nursery from 10am to 11am and I will try my best to make a Japanese maple addict out of you.