Lovely Japanese Maples

    • Asparagus, artichokes and rhubarb are perennial vegetables that are planted now during the dormant season.
    • Blueberries make delicious fruit on attractive plants that you can use in the orchard or the landscape. Choose varieties now.
    • Flowering dogwoods and tulip magnolias can be planted now during the dormant season from balled & burlapped specimens.
    • Thin raspberry canes to 4-6 inches apart. Cut back remaining canes to 3 feet tall.
    • Clean out bird houses. Remove old nesting material and scrub the inside with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water.

Lovely Japanese Maples

Japanese maples are elegant in all seasons. With their small stature, tremendous variety, and four-season beauty, Japanese maples are a valuable plant in the landscape. Their delicate leaves, fine fall color, and artistic branch patterns make them beautiful throughout the year.

While most small trees are grown for their fleeting flowers, Japanese maples are grown for the beauty of their leaves, which come in a great variety of shapes and colors. They have been cultivated in Japanese gardens for centuries, and with the plant’s natural genetic variation, hundreds of cultivars have been selected and named.

Japanese maples are named Acer palmatum after the hand-like shape of their leaves, which are divided into five to seven sharply pointed lobes. On some trees, the lobes are further divided giving the leaves a lovely feathery or lacy appearance.

Leaf colors range from yellow-green to dark green, and from bright red to deep blood red. There are also trees with variegated leaves that are green outlined with white or gold. Red-leaved trees are very popular as they make a stunning accent in an otherwise green garden.

Japanese maples grow either as trees or shrubs. Tree types grow 15-20 feet tall. The original Japanese maple has light green leaves that turn bright oranges and reds in the fall. It is a fine garden tree.

‘Bloodgood’ is a vigorous lawn tree with deep, dark red leaves that hold their color well. It grows to 18 feet tall and wide, turns bright red in the fall, and is a dependable, sturdy tree. ‘Emperor I’ has deep purple-red new growth that holds its color through the summer. In the fall the foliage changes to crimson.

Many of the smaller mounding types have finely dissected leaves. Typically they grow to 6 feet in the landscape, or 4 feet in a container. ‘Garnet’ is fast-growing with a rich red-orange color that develops best with some sun. ‘Crimson Queen’ is an outstanding cultivar with a deep-red foliage color. Its deeply cut leaves hold their deep red color throughout the entire growing season.

‘Tamukeyama’ has a lovely weeping habit and deep purplish-red leaves in the summer. It does well in hot situations. ‘Viridis’ has green, finely dissected leaves that will burn in hot sun. The golden fall leaves are touched with crimson.

The unusual ‘Beni schichihenge’ has blue-green leaves with white edges overlaid with rosy-pink-orange. ‘Shishigashira’, commonly called the lion’s head maple, has dense tufts of crinkled deep green foliage on each branch, looking somewhat like the mane of a lion.

Japanese maples thrive in moist but well-drained, slightly acid soil in sun or part shade. The red-leaved cultivars need ample sunlight to develop their best color. Shade from hot sun and protection from drying winds will keep the leaves looking their best. Occasional watering, once a week in dry periods, and a light fertilizing in the spring will keep them healthy and beautiful.

Good under oaks, as background for ferns and azaleas, or as a small tree for patios and entryways, Japanese maples are beautiful landscape trees.

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