Maples for year round interest

Last night, John Trott, of Mendip Bonsai filled the room with a fantastic array of maples.  Dressed in their very first leaves we were introduced to varieties with tiny leaves,  large leaves, variegated, fringed, deeply cut and all in a choice from lime green, to oranges and scarlet.  I am afraid the names were beyond me, mostly Japanese so I will refer you to John’s website below as he grows between 150-200 varieties!

John’s tips on succeeding with maples:
1. Plant in a sheltered position (acers hate strong winds), full sun all day is fine for older specimens (trunk at least thumb thick) otherwise morning sun or dappled shade is adviseable (e.g. container grown plants, plant out when thumb thick trunk to final position).

2. Water young plants once a day when the weather is hot.  Japanese maples in this country do not do best when planted as an understory to larger trees

3. Autumn colour varies greatly with light levels, the hotter the summer the brighter the autumn colour.

4. Pot up container grown plants bit by bit, never pot up into an overly big pot, your plant will die!

5. They do not like chalk in the soil but will tolerate a pH neutral soil

6. Do not plant out in the autumn, wait until spring

7.  When protecting precious acers during a cold snap in the winter use fleece but it is much better to wrap the plant, as they do in Japan, with straw. 

8. Never leave bubble wrap on the plant for long due to build up of condensation which will lead to rot…  It is best if you can bring your plants into a frost free shed or garage during a cold spell of weather.

9 .The most delicate varieties tend to have the smallest and / or cut leaves, Acer palamatum is the hardiest for our gardens.

10.  Feeding: avoid any fertilizers that are too strong otherwise you will encourage ‘leggy’ growth, never use mushroom compost (as this is both rich and contains chalk).  A bonsai liquid feed which contains trace elements is good

11.  Pruning: prune  at the end of April or early May (i.e. prune when in leaf to encourage speedy healing of the wound).    Always prune out dead wood.
(Container specimens may have their roots trimmed at bud burst).

12. Pests: aphids can be a problem as can sparrows (eat the young buds as they open).  Scale insect.

13.  Growing media: plant out with ericaceous compost or for container grown specimens John mixes his own mix to ensure plenty of drainage, approximately:
20% Melcourt wood bark
20% grit (e.g. Bowlands decorative sharp grit)
20% compost
20% Cornish fine grit (lots of grit deters vine weevil)
20% Composted bracken 

Shapes & sizes
There are shapes and heights to suit most positions in a garden, from the prostrate to the upright.  Acer palmatum seedlings are vigorous and produce an attractive shaped small tree up to 15-20 feet. 

The ‘dissectum’ types tend to be low and cascading.  Acer linearifolia has attractive strap like leaves and a stiff upright habit  to 2 meters whilst A. shirasawanum ‘Aureum’ has large roundish golden leaves (known as the full moon acer) and will grow up to 6 meters.

Varieties for colour
1.Acer corallinum has the brightest red leaves in spring, this lasts 8-10 weeks then fades to green, scarlet autumn colour in autumn.
2. Acer ‘Osakazuki’ bright red in autumn but not red in spring and summer
3. Acer ‘Ukon’ is the best / brightest green most of the summer with golden yellow autumn colour in the winter
4. Acer ‘Orange Dream’ is an improved form of A. Katsura: spring orange folliage fades to green in summer, superb orange / red autumn colour.

This hands on talk followed on beautifully from Stephen’s talk last month on Japanese horticulture and if anyone wants a maple then I can whole heartedly recommend a visit to John’s nursery or one of his many show stands this summer.
On Sunday 27th May John will be at Failand Village Hall, Nr Bristol as part of a large plant and bonsai exhibition

 The evening wasn’t all about maples, Audrey and John took over the kitchen and supplied not only one delicious home baked cake but two!  No one left the hall without an overwhelming enthusiasm for maples and a few extra slices of cake in their pockets! 

 summary by Angela Morley