How to - Gardening Resources

Maple leaves forever: Growing maple trees

Celebrate this patriotic plant all year round by growing the right type of tree

Suburban and city maples
Two mid-size maples perfect for suburban and city properties are the shantung or purpleblow maple and the paperbark maple. The shantung maple (A. truncatum) is hardy to Zone 5 and grows about six metres high and five metres wide. Its delicate lobed leaves are scaled down in size compared with larger maples, and slightly wavy with a lustrous sheen; it will provide dappled shade over a patio or seating area. Leaves are deeply reddish-purple as they open in spring, and yellow-orange-red in fall. This tree isn't often offered for sale in Canadian garden centres, but only because it isn't well known; asking for it will stimulate the market. Much easier to acquire is the paperbark maple, A. griseum, hardy to Zone 6 and one of the most admired ornamental trees. Its shiny, peeling bark is a warm cinnamon or red-brown colour. This is a good tree to have close to a front door where the bark can be appreciated all year, particularly in snow when it is most beautiful. With a manageable height of seven metres and spread of five metres, it takes on dignity with age. Young paperbark maples show differing degrees of exfoliating bark, and the amount they peel when young is consistent as they age. A young tree with minimal peeling will continue that way as it ages, so be sure to select one with a strong peeling characteristic to ensure it will continue to do so in the future.

A tree we are seeing more of is the very serviceable 'Bloodgood' Japanese maple (A. palmatum 'Bloodgood', hardy to Zone 5, and an ornamental workhorse in the garden. Delicate in structure, 'Bloodgood' reaches six metres in height and five metres in width, thickly clothed with deepest purple foliage. In a sunny location this colour holds all season, and in shade it is slightly suffused with green. In autumn and early spring it is beautiful when hung with raindrops, and presents a fine, dark profile against snow. Two 'Bloodgood' Japanese maples make a lovely frame for a front door, set three metres from both sides of the steps and two to three metres out from the house wall.

Two low and shrubby A. palmatum hybrids worth having for vertical accent in a perennial border are 'Butterfly' and 'Seiryu', both hardy to Zone 6. 'Butterfly' is an unusual variegated plant with slightly twisted and curled leaves coloured grey-green, white and pink. It has a stiff, shrubby form with upright branches to two metres that are set off and softened by the exquisite foliage. 'Seiryu' is an upright Japanese maple reaching three metres, with thin twigs and lacy green foliage, deeply incised and filigreed, that turns orange-red in autumn. Both plants will grow well in light shade to part sun, but in brighter light will require more water to prevent their fine leaves from scorching. Japanese maples have less fibrous, and therefore less invasive, roots. Pair them with white or pink bleeding hearts in spring and Japanese anemones 'September Charm' and 'Honorine Jobert' in late summer.


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