One of the staples of a garden designed and built by Details Landscape Art are Japanese maple. Whether the shrub form or the upright form, these deciduous trees add year round interest to the landscape. Most clients are looking for low maintenance yards, and including Japanese maples in a garden design provides spring and summer color, fall foliage, and branching structure in the dormant season. They require average watering, and benefit from an annual winter pruning to shape and thin. In general the green varieties take more sun, while the red leafed varieties prefer a little more afternoon shade. Japanese maples are spectacular when the branching is highlighted by low voltage lighting, especially against a wall.
They are the most airy and delicate of all maples. The long finely cut leafed varieties are sensitive to wind and can burn easily. Filtered shade is best, but the green varieties can tolerate full sun. Spectacular as street trees or patio trees in smaller gardens, Japanese maples are wonderful in combinations – upright greens with mushroom shaped reds, or upright reds with viridis.
The common seedlings (Acer palmatum) are faster growing, more rugged and drought tolerant, and can tolerate more sun and wind than the grafted varieties. Of the hundreds of grafted varieties, there are several Japanese maples that we commonly use in Sonoma County landscape designs and installations, as well as in Marin and Napa Counties:
- Acer p. ‘Sango Kaku’- Green leaves in summer, gold fall color. Sango kaku means coral bark in Japanese, and certainly lives up to the name when it drops its leaves in winter. Pruning when dormant yields coral red cuttings and twigs that make for a stunning arrangement in a vase.
- Acer p. ‘Bloodgood’ (or ‘Emperor One’) – Burgundy leaves spring through fall, bare, but dark red branches in winter. Grows to twenty feet tall and fifteen feet wide.
- Acer p. ‘Seiryu’ – delicate lace leaf variety, green leaves in summer, orange to red in fall, bare in winter. Keep sheltered from wind.
- Acer p. ‘Butterfly’- Smallest of the upright maples, the leaves are variegated spring through summer, brilliant gold in fall, bare in winter. Only gets to fifteen feet tall and ten feet wide.
- Acer p.- ‘Beni Schichihenge’ – similar to the ‘Butterfly’, but slightly taller, with a pink striation on the leaf
- Acer p. – standard non-grafted seedling. Largest of the species, green summer leaves, brilliant orange fall foliage, bare in winter.
Shrub or ‘Umbrella’ Forms:
- Acer p. ‘Red Dragon’ – tolerates the most sun of the low shrubbly maroon foliaged maples.
- Acer p. ‘Crimson Queen’ – quite similar to Red Dragon, but needs a bit more shade
- Acer p. ‘Everred’ – Burgundy colored leaves spring and summer, brighter red in fall, bare but dramatic horizontal branching in winter.
- Acer p. ‘Tamukeyama’ – similar to the three mentioned above, a little taller and more aggressive, with burgundy leaves through summer – tolerates more shady conditions.
- Acer p. ‘Viridis’- leaves open a brilliant lime or chartreuse green in spring, bright green in summer, and orange in fall. Dramatic horizontal branching in winter.