by Gareth Austin
Last Friday on Radio Foyle I was celebrating the summer foliage of Japanese Maples, these small garden trees are just stunning from the Summer Equinox onwards and a real highlight in a garden.
Slow growing and really low maintenance a Japanese Maple can be used in the front or back garden as a focal plant or a feature plant in a bed to give an oriental look to any family space. When planted at 4’ tall these will slowly grow to a finished height of around 8’…now it’ll take 20 years to do that, so don’t be planning a tree house anytime soon!
In addition to the summer foliage, which can range from Deep maroon to orange and lime green, depending on the variety you choose, all these small trees have cracking Autumn foliage colour…so you get a wonderful seasonal change in the garden.
All these Maples prefer a shady, sheltered site, so I think they do best in back gardens, especially if you have a shady corner. A maple planted 3’ in from the corner will grow up to fill that difficult space, and you can always underplant the Maple with some shade tolerant perennials such as Astilbe, Geraniums and Geums…to add summer colour. Indeed much of gardening is just finding the right plant for the right space, and in this case the Japanese Maple can be a real help.
The common problems I get asked about Maples normally circle around poor growth and leaves going brown. Both these problems tend to be related and are easily solved. Maples like to grow in a shady, sheltered site so if you have your Maple growing in a pot out at the front door or sitting on the patio, it’s this positioning which is the source of your problem. So in this case you’d move the Maple to a more sheltered area of the garden and, like you would do with all plants in pots, you should be replacing at least 30% of the compost in the pot every year.
So this week think about adding a touch of the orient into your back garden with the addition of a fantastic Japanese Maple.
Gareth Austin MSc. MCI Hort
Gareth Austin Horticultural & Media Services
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