Can I plant vine maples in Kamloops?

Credit: Wsiegmund

Q: We moved to Kamloops last year. We bought a new home and had to do the landscaping which is quite different from Coquitlam where we moved from. We had a lovely clump of vine maples in Coquitlam and would like to try growing them here. I believe we are in zone 4/5. Would vine maples grow here? I also purchased a Montana arctic standard juniper from Art Knapps last summer and with the winter being so cold last year most of it died. I tried replacing it this summer but the few nurseries that we have in Kamloops did not have one. Do you know where I can find one either in this area or on the coast.

Kamloops is probably too cold and too dry (low humidity, not just lower rainfall) to suit a coastal vine maple (Acer circinatum). You might be able to keep one alive (they will live – but not thrive – in Zone 3) but it will probably never be anything like the lovely clump you remember. A good alternative would be a clump form (as opposed to single stem tree form) of Amur maple (Acer ginnala, aka  A. tatarica ssp ginnala) which should thrive and give lovely fall colour as well. Try to choose your maple in the fall when it’s showing colour, as they are extremely variable – everything from muted golds and oranges to blazing reds.

As for the juniper, grafted standard forms of the Juniperus communis ssp montana cultivar “Arctic” aren’t that common in the trade, so I’m not surprised you are having trouble finding another one. The big question is why did it die? It should be totally cold-hardy, if the rootstock that it is grafted onto is as hardy as the Common juniper top. If the rootstock is a different species and not as hardy, winter kill is inevitable. It may also have suffered from insufficient watering during its first year – although very drought tolerant once established, all junipers need regular deep watering until their root systems are established. If it went into the winter too dry and already stressed, it wouldn’t stand a chance. There are a lot of interesting forms of juniper that are sometimes available as grafted standards, including many Rocky Mountain juniper (J. scopulorum) and Creeping juniper (J. horizontalis) cultivars, which are equally hardy and perhaps more readily available. Just make sure that the plant is grafted on a hardy rootstock, especially if it is a southern import, and give it regular deep waterings for the first year or two – and well into the fall.