The Magic of Maples

Photo – Japanese Maple  (Acer shirasawanum ‘Aureum’)

Japanese maples are the perfect choice of tree for any small, compact or courtyard garden. Their character and appeal makes them ideal for creating a focal point in your garden, brightening a shaded corner, or elegantly overhanging a pool or water feature.

Many acers are commonly called Japanese maples, but their parents could be derived from several different species including Acer japonicum, Acer palmatum, Acer shirasawanum or others. Among them are some extremely slow-growing forms, with trees remaining a small, manageable size without the need for regular pruning.

With their Eastern origins in Japan, Korea and China, these small trees are suitable for developing gardens with Oriental themes and designs, choosing other suitable planting partners for them, like ferns, hostas, bamboo, azaleas, camellias, and more.

Their natural shape and growing habit of branches make Japanese maples an ideal choice of small tree for gardens or growing in large patio pots. Their leaf shapes, sizes and colours vary immensely. Many have a broad palm shape, but these are often divided and dissected into the most delicate and intricate forms. Add to this their wide range of colours, from deep greens to yellow, gold, purple or even variegated patterns and you have immense variety to choose from.

While some green or purple-leaved varieties will tolerate an open position in full sun, this can scorch the more delicate foliage of golden, variegated or dissected forms. A sheltered site is more suitable, and particularly one that provides shade during the hottest part of the day and protection from drying winds.

Japanese maples put on a show right through the year, starting as soon as foliage unfurls in spring and continuing until their autumn transformation into shades of gold and bronze before they eventually fall.  With dozens of marvellous Japanese maples available from nurseries and garden centres you’ll be spoilt for choice when picking one to add a little maple magic to your garden.

To help you choose the best varieties with outstanding garden performance always look for ones that have received an Award of Garden Merit (AGM) from the Royal Horticultural Society. Here are some of the most widely available AGM varieties:

  • Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’

  • Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’

  • Acer palmatum ‘Sango-Kaku’

  • Golden Shirasawanum maple (Acershirasawanum ‘Aureum’)

*Article and image courtesy of HTA