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A garden can never have enough Japanese maples

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

Dedicated readers of my ramblings know I have a soft spot for crape myrtles and Japanese maples. Even though my garden is so small you can’t cuss a cat without getting hair in your mouth, it now sports 11 different selections of Japanese maple.

The latest addition is Inabe Shidiri. I purchased a relatively high graft of this burgundy-leafed dissectum so it wouldn’t get visually lost in its garden location. A fairly vigorous selection that will eventually reach 8 feet or so, it’s also known as Red Select. Like most Japanese maples with red leaves, it loses the intense color during the heat of summer and you’ll probably see some scorch on the edges of the leaves when the temperatures rise into the 90s. You can recommend Inabe Shidiri to your friends in colder climates because it has been known to withstand temperatures as low as minus 24 degrees.

If lacy leaves and weeping habits don’t turn you on, you should take a look at Emperor, which is sometimes sold as Emperor I. I have to admit that I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about this selection from the popular Bloodgood. I thought it would be tough for any tree to best Bloodgood for color retention and tolerance of our heat. Based on a couple of years of growing Emperor, I think it’s more vigorous and a slightly better tree. The small specimen in my garden has developed better structure without lots of pruning and holds it color a better than Bloodgood. Both are gorgeous and worthy garden additions, though.

Where garden space isn’t a problem, consider Seiryu, an upright-growing, green-leafed dissectum. Seiryu has a something of a vase-shape and bright, apple-green summer leaves. Fall color, if you have any, is orange to orange-red. You won’t have to wait for years for this tree to make a statement in the landscape, as it reaches 15 feet or so pretty quickly.

Lots of garden gurus will tell you Japanese maples need lots of shade to perform well in our climate. Like the idea grass clippings cause thatch accumulation problems, this bit of conventional wisdom is wrong. These maples won’t grow into beautiful architectural specimens or develop and maintain their leaf color without some sun. Find that elusive spot in the landscape that receives lots of morning sun and a bit of protection from the oppressive heat of the middle of the day.

Even if you don’t have a perfect place, most Japanese maples that are available in the area will hang in there pretty well. Just be prepared to add extra water during the hottest and driest days of summer.

Don’t be surprised if the leaves get crispy around the edges by the end of August, especially on young trees that are just getting established. This leaf scorch happens when the plants lose more moisture from the leaves than the roots can take up. It shouldn’t cause any long-term damage to the tree.