Friday, December 24, 2010

A Few More Maples

Some things you grow for the wonderful leaves and others have, ummm, the best description would be green leaves. Acer griseum would be one of the latter. I probably wouldn't grow it at all if it weren't for the bark. Who need leaves when you have such wonderful peeling bark. It starts doing this as a very young tree and just gets better with age. It's true that the fall color is an exquisite scarlet, but the bark is there 12 months out of the year. This is another one that is native to China. It is difficult to propagate, and so is sometimes a bit more expensive than some of the others.
Acer japonicum, oddly enough, is not the one we call Japanese Maple - that's Acer palmatum, though most of these small maples get lumped together in the Japanese Maple category. As a group, the japonicums are pretty dependable for fall color. The picture above is just the species. There are a number of different cultivars, though not nearly as many as in the palmatums.

This one is Acer japonicum aconitifolium. It is an upright and multi-branched small tree, up to about 15 feet tall. Fall color is a flame red - scarlet with overtones of orange and purple when viewed up close, just bright when viewed from a distance. Good down to zone 5.
The flowers, below, are red and not as showy as some, but still pretty.

Most maples have flowers and some are showier than others. This Acer negundo is one of the best I know. One of our rather large ones is just covered in the spring. They don't last long (and I always hope we have frost so they don't pollinate and give me multitudinous seedlings all over the garden). These sort of remind me of a multicolored spanish moss hanging all over the tree.

The negundos are often thought of as a trash tree because the species grows wild here and does have a bad habit of seeding rather broadly. Most of the selections we have rarely, if ever, seed. I also haven't had much luck in propagating them from cuttings. This one is Acer negundo 'Elegans' which seems to be an improved version of the one just called 'Variegata'. The common name for the tree is Box Elder and it is native to North America. It seems to thrive across most the the United States and Canada and as far south as Guatamala. That's the species. Some of the variegated ones may not be quite as hardy.

Hank's favorite is the one below. Acer negundo 'Flamingo'. I do like this one, but my favorite is coming up a bit farther down. This lovely pink color is found on all new growth all season long, so, unlike so many things with nice spring color, this is green, pink and white spring, summer, and fall, until they leaves color up. It grows in zones 5-8 and is a much smaller tree than the species, rarely getting over 25 feet tall. I'm told that it's a fast grower, but ours have been here awhile and they none are over 6 feet tall yet. At 25 feet they will be spectacular. This one will grow in sun or part shade; we grow them in light shade and they seem quite content.

Acer negundo 'Kelly's Gold is, as the name says, a gold leafed form. This one is good down to zone 3. They summer color is a little more muted, maybe closer to a gold/chartreuse, but still nice a bright for a lightly shaded spot. Expect this one to reach 15 feet or so and be a tree with a nicely rounded top.

Now for my favorite. How could you not love a shrub/tree that looks like this all season long. Apparently this one is much less common. When I googled it to check on the zoning, I only got about 2000 hits, as opposed to the thousand upon thousands I got for the others - and most of them are not in English, mostly German and Polish with a smattering of Dutch. I guess this is a pretty special plant since I can't seem to find a source for it in this country. I haven't done an extensive search, but so far, no one seems to carry it. All of the others are readily available. One of the things I like best about it is that, even in the shady spot where mine grows, the leaves never get even the slightest hint of green, keeping this wonderful gold with reddish shadings coloration all season.
For those of you celebrating, have a Merry Christmas. I'll be back to writing next week (maybe sooner). Not going anywhere, but just thought I'd have a couple of relaxing days after a crazy month of making baskets, knitting hats and mittens, and stuffing dinosaurs. I have a stack of good books just waiting for me to sit still in one place for more than a few minutes.

Gaudate, gaudate! Christus est natus. Ex Maria virgine, gaudate!

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