GARDEN STYLE AND
IT MUST BE ACER!
Everywhere you look at the moment a dozen different greens are unfolding, painting our world a wonderful, living colour. Think of deciduous trees, shrubs, hedges and the new growth of perennials. Not all leaves are green, however, and mixing in some trees and shrubs with red, purple or yellow leaves can make this time of year even more of a visual feast in the garden.
If you'd like to do this, then Japanese maples or Acer palmatum, are a fantastic way of achieving it. Especially celebrated for their foliage, these plants score on both the wonderful colours of their leaves and the detailed shapes they come in. On the smaller, low growing varieties particularly, the leaves of the Japanese maple are delicate and finely cut - almost lacelike. There's a range of beautiful colours to choose from, including red, red-purple, grey-green, mid-green, blue green, yellow, and even pink. Many also assume fabulous autumn colours.
This flexible family of trees and shrubs comes in a great range of shapes and sizes. Many are suitable for growing in large ornamental containers, making them a flexible way of bringing living plants to hard areas and achieving immediate impact. They are so charismatic that even one specimen in a suitable container can transform the look and feel of an area of garden.
In standard tree form, Acer palmatum can reach 8m in height, but it is the low growing, more shrubby varieties that tend to be more useful in most normal gardens and that are suitable for growing in ornamental tubs.
Leaves may have between five and nine lobes. In many cases they are deeply and finely cut. They vary in size between 5 and 12cm and many assume beautiful autumn tints as well as great colour during the growing season.
Some pointers to of sure-fire varieties of Acer palmatum get you started:
'Dissectum', height and spread 2m and 3m. Fine, deeply cut leaves which assume a beautiful red in autumn. Choose 'Dissectum Atropurpureum' for red-purple leaves in the growing season.
'Garnet', a vigorous, mound forming shrub. Height and spread 4m, leaves are red-purple through the growing season and into autumn.
'Corallinum' can reach a height and spread of 1.2m and 1m respectively in ideal soil conditions (moist and rich, with well balanced minerals). Normally may be half that size. Leaves are brilliant pink when they first open in spring.
'Bloodgood', another mound-forming cultivar, height and spread 5m and dark red-purple leaves.
'Crimson Queen' reaches a height and spread of 3m and 4m and has red-purple leaves.
Sometimes all it takes is the right plant in the right place to transform a garden. Only a few plants have the star quality to achieve this, but placing a strong claim for top place on that list would definitely be Acer palmatum.
Acer palmatum, the Japanese maple is rightly popular as a deciduous shrub or tree in gardens across the country. They are grown for their fabulous foliage - a wonderful range of colours in late spring and summer, followed by stunning autumn tints - as well as the structural benefits that they bring. Many place this in first place as their favourite tree for today's gardens.
Most are tolerant of a range of soil types, but moist, well drained soil of moderate fertility is ideal. Some, such as Acer palmatum var. heptalobum or Acer palmatum 'Garnet' dislike dry soils.
Partial shade or full sun is suitable, but shelter from cold winds is necessary and avoid frost pockets as late frosts can kill young leaves.
- GROWTH AND FOLIAGE
In standard tree form, Acer palmatum can reach 8m in height, but it is the low growing, more shrubby varieties that tend to be more useful in most normal gardens.
Leaves may have between five and nine lobes. In many cases they are deeply and finely cut, almost like lace. They vary in size between 5 and 12cm and are a range of beautiful colours including red, red-purple, grey-green, mid-green, blue green, yellow, and even pink. Many also assume fabulous autumn colours.
If space is limited, low, mound forming cultivars such as 'Dissectum' which can reach height and spread 2m and 3m respectively are perfect. It has fine, deeply cut leaves which assume a beautiful red in autumn. 'Garnet' is a vigorous, mound forming shrub that can achieve a height and spread of 4m, leaves are red-purple through the growing season and into autumn. Cultivars such as 'Corallinum' can reach a height and spread of 1.2m and 1m respectively in ideal soil conditions (moist and rich, with well balanced minerals) but more normally may be half that size. Leaves are brilliant pink when they first open in spring. 'Bloodgood' is another mound-forming cultivar, reaching a height and spread of 5m. It has dark red-purple leaves. 'Crimson Queen' reaches a height and spread of 3m and 4m and has red-purple leaves.
- CARE AND MAINTENANCE
Remove any wayward shoots in late autumn to mid-winter to maintain desired framework. Where winter temperatures are lower than -10oC, protect roots with mulch in autumn. Compost, farmyard manure, straw or bark chips will all help to insulate the roots and give the necessary protection.
- PLANTING IDEAS
Larger cultivars make effective specimen trees because of their shape and the wonderful colour of their foliage. Choose Acer palmatum var. heptalobum if you want to bring autumn colour to a focal point in the garden.
Many Japanese maples available today are ideal for growing in wide shrub borders. The colourful, attractive foliage and growth habit of the mound-forming varieties mentioned above have the potential to lift any border
Japanese maples look especially attractive alongside other plants of an oriental origin. For this reason try planting alongside bamboo or Japanese irises. Similarly, develop a Japanese 'feel' if not a whole Japanese garden, by planting near water.
'Corallinum' is great in a rock garden.
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