The versatile Japanese maple

The Japanese maple provides year-round seasonal interest.

The versatile Japanese maple

Well, spring has finally arrived and with it a barrage of seasonal colour from the usual suspects, including Camellia, Pieris, Rhododendrons and Azaleas.

But once it passes or fades in the rain, just how much colour do you have left in your garden?

Most of the aforementioned shrubs have green foliage for the rest of the year (including a few variegated forms), but those true hues – the reds, pinks, oranges, purples and yellows – are gone until next spring.

So, what can you plant that will provide year-round seasonal interest be it leaf form, foliage colour, attractive bark or a distinctive winter silhouette?

Look no further than the versatile Japanese maple.

If you don’t believe me, then perhaps we should peruse just a few of the many options available.

For foliage colour, we have hot pink (‘Shirazz’), variegated (‘Butterfly’), glossy purplish-red (‘Trompenburg’), orange (‘Orange Dream’), chartreuse (‘Jordan’), burgundy (‘Fireglow’) and greenish-white (‘Sister Ghost’).

The leaf form includes linear strap-like lobes that sway in the slightest breeze (‘Koto-no-Ito’), finely-cut ferny foliage (‘Red Dragon’), tiny currant-like leaves held in dense clusters (‘Shishigashira’), deeply-cut lobes (‘Burgundy Lace’), coarse-leaved (‘Bloodgood’) and broad claw-like foliage (‘Aconitifolium’). There’s a Japanese maple for full sun (‘Seiryu’), rockeries (‘Sharp’s Pygmy’), containers (‘Shaina’), shade exposures (‘Waterfall’), small spaces (‘Wilson’s Pink Dwarf’) and even for trailing over retaining walls (‘Orangeola’).

In spring, we have intense pink emerging leaves (‘Corallinum’), in the summer heat we have shade-producing burgundy foliage (‘Emperor I’), in autumn we have ordinary-looking green leaves that shift to an intense fire engine red (‘Osakazuki’), and in winter we have bright coral stems that literally glow on those dull winter days (‘Sango kaku’).

There are Japanese maples that grow taller than six metres with an elegant upright vase form (‘Versicolor’), others that can spread just as wide and tumble down a bank (‘Green Cascade’), tiny mop-headed uprights (‘Pixie’), elegant weeping forms with a mushroom-like shape (‘Garnet’) and mid-sized trees that form a near perfect dome which is entirely orange in spring (‘Katsura’).

For those of you not counting, I’ve just mentioned 28 different cultivars of Japanese maples, all of which are worthy of your landscape.

Now for the botanical and cultural details: the common name Japanese maple is used for several species, including Acer palmatum, Acer japonicum (Fullmoon Maple) and Acer shirasawanum (Shirasawa’s Maple).

All Japanese maples require good drainage with porous, organic soil and even planting –  just an inch deep can result in the bark rotting and a deceased tree.

Newly planted specimens almost always develop marginal scorch on the leaves during their first summer, as the foliage transpires more moisture than the young root system is able to provide – but this problem will disappear with time.

Pruning should be done with sharp, sterile secateurs – as ragged cuts just provide an opening for fungal problems and dirty pruners can spread Verticillium (a vascular fungus) between trees. Remove the dead inside branches in late winter (before the leaves emerge), when they are easily visible and the best time to prune for growth reduction is usually sometime in May, when the leaves have fully opened and the sap stops running.

For those of you that would like to learn more on this diverse group of trees and shrubs, I would encourage you to visit www.mikesgardentop5plants.wordpress.com and type Japanese maples into the search engine or join me in person at Amsterdam Garden Centre this Saturday (April 26th) at 10 a.m. for a free seminar on “Collecting Japanese maples.”

 

Mike Lascelle is a local nursery manager and gardening author (hebe_ac er@hotmail.com).

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pitt Meadows resident Bruno James de Faria shared a picture of Pitt River Bridge taken from the West Coast Express. (Special to The News)
SHARE: Commute flies by – literally and figuratively

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon

Two people were sent to hospital after a fire was discovered in a north Pitt Meadows home just before the lunch hour on Sunday, (Nov. 29, 2020). (Shane MacKichan/Special to The News)
Couple burned fighting fire in their Pitt Meadows house

Two occupants were transported to hospital while firefighters battle a blaze in a Harris Road home

(Black Press Media files)
‘Potentially damaging’ winds expected in Metro Vancouver

Wind is expected to pick up late Sunday night

Supt. Jennifer Hyland is the officer in charge of the Ridge Meadows RCMP detachment. (The News/files)
Ridge Meadows RCMP release new strategic plan

Plan details what the force will be focused on for the next three years

The new business park at 12835 Lilley Drive in East Maple Ridge has five live/work units on site. (Ronan O’Doherty/ The News)
Maple Ridge’s newest business park tries to set itself apart from competition

More live-work units, green features make it more than a concrete box, developer says

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Langley RCMP issued a $2,300 fine to the Riverside Calvary church in Langley in the 9600 block of 201 Street for holding an in-person service on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, despite a provincial COVID-19 related ban (Dan Ferguson/Black Press Media)
Updated: Langley church fined for holding in-person Sunday service

Calvary church was fined $2,300 for defying provincial order

The Abbotsford Police Department is investigating a shooting on Adair Avenue on Saturday night. (Photo by Dale Klippenstein)
Drive-by shooting in Abbotsford targeted home with young children, police say

Investigators believe home was mistakenly targeted by assailants

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

Most Read