last updated 18/10/2014

ABIES grandis
Aptly named, the Grand Fir from the Pacific Northwest of North America, this is a wonderful tree for long-term effect. The needles are flattened and distinctly white beneath. The foliage emits a pleasant citrus fragrance which makes it a rather splendid choice for Christmas decorations or even trees. I find it so frustrating that these wonderful conifers are all so slow growing when young, so it's definitely worth by-passing the "toddler" stage and planting something a little more mature. I love the mature specimens at Knightshayes Garden in Devon. We are planting a lot of conifers to provide structure and shelter through our new plantings. These Abies, as well as Pinus, will be fabulous in years to come.

ABIES koreana
If you have the space, plant one of these majestic conifers for posterity (and your grandchildren!) Slow growing but tidy habit, with wonderful white undersides to the needles. Violet-purple cones are a bonus, even on young trees.

ABIES nordmanniana
In recent years, this has become the Christmas tree of choice since it holds its needles for so much longer than more traditional species when cut. However, it's such a shame to sacrifice them every year, and for me they are worthy of planting in their own right for long term pleasure.   

ACER campbellii 'Exuberance'
Acer campbellii has been known in the Himalayas since the nineteenth century, but this delightful American selection from the Flora Wonder(tm) Collection of Buchholz Nursery is much more recent. The species is a lovely medium sized deciduous tree in its own right, with rich green leaves of a similar shape to the well known A. palmatum, and like that species it develops strong orange autumn colour. This selection has the additional attraction of a purple-red blush through the new growth. Expect 3m tall in 10 years. 

ACER campbellii ssp. flabellatum 
This subspecies is generally considered to have particularly impressive autumn colour, being almost pillar box red in colour. Although fundamentally hardy to zone 7, in the light of recent extreme weather patterns, it would be wise to avoid particularly harsh planting sites. 

ACER campestre 'Silver Celebration'
Our own selection, this handsome tree arose as a sport from Acer campestre Carnival here in the garden. The variegation is less vivid, making for a more subtle plant as well as a more adaptable, more tolerant plant. Thus it is much less likely to scorch in sun than its cousin. Choosing a name for a new plant is always a rather traumatic experience. Here the "Silver" element reflects the prettily variegated leaf margin, whilst ‘Celebration" seemed appropriate for many reasons - the new millennium, the children and the pure pleasure of a life with plants.

NEW ACER capillipes 'Antoine'

  ACER capillipes 'Honey Dew'
As a species, A. capillipes is part of the group loosely known as Snakebark maples in view of their striated bark. This species is Japanese, becoming a smaller, bushy, often multi-stemmed, tree. The olive green bark is marked with narrow vertical white stripes and dotted with small rust-orange coloured spots. For me the bark isn't the most showy in the group, but this particular cultivar has the benefit of spectacular foliage, particularly in the spring. They youngest growth is a rich pinky orange, and it matures through a kaleidoscope of colours including yellow, to green; giving a wonderful contrast through the summer. This colour progression is then reversed in the autumn to give another splendid display. However this is the easiest member of the group to grow, if for no other reason than it is less vigorous. Thus conditions need to be closer to ideal for it to thrive. It will tolerate a more open sunny site if the soil is moisture retentive, but as a rule the protection of a little shade, particularly during the hottest part of the day, is preferable.    

ACER circinatum
The North American Vine Maple is closely related to the well known Japanese species A. palmatum and A. shirasawanum and can be incorporated in the garden in exactly the same way. Naturally a woodlander, it loves a cool root-run and thrives adjacent to a water feature. Sunburn can be a problem in extreme conditions, even on the bark, at any time of year. However, experience here is showing me that provided the soil retains moisture consistently through the year, this (and all the cultivars below) will tolerate a deceptive amount of exposure. Indeed, adequate moisture in summer is necessary to prevent mildew. A densely branched shrub or small tree with relatively large, bright green leaves and surprisingly large flowers. Oddly, it comes into leaf significantly later than its Asiatic brethren which can be both useful and worrying! "Maples of the World" describes it as a "highly recommended, valuable garden plant". The fiery red and orange autumn colours can be quite stunning in a sunny site, or a softer yellow under lower light intensities.

ACER circinatum 'Burgundy Jewel'
Another sublime new cultivar from the USA; unique in the species, with intense purple summer foliage which is held well through the summer. As is usual with this colouring, it will be at its best with good light. However it is important that the soil is adequately moisture retentive otherwise mildew can be a problem on dry soil. Expect 2' in 10 years.

ACER circinatum 'Monroe'
A plant I lusted after for years, and I'm not disappointed. Upright, shrubby habit, with deeply incised light green leaves (even more so than A. japonicum 'Aconitifolium'). Predominantly yellow autumn colours may develop some orange. Worthy of a special site, but best in dappled shade. 3m.

ACER circinatum 'Pacific Fire'
Imagine the coral bark colour of Acer palmatum 'Sangokaku' combined with the larger leaves and chunkier growth of this species, and the result is a plant with awesome potential. As with so many maples, this is best in a lightly shaded site.
See it planted in our Woodland Quarry Garden.

ACER circinatum 'Sunglow'
This had been on my "wanted" list ever since I first saw it photographed! Apricot coloured young growth matures to cream, highlighted by orange veins. The exact colour will depend on light levels, though a shady site is definitely preferable to protect the gorgeous foliage, as well as the bark in winter. Potentially it can make around 2m in 10 years, but make no mistake, this is not the easiest plant to grow. 

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