Category Archives: Japanese Red Maple

Japanese Maples, The Dwarf Acers

I have been known to rant on about how people should try to include more native plants within their garden. However, I would never dissuade someone from including a Japanese maple within his or her garden; on the contrary, I would heartily recommend it.

History and colour

The image of a Japanese maple in full leaf brings to my mind images of oriental calmness, still water and moss covered mountains. This elegant plant is a distinct part of the culture and consciousness of its native Japan through its use in both horticulture and art. In the year 1800, over 200 varieties of this plant were noted in Japan, this figure grew over the next 100 years, only to have those numbers knocked back again to 200 by the maelstrom of the second world war. Japanese maples also known as Acer palmatum or Acer japonicum are diminutive in stature compared to other trees. Heights range from 1 metre to 7 metres, leading many gardeners to class them as large shrubs rather than small trees. Words cannot do justice to the colour displayed by a Japanese maple; it must be seen to be believed. An Acer owner will experience fiery new spring growth, calm summer foliage and even fierier autumn chilled leaves.

Palmate or Dissectum

There are two main groups of Japanese maple. The Palmate group has a reasonably upright growth habit with layered branches and leaves that are made up of five to nine lobes. The Dissectum group rightly lives up to its name with its lobed leaves dissected, feathered and lace-like. I feel that the maples in the Dissectum group look particularly well if planted close by an informal water feature due mainly to their weeping, cascading form.

How to grow a dwarf acer

Japanese maples do well if planted in an east facing aspect, allowing it access to the morning sun and protecting it from the mid-day sun. Shelter from winds and a moist but free draining soil are also important cultivation requirements. A 7cm layer of bark mulch applied to the plants base will help prevent the plant drying out. To enable good growth you must feed your little piece of the orient, apply a liquid fertiliser in mid-spring and again in mid-summer at half strength. As these Acers are shallow rooted, they are ideal for planting amongst other shrubs with no check to growth. For a delightful oriental scene, try planting Acer palmatum with rhododendrons, azalea, bamboo and birch.

Specimens for container growing

Two beautiful specimen maples whose leaves are opening out within garden centres now are ìOrange Dreamî and ìBeni-Maikoî. ìOrange Dreamî is worth mentioning due to its fresh yellow/green lobed leaves. The young growing tips have an orange glow, providing an attractive contrast. ìBeni-Maikoî on the other hand produces lovely pink foliage in spring turning to dark red in summer. Both of these Acers grow to around 1 metre tall, an ideal size for container growing. If you choose to grow a Japanese maple in a container, try to select one that is sympathetic to the plants heritage, a glazed oriental style pot would be ideal.

How to Grow Japanese Red Maple Trees from Seed

How to Grow Japanese Red Maple Trees from Seed
How to Grow Japanese Red Maple Trees from Seed

Most Japanese Maple seeds ripen in the fall. Watch the tree and wait for the seeds to turn brown. The seeds are ready to be harvested when they are brown and can be easily removed from the tree.

The seeds are attached to a wing, it’s best to break the wing off before storing or planting the seeds. Japanese Maple seeds have a very hard outer coating as do many ornamental plants. Under natural conditions the seeds would have to be on the ground for almost two years before they would germinate. All that happens the first winter is the moisture softens the hard outer shell, and the second winter germination is beginning to take place.

In order for all of this to happen in the proper sequence so the seedlings actually sprout at a time of the year when freezing temperatures or hot summer sun doesn’t kill them, takes a tremendous amount of luck.

You can improve the odds by controlling some of these conditions, and shorten the cycle. Once you have picked the seeds and removed the wing just place them in a paper bag and store them in a cool dry place until you are ready for them. You donít want to plant your seeds out in the spring until the danger of frost has past. Here in the north May 15th is a safe bet.

If May 15th is your target date you should count backwards on the calendar 100 days. That will take you to about February 5th if my math is correct. On or about the 100th day prior to your target planting date, take the seeds and place them in a Styrofoam cup or other container that will withstand some hot water. Draw warm to hot water from your kitchen faucet and pour it over the seeds. Most of the seeds will float, just leave them in the water overnight as the water cools down. 24 hours later most of the seeds will have settled to the bottom of the cup.

Drain off the water. Place the seeds in a plastic bag with a mixture of sand and peat or other suitable growing mix. Even light potting soil will work. The peat or soil should be moist, but not soaking wet. Poke some holes in the bag so there is some air circulation, and place the bag in your refrigerator for a period of 100 days.

After 100 days you can plant the seeds outside. If you have timed it correctly, you should be at or close to your target planting date.

To plant the seeds just sow them on top of a bed of well drained topsoil or sterilized potting soil, and cover with approximately 3/8î of soil. Water them thoroughly, but allow the soil to dry out completely before watering thoroughly again. If you water them frequently, not only do you stand a chance of the seeds rotting from being too wet, but you will also keep them cool, which will slow down the germination process.

Once they start to germinate provide about 50% shade to keep the sun from burning them. Snow fence suspended about 30î above the bed will provide about 50% shade. Japanese Maples will tolerate some shade so it isn’t too important to transplant them too quickly.†Depending on how close together they are, you might be able to leave them in the same bed for one or two growing seasons. Don’t transplant until they are completely dormant.

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