ACER continued

Japanese Maples

There are many issues to consider when selecting a new Maple for your garden.
Is the site suitable?
How large a plant do you need to buy?
What shape, size and colour do you want? What shape, size and colour do you want?  
How big are the plants for sale?

Go straight to the plants 

The ideal site....
Japanese Maples are surprisingly adaptable to soil conditions. Their most definitive requirement is for a constant moisture level around the roots. Extremes must be avoided but any normal soil should be adequate, provided this constant moisture level can be achieved. This is usually the greatest difficulty experienced when growing them in containers.

They are totally hardy in terms of winter cold. Their enemies in this country are water-logging and the dreaded spring-frosts. Thus avoid known frost pockets and site amongst established planting for wind protection. Do not be tempted to apply excessive fertilisers as this can result in vulnerable soft growth.

Most of the green cultivars are remarkably tolerant of the sun, as are the purple selections. Most of this latter group actually need good light in order to have good colour. Generally the newest of these hold that purple colour for longest. By contrast, the more delicate variegated forms benefit from semi-shade to prevent unsightly leaf scorch.

Leaf scorch occurs when the moisture is lost from the leaves faster than it is replaced. Several factors will cause this; wind, dry soil or sun. Theoretically, any Maple can be grown in a sunny site if the soil is sufficiently moisture retentive. However, this does not necessarily protect it from sudden gusts of wind or very intense midday sun. I suggest it is safer to give them a buffer by utilising dappled shade where possible.

The ideal plant.....
There are literally hundreds of cultivars of Acer palmatum. I doubt that we will ever have them all, although my collection swells alarmingly every year! We are working to select a comprehensive range of garden-worthy forms which together encompass almost every combination of leaf colour, stem colour and habit imaginable (and a great many which you would never imagine!) There really is a Maple to suit everyone.

Although some do have attractive flowers and seeds, it is for their foliage that Acers are best known. Some have almost fluorescent pink or orange colours in spring as the new leaves unfold. Then, during summer there are yellows and greens, pinks or reds, and all manner of variegations from which to choose. Their vivid displays of colour in the autumn, however, must be second to none, with their incredible reds, oranges and yellows.

How big will a particular cultivar grow? This is such a difficult issue with Japanese Maples as there are so many factors which can influence it. Potentially they will continue growing for a long, long time. Many live to over 100 years old! However, the size in 10 or 15 years is much more relevant to most people. The danger with planning too far ahead is that it can take seemingly forever to actually reach the size you want. Also it is generally the case that the more vigorous selections are tougher in less ideal conditions because they have the vigour to grow through adversity. However, this year I have looked at each description and tried to give a guideline size based on 10-15 years.

Specimen Plants
As I have just explained, it can be tricky to find a plant that will make the right size in the required timescale, that will also grow fast enough to get there. This is where the specimens can be worth their weight in gold. 

Select a 6 high plant to fill that gap which will take forever to get much taller... Every gardeners dream! So whether it is a plant to give as a special gift or to mark an  important occasion, simply a treat or just to make the neighbours jealous, consider a specimen Maple. If in doubt, please ask me and I will do my best to help.

We have a fabulous collection of Japanese Maples - some 300 different cultivar at the last count. If you're familiar with us, you'll know that we propagate all our plants ourselves. Even with the additional pair of hands from my son, we still have limited man-power (not to mention space) so we don't propagate all cultivars every year. We have our favourites that I can rarely resist, but the we try to ring the changes with the rest of the collection. Hence we will not have all cultivars available in all sizes. Potentially there is a huge range to choose from - the youngest 2 year olds are grown in pots under protection and then they go out into the big wide world to grow on in the open ground. Hence in principle I have maples available from a little over 30 up to around two thousand pounds for some eye-wateringly beautiful specimens. Of course there are a myriad of sizes in between, so there is sure to be something to suit your budget. Bear in mind that maples of this type will become increasingly hardy and robust with establishment, so it can be false economy to start too small. Certainly you will get more for your money with a slightly older plant. It helps enormously if you can give me an idea of what sort of size / budget interests you when you enqiury.

Another sticky issue. Elsewhere I have checked all my spellings and names against Plantfinder. However, with the Acer palmatum entries I have followed the nomenclature and spelling (I hope!) in the World Checklist of Maple cultivar Names recently put together by Peter Gregory and Hugh Angus. I've even made the effort to include those funny little symbols... This is a monumental work (I actually meant the checklist but judging by the length of time this update is taking me, it might just as well apply to that too!) and I duly ticked off the entries as I went through checking my spellings. We have what i proudly thought of as a pretty good collection - but the scarcity of ticks to the page really puts into perspective just how many cultivars there are. Please remind me never to try and put together a truly exhaustive collection...!

The only exception to this nomenclature policy is the dissectum group. Many of these should not technically have the word "dissectum" in the name. However, I have included it to make it obvious which have this very distinctive leaf shape. I hope this makes it easier for you to find what you want.

Once you have decided upon the colour, then you must consider the habit. A dwarf specimen in the front of the border or do you imagine it in a beautiful planter on the patio? Perhaps a large tree is needed to hide an eyesore, or another size somewhere in between?

Then there is the leaf shape; the dissectums are famous for their feathery beauty, but consider the daintiness of the narrow linearilobum types or the impact of the bigger leaved forms...

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