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I've had a Japanese Maple in my garden for many years now and it makes a beautiful feature tree around the border of my patio. It's one of the most distinctive features of my garden. When I purchased it from a street market seller the man who sold it was extremely reluctant to part ways with it! He said that these were one of the most precious things you could have in a garden and made me promise that I would take care of it very well!
There are many varieties of this plant and the size and colours will depend on what type you get. My Japanese Maple has remained quite small and so it looks more like a bush or shrub and in terms of shape has grown almost into a Bonsai tree shape with arched, flat outstretched branches. It's a very attractive shape overall and certainly eye catching. However, the most stunning thing about the plant is the colour of the leaves as well as their shape. Mine grow dark blood red which gradually become a more transparent and vibrant shade as we move into the Autumn. The leaves also have an unusual shape - being somewhat feathery and spiky. The leaves feel delicate and light and catch the wind beautifully. The tree loses it's leaves over winter time and when re-growth begins in the spring the young leaves have a tendency to be slightly olive green tinged before they turn red.
These trees are apparently slow-growing as I asked advice about mine when it didn't seem to be gaining any height. Mine makes slow progress yearly but not so much in height as in width. It's branches reach towards the ground rather than upwards so it creates a hidden arbor in which birds often like to hide.
I have found that the Japanese Maple withstands cold winters and drier summers and in fact is much more durable than I first imagined it might be when I was asked to take care of it by the seller! It requires pruning perhaps every other year and this I do in mid Autumn. I would not recommend too much trimming, however, since this can alter the natural beauty and shape of the plant.
I would definitely recommend the Japanese Maple to anyone who has a medium sized space in their garden and who is looking for a permanent feature. The Japanese Maple looks a touch exotic and cultured and brings a hint of the Orient to your special space.
Many of us are familiar with maple trees, and the sight of them often brings up thoughts of pancakes and maple syrup for Pancake Day. Their tall slender forms are common in woodland and gardens around the world. Less well known to many, but now often seen at nurseries, is the dwarf maple, acer palmatum, aka the Japanese maple. This is actually a small tree that is often also classed as a shrub, as it remains quite compact in size. Its average height when allowed full growth is only about 6-10 meters on average. They also do well treated as bonsai, and have thus been used for centuries. They are native not only to Japan, where they are known as momiji, but also to parts of China and Korea.
We first encountered this tree in our own garden when our daughter began planning out her Japanese garden for our front. It actually comes in several different varieties, with differing elongations and width to the leaves, as well as different colours. Regardless, the shape remains about the same, with an umbrella type shape to the branches, though they can be trained gently with bonsai wire into different shapes. The leaf colours range from shades of green to blazing reds, and I don't mean autumnal shading from green to red, I mean the leaves grow out red from the moment they unfurl. They all like semishade, though some varieties will accept deep shade and others will do well even in full sun, and tolerate being planted in groups which looks nice if you wish to do a woodland effect. We ourselves are doing a more semi-formal style of Japanese garden, so we have one variegated green specimen planted in a strategic spot in the main garden, with alternating scarlet, reds, yellows, and green leaved cultivars in pots providing part of our border planting along our side fence by our footpath. They are ideal for this sort of small space, as the roots are very compact and non-invasive, so it you plant them alongside a paved path, they will NOT dig through, nor will they tunnel under fencing.
The leaves all range from 4-12 cm in length, and even the "fingers" of the leaves vary in number from 5, to 7, to 9. This is not merely dependent on leaf colour with say all reds having x many, but from the individual cultivar. They take alkaline soil, so if planting in a garden that contains acid loving plants, make sure the roots zones do not intermingle, or keep potted. They are hardy, so the only protection the potted trees require is to protect the pot from cracking during the cold. They should be fed a quality fertiliser in spring, as they do produce small flowers. The flowers are a lovely creamy white, and depending on the cultivar, the sepals are either a deep red or a purplish colour, and like their more well known cousins, the leaves do change with the seasons so those reds and greens change to scarlets, oranges, and browns, making momiji viewing a popular event in Japan much like cherry blossoming viewing is. Indeed, this changing of the leaf colours that heralds the change into autumn is how the plant got its Japanese name, as momiji comes from the word "momizu", which means to change colour. Regardless of the season or what you call it, their delicate branches and elegant leaf structure provide interest all year round, with the leaves and blossoms adding deft touches of colour that will catch the eye.
Japanese maples - dwarf maple trees for specimen planting or creating bonsai.