Among the loveliest landscape specimens in old-town Chico, the Japanese Maple (Acer palmatumcvs.) has become an iconic Oriental accent. With slow, hardy growth and lacy foliage, this diverse species ranges from stooped, gnarled pondside specimens to upright trees perfectly scaled to the urban backyard. Long-lived, these are also invaluable in containers and shaded corners, requiring little pruning and providing brilliant Fall color (green varieties) as well as a striking architectural element in the winter garden. While most of the cultivars available need some shelter from the summer sun in the North Valley, there are several new varieties which tolerate longer exposure.
Since its inception, Magnolia has offered an extensive and unusual selection of Japanese Maples. One major division may be made between the many varieties that come through the nursery in a year. Laceleaf-type maples generally exhibit the distinctive mounding, trailing form as they age, and remain fairly small. These are especially well-suited to landscape mounds, rock gardens, water features and patios, where their weeping habit can be unhampered. The finely-cut leaves in shades of red, purple or green are quite sensitive to wind-burn or sun-burn, and the plant should be provided full afternoon shade during the growing season. Prune seldom and selectively—the natural grace of these trees is accentuated by their tiered branches as they mature. Provided well-drained soil rich in organic matter, the laceleaf-type maples require little fertilizer.
The other group of Japanese Maples are the broadleaf-type. These are generally upright, with strong, straight branching patterns, and develop rugged, wizened trunks as they age. These are preferred for small shade trees, not only for their accommodating growth habit, but also because they are considerably hardier to wind and sun stresses. Filtered to full afternoon shade is still recommended during the growing season, but two new cultivars have shown increased resilience under sun exposure. “Emporer One” is a full, vigorous red-leaved variety which has demonstrated the greatest tolerance of the maples with colored foliage.
Though traditionally associated with Oriental gardens, the plethora of modern cultivars has extended the Japanese Maple’s appeal to other landscape styles. Whether you keep a natural woodland garden, or a neatly manicured border of Gardenias and Hostas, these trees add enduring beauty, distinct structural elements and lovely texture to the yard or patio. During the whole month of May, a wide selection of five-gallon Japanese Maples will be on special, so don’t miss this opportunity to bring home a touch of the Orient.