It may seem crazy to be displaying maples in spring color since it is now October, but there were too many stunning varieties to fit in last month’s blog post. In our next blog post, we will acclimate for fall and begin featuring their gorgeous fall colors instead.
Orange is perhaps one of the most unique colors for Japanese maples. As we introduced in last month’s issue, some of the most beautiful maples have a type of variegation called reticulation, where the leaf veins are prominent. Acer palmatum ‘Ariadne’ has a stunning orange color in spring, later fading to more of a deep green by summer. However, ‘Ariadne’ once more sports the orange color with the onset of cooler temperatures in fall. This variety develops into a broad-canopied upright tree with age, and we currently have many available in the 3-gallon size. These plants are fairly well-developed so they look substantial in the landscape but they are not too large to ship—the perfect size! This is also one of our free plant offerings for the month of October for orders over $250.
Another variety that sports orange color at least during part of the season is Acer shirasawanum ‘Autumn Moon’. One can imagine a bright orange harvest moon coming with the onset of fall. That color is what is displayed when new growth emerges on this compact maple tree in spring. It has a rich, orange-red color, later becoming more yellow with an orange blush. By mid- to late-summer, there is often a second push of growth that is even more vibrant than the first, perhaps because it is in contrast with the older, now lighter-colored leaves. No matter whether it is spring or fall, ‘Autumn Moon’ has a brilliant coloration! Since this is one of our favorite varieties, we have it available from tiny first-year grafts all the way up to large specimen plants.
‘Aureum’ has a summer coloration very similar to that of ‘Autumn Moon’ but the orangey-blush is absent. In spring, leaves emerge a chartreuse color, later turning bright golden-yellow once they have been exposed to the sun for a few weeks, giving this variety its name that stems from the Latin word for gold. In more shade, the color will appear more as a yellow-green, however. This is another great and very popular variety which we offer in sizes from small to large.
While we are on the topic of Acer shirasawanum, there is another uncommon variety which we struggle to keep in stock due to its popularity. This slow-growing variety is called ‘Bashful’. New growth is very delicate with an apricot orange color as it emerges from rosy-pink buds. In summer, ‘Bashful’ takes on a more greenish color with lighter-colored midribs on the leaves. Fall color becomes a yellow-orange color. It is quite a dwarf maple with a dense form and petite, symmetrical leaves.
Yet another variety with orange foliage and a delightful name is Acer palmatum ‘Orange Dream’. The leaves come out with a stunning yellow color and darker, orange-colored margins. Summer color bleaches out to a lighter yellow, almost white, color especially when sited in full sun. Shadier locations give the tree more of a yellow-green appearance, so for the best spring and fall colors, a sunny location is ideal.
A maple with bright red leaves and a dwarf growth habit is a rare combination to find. Acer palmatum ‘Ruby Star’ is a fairly compact variety with wide-lobed leaves that are quite symmetrical, giving the appearance of stars. The newest growth is the most vibrant color, later darkening and having more greenish tones. Fall color is a mix of yellow, orange, and red, giving this tree fabulous color changes throughout the seasons. As it develops a mature form, it becomes a fairly narrow bushy tree that grows slower than many other varieties. ‘Ruby Star’ is another variety that we offer in a variety of sizes.
For a totally different leaf structure and darker burgundy color, Acer palmatum ‘Trompenburg’ is a popular option. It is also known for its ability to withstand colder winter temperatures than the majority of Japanese maples. What distinguishes the leaves of this variety from all other maples we offer is the curled leaf lobes that give the appearance of fingers on a hand. ‘Trompenburg’ is a fairly slender and upright tree that was named for the Trompenburg Arboretum in
Some of the most beautiful maples are those with difficult-to-pronounce Japanese names. One such variety that has stunning light yellow color is ‘Shigitatsu sawa’. Color contrast between the yellow foliage and bright red flowers in spring is truly a phenomenal contrast. This variety should not be confused with the similarly-named variety, ‘Aka shigitatsu sawa’, which has a much more red tone and slightly larger leaves. This one is somewhat difficult to propagate and we usually only have it available in the smaller BP size.
Another type of variegation we have not yet mentioned in this blog post is the unique splotchy variegation of varieties like ‘Ukigumo’. The Japanese name for this unique maple means “floating cloud” in Japanese, giving nod to its bright whitish color. When new growth first appears in spring, it is tinged with a pink glow, adding another unique color to this fascinating tree. Developing into a narrow, upright tree, ‘Ukigumo’ has a dense habit, giving a stunning effect especially to larger specimens.
‘Sagara nishiki’ is our last variety with a distinctively Japanese name. Spring color emerges as a tapestry of yellow, green, and even pink tones. As the leaves mature into summer, they become predominantly green with only yellow leaf margins. The vast array of colors this variety displays give it the “nishiki” part of its name, which means “brocade” in Japanese. With the onset of fall, the yellow edges become a brighter pink color, making the fall color just as outstanding yet different from the spring color.
While some varieties do not have outstanding color in the spring and summer, maintaining more of a traditional green color, they have incredibly brilliant fall colors! ‘Hogyoku’ is one such variety, but you will have to wait until next week’s blog to enjoy photos of these maples’ colors in the cooler weeks of fall.
One final maple with a leaf structure we have not discussed thus far is Acer palmatum ‘Koto no ito’. The Japanese name of this variety means “beautiful harp strings,” which references the thin lobes of the leaves. The fine-textured leaves show a vibrant green color in spring and summer, later transforming to a yellow-orange fall display. This is a fairly compact and slow-growing strapleaf variety that is always in high demand.
Make sure you check back for another spring maple blog post before we show off their fall colors!