Japanese Maples Suitable For Smaller Gardens

Read on for Acer palmatum cultivars that Douglas Justice recommends for smaller B.C. gardens.

Credit: Steve Gosling

The following Acer palmatum cultivars are recommended for smaller B.C. gardens (heights indicated are approximate after 25 years). • ‘Aka Shigitasusawa’ A compact, broadly spreading tree to three or four metres, with dark-veined leaves tinted red and white. Shade increases the subtlety of its leaves and improves the habit. • ‘Aka Shime-no-uchi’ A narrow, upright tree (to four or five metres) of exceptionally fine texture. Leaves are deeply cut, the lobes almost linear, initially bronzy purple, turning green in summer and orange in autumn. • ‘Atropurpureum’ (correctly A. palmatum Atropurpureum Group) The upright, bronze-red leaf form of Japanese maple that fades to bronzy green in summer. It is grown from seed and variable to eight metres or so in height. • ‘Bloodgood’ The original ‘Bloodgood’ is a particularly vigorous (to 10 metres), purple-leaf form that does not fade with summer heat. Most plants under this name are seedlings that behave more or less like their namesake. The fruits are cherry red. Similar to ‘Suminagashi.’ • ‘Katsura’ This spectacular shrubby tree grows slowly to eight metres. The small, yellow-green leaves, initially dull orange in spring, return to a brighter shade of orange before they fall. • ‘Osakazuki’ A broadly spreading tree to eight metres. The seven-lobed leaves unfold sage-brown and turn fawn-green in summer. This cultivar is well known for its spectacular orange and red fall colour. • ‘Sango-kaku’ The coral-bark maple. A narrow, upright cultivar to 10 metres grown for its coral-red shoots (spectacular when leafless) and pale-green leaves, which turn butter-yellow in autumn. • ‘Seiryu’ This popular cultivar is fully cut-leafed, but, unlike others of that ilk, is upright-growing (to nine metres) with gracefully arching branches. The leaves are bright green and turn reddish purple in autumn. • ‘Shishigashira’ The lion’s head maple is a densely upright shrub with dark-green, crinkled leaves. This cultivar is popular, but is slow to make a tree and will only grow to perhaps three or four metres. Autumn colour is yellow or gold. • ‘Trompenburg’ A novel (but suitably understated) Dutch cultivar with deep-purple leaves, rolled under at their edges. The growth habit is upright and narrow (to nine metres) and sparsely branched. There is a rare green-leaved cultivar (‘Green Trompenburg’) with the same growth habit and leaf form, but which turns orange-red in fall. • ‘Ukigumo’ This cultivar, whose name means “floating clouds” in Japanese, has small, deeply lobed, green leaves speckled white and tinted pink. Slow-growing to three or four metres, it requires some shade.