Designing with Japanese maples
By: Garden Gate staff
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Beautiful Japanese maples
Just what makes Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) so versatile in the landscape? They grow in many different forms: weeping, rounded, mounding or upright. So you can choose the right plant for any situation in your garden.
Click ahead for a few perfect places to showcase these stunning trees.
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Fabulous front entry
Because they don’t have deep roots that grow into the foundation, Japanese maples are a great fit for front entries. Many of these trees grow slowly and stay more the size of a large shrub, so they won’t quickly outgrow their space. Even so, if you start with a small specimen, be sure to give it a wide enough space when planting to accommodate the tree’s mature size.
The entryway planting in the photo at left uses contrast to draw visitors toward the front door. The red Japanese maple foliage stands out against the lighter colored brick, highlighting the form of the trees. If you have a darker home, you could choose one of the varieties with light green foliage to achieve a similar eye-catching effect.
Rounded shapes of Japanese maples add balance next to the hard lines of the house. Planting them next to this structure also protects these cold-sensitive trees from drying winter winds.
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Japanese maples are so varied in size, habit and leaf color, they can really fit in almost anywhere. In an open spot in the yard, like at left, balance is established by combining a delicate dwarf Japanese maple with a small statue. This creates a pretty focal point in this Asian-inspired garden.
A pairing like this will have more multiseason appeal when you prune to emphasize an architectural branching structure.
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Open up a view
Japanese maples combine well with other plants and each other, too. The large, bold foliage of hostas (Hosta spp. and hybrids) and grassy leaves of hakonechloa (Hakonechloa Hakonechloa macra) provide nice contrast for Japanese maples in the partly shaded garden at left.
Let weeping varieties, like ‘Waterfall’ and ‘Crimson Queen’, cascade over a stream bank or even a retaining wall, and add height with upright types, such as ‘Bloodgood’.
The bright red foliage of ‘Bloodgood’ at the end of a winding creek or a path draws the eye up, opening the view to more of the garden.
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Have a corner of the patio that could really use some drama? Let a container-planted Japanese maple be the solution! It’s one tree that will thrive in a pot.
For the best results, try a dwarf cultivar that’s slow growing and only reaches 6 to 8 feet tall. Plan to prune more frequently than you typically would if it were planted in the ground, and it’s likely you’ll need to repot into a larger container every couple of years. Or, to keep it in the same pot, shear off some of the roots and refresh the potting mix once every few years. ‘Sangokaku’ in the photo has brilliant coral bark that intensifies to deep red in winter, adding to its multiseason appeal — perfect if you live in a mild climate and can enjoy it year round.
Move the pot indoors once the foliage drops in fall, if you live in zone 6 or colder. Inside an attached garage, porch or basement is fine because the tree doesn’t need light when it’s dormant.