As promised in our last blog post, we are now transitioning to the beautiful fall colors. We left off with a photo of Acer palmatum ‘Hogyoku’, which has a traditional dark-green color in summer but one of the most outstanding fall color displays of any maple!
While most maples are regarded for having stunning leaf color in the fall, Acer shirasawanum ‘Red Dawn’ has colorful samaras! By the end of summer, leaves have faded to more of a greenish color but the seeds have matured to a bright scarlet-red. Eventually, the leaves will turn red again before they fall from the tree, but ‘Red Dawn’ has an additional dimension of color in its remarkable seeds. ‘Red Dawn’ is one of very few Acer shirasawanum varieties that has red leaf color. It is an incredible substitute for the more traditional Acer palmatum ‘Bloodgood’.
Other varieties have outstanding transitional colors from summer to fall. Many maples, when grown in warmer climates, will produce a second flush of growth towards the end of summer. These leaves are sometimes the most colorful and also contrast nicely with the older foliage of the tree. Acer shirasawanum ‘Jordan’ is one such variety which we discussed in a spring blog post. The growth later in the season features a darker orange color before changing for a mix of orange, yellow, and red later in fall.
A variety similar to the ‘Autumn Moon’ is ‘Moonrise’. The color is a slightly more intense orange-red with a second push of growth later in the summer that is even more vibrant. This relatively-new variety is currently only available in the BP-1 size, but we hope to get it into production soon. Fall color is a reddish-orange color, giving it an assorted color pallete throughout the seasons.
‘Aureum’ is one of those very-popular Acer shirasawanum varieties we discussed in our previous spring blog posts which also has remarkable orange fall coloration. As temperatures become cooler, the areas that were yellow become more orange while the most sun-exposed areas tend to just turn brown. That is why this variety prefers a shadier location. Again, this variety is available in a wide range of sizes.
Some maple trees are known for their colorful twigs as well. ‘Sango kaku’, commonly called the “coral bark” maple, shows brilliant red bark starting in fall, persisting all the way through winter. Before the leaves fall from the tree, a glorious contrast occurs, displaying bright yellow leaves combined with the vibrant red twigs. This variety is fairly common and in high demand. We have a few similar varieties available as well, including ‘Winter Flame’, ‘Beni kawa’, and ‘Fjellheim’ (include links for the preceding varieties) which are all a bit slower-growing. The only drawback to these varieties with bright twigs is their tendency for the bark to become scalded in too much sun.
It is important to note that the leaves of maple trees vary much more than you might think! Acer triflorum is maple which we do not commonly produce but have a limited selection of larger specimen-size trees. What makes this species unique is the fact that each lobe is completely dissected all the way to the base of the leaf, giving it a leaf that has three leaflets. It is truly unlike any of the “Japanese maples” we commonly produce. While it is green in the summer, the fall color show is one of the best with a mix of orange, yellow, and red as the leaves transform for autumn. The slightly exfoliating bark gives more character to this outstanding tree.
Acer palmatum ‘Amber Ghost’ has outstanding orange color even in the summer but getting more intense during fall. Fairly large leaves have subtle leaf veins of a different color. The bright orange color in fall makes it really stand out among most other maples. ‘Amber Ghost’ is a fairly slow-growing variety which makes it a suitable addition to most any garden! We have a couple larger ones available, but this is another one we hope to propagate soon!
Finally, let’s revisit the “floating cloud” maple we discussed in the last blog post, Acer palmatum ‘Ukigumo’. As fall approaches, the white portions of each leaf become increasingly pink in color. This change takes place slowly after the latter days of summer, creating a mottled, pink, white, and green color combination.
Check back for one more blog post in our series about maples, as the fall color progresses at the nursery!