Amazing Acer Action

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Few sights equal a display of Japanese maples blazing with dazzling autumn colour and with so many different varieties to choose from, we take a look at some of our favourites from this flamboyant species.

From emerging buds in spring through new growth and summer colour, Japanese Acers get better as the year goes on.  In autumn, they change from the summer colours of greens, limes, purples and reds to spectacular shades of oranges, scarlets, crimsons, purple bronzes and yellows. 

Now for the science bit….
Did you know? The changing colour of leaves in autumn is caused by the shift in concentration of three photosynthetic pigments in the leaves, brought on by reduced daylight hours and lower temperatures. The three pigments represent green, yellow/orange, and red/purple. The leaf colour changes as these pigments break down and this is affected by environmental conditions, which explains why plants of the same species produce more spectacular colours in different geographical areas or from one year to the next.

The most representative image when imagining a collection of acers is the Japanese garden where simple design is combined with stunning foliage shapes & colours.  Perhaps the most important ally in achieving this is the Japanese Maple or Acer palmatum.  A deciduous tree with a history of cultivation, well in excess of 300 years. They are well suited to garden conditions because of their compact root systems which are unlikely to undermine paths, structures or compete with other plants.

Here are some of our favourites…

Acer palmatum ‘Inaba-shidare’ (AGM)
A tree with small, finely cut, purple-red leaves turning bright crimson in autumn. 

Acer palmatum dissectum
A summer green arching variety that turns yellow and orange as the year progresses.

Acer palmatum 'Inaba-shidare' and Acer palmatum dissectum in autumn and spring


Acer shirasawanum 'Autumn Moon'
Peach, pink and flame colours on the same leaf in autumn. Quite stunning but the spring and summer foliage is equally dramatic. Pumpkin-green leaves at first with a second growth spurt in summer in which the leaves develop a pink halo.

Acer shirasawanum 'Autumn Moon'


Acer palmatum dissectum 'Garnet' (AGM)
Noted for its outstanding colour and vigour, award-winning ‘Garnet’ is medium sized with large, deeply cut, dissected leaves that turn from purple in the summer to a sensational scarlet in the autumn.  A very popular cascading, mound-shaped shrub that will stand out in the landscape.

Acer shirasawanum ‘Aureum’ (AGM)
Deciduous and slow growing with stunning seasonal foliage. The branches of this Acer display rounded pale, buttery-yellow leaves in the spring with tiny crimson flowers. In the summer, the tree bursts into life with bright yellow/lime foliage, before turning golden orange with red margins in the autumn.


Acer palmatum dissectum 'Garnet' and Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum' 


Acer palmatum ‘Orange Dream’ (AGM)
This award-winning Acer is medium sized with something to offer every season.  Beautiful golden yellow-orange spring growth, a chartreuse for the summer, turning stunning orange gold in the autumn.  As the leaves fall, they expose the graceful outlines of the bright-green bark and twigs for the winter.  As it’s a slow growing deciduous Acer, it’s ideal for small gardens or a large container. It would look great in one of our lime green National Trust Pots (£39.99) with some Kelkay Green Slate Chippings (£5.99 a bag, or 2 for £10) around it.


Acer palmatum 'Orange Dream'


Where should I plant them?
Acers are adaptable plants, but are unhappy in wet or dry conditions and find very alkaline soils difficult to cope with so we recommend planting with an ericaceous compost such as Levington’s Ericaceous Compost (£4.49, 20L bag). Some shade is an advantage for green-leaved or variegated varieties which may be scorched by strong sunlight, but red leaves do need sun to develop their colour to the full. Cool dappled shade with protection from cold north or easterly winds will suit most Acers & if you can’t provide this in the border, you could choose a smaller variety & keep it in a container instead.

Growing in a pot?
Acers are great to grow in a pot as a feature.  Select a sturdy pot about twice the size of the one the Acer is already in and carefully consider the position of the pot before you plant.  Place in a sheltered spot out of the wind and in dappled shade to get the best displays of colour from your tree.  Make sure the pot has good drainage holes and stand your pot on feet so that water can escape in winter.  Keep plants well-watered - check that the leaves aren’t preventing the rainfall getting to the compost.

 

 

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