Maybe a few more

I recall a time when I lusted after two Japanese maples, the splendid, variegated leaf Floating Cloud (Acer palmatum ‘Ukigumo’, below) and the Golden Full Moon (Acer shirasawanum ‘Aureum’), which as its name indicates is a yellow leafed maple. Other Japanese maples planted earlier in the garden were more common types, and several were gaining significant size, but after viewing these while visiting gardens in Oregon I knew that I must have both.

The foliage of ‘Ukigumo’ is much more colorful in Oregon (above) than in my Virginia garden (below). I attribute this to high nighttime temperatures that do not relieve the stress of warm afternoons. The mottled color in my garden is acceptable, but disappointing when I frequently see the better alternative.

The Golden Full Moon (below) was found first, from an Oregon nursery affiliated with a Japanese maple liner grower (starter plants) in New Zealand. The maples were shipped to Oregon bareroot, but agricultural codes required a quarantine of two growing seasons. Touring the nursery, a lone tree that had been around awhile, so larger than the others, was seen. This was the Full Moon, but it had been left behind while healing from substantial damage by rabbits, and despite the nursery owner’s recommendation to give the healing another year the maple was on the truck and planted in the spring.

The Golden Full Moon maple fades by late spring, but the yellow-green leaves are still exceptional. Since ‘Ukigumo’ does not thrive, the nearly ten foot tall Golden Full Moon maple is my favorite of thirty or more maples in the garden.
A row of Floating Cloud maples alongside ‘Globosa’ spruce in an Oregon nursery that unfortunately is now one tenth acre homes. I don’t recall what the plant with yellow foliage is on the far side.

The Floating Cloud was acquired from a second grower who specialized in growing a variety of Japanese maples and dwarf conifers (above). This was narrower and younger than the Golden Full Moon, but much larger than the scrawny knee high saplings available from mail order sources. Unfortunately, while the Golden Full Moon maple has flourished, and the rabbit damage is long healed, the Floating Cloud has grown, but never displayed the marvelous foliage color I see in the Pacific Northwest. Figuring that its sunlight exposure might be too much, I planted another in a more shaded spot, and it fares no better. So, I figure that the warm nighttime temperatures are to blame, and no matter how many times I plant a Floating Cloud, the result will be disappointing.

The garden surrounding ‘Shaina’ grew considerably before it was lost. The prostrate spruce was long gone and the planting area was expanded so that the maple’s loss did not leave a gapping hole. If another is planted it will be placed at the front.

And certainly there have been other Japanese maple disappointments, the most recent the loss of the mounding dwarf ‘Shaina’ that suffered when newly emerged, very tender leaves were damaged by freezes in two consecutive years. I figure that Japanese maples are tough as weeds, but branches of ‘Shaina’ died back each year, and after the second late April freeze there wasn’t much left of it. When it showed barely any growth that spring there was no alternative but to chop it out, and while I consider planting another, I’m not certain I have the patience to wait for it to grow.

Two ‘Seriyu’ maples were planted inside the front walk. For several years lower branches arched too low over the walk, but now all branches are comfortably over head so that visitors walk to the front door under a canopy of Japanese maples. I am always surprised that visitors are unfamiliar with the upright, dissected leaf ‘Seriyu’.

But, I have have planted other small Japanese maples, and now five wait in the unheated greenhouse until the soil thaws. I’ll be planting a few other larger maples as soon as they arrive in the garden center, and after planting only a large ‘Oshio-beni’ a year ago, but with a new planting bed in the lower, rear garden I’m determined again to cram as many Japanese maples as possible into the garden, possibly even if this requires removing less desirables.

The Fern Leaf maple (Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’) has large, deeply divided leaves that are unusual for Japanese maples. Its spring flowers are much more prominent than other maples’, but it shines most with its mottled red and yellow autumn foliage color (below). A very dwarf form of the fern leaf maple (‘Gosammer’) will be planted this spring.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Kim says:

    Wow!! Beautiful, Amazing maples. I just did a quick search online to see if you had made any videos and was rewarded with a few Meadows Farms results including this great one that shows some of the above maples:

    Would love to see more current video in better picture quality!! Do you have a channel on YouTube?
    By the way in the video there is a stream – can’t tell if it’s man made or natural?
    (I guess that’s the point, right? 😀)

    1. Dave says:

      I’ve been inspired by watching too many episodes of Gardeners’ World in this too long winter to renew my videos, starting with Japanese maples as soon as they are in leaf. I hope to have a less strained, more relaxed and conversational dialogue, and of course better quality video. This will be hosted on Meadows Farms YouTube channel, but again linked here.

      The stream is manmade, along with five ponds, one in the front garden and four in the rear. If the videos are done as planned it’s likely one will feature all five.

  2. Valerie says:

    Thanks for this article, it has helped set my expectations for what to expect from my 20-year old Ukigumo that I had planted in my side yard a couple weeks ago. I purchased it from my favorite maple tree farm, which located it out west and had it shipped. I know it won’t have the pretty white leaves that some Ukigumo have, and I am anxiously awaiting the formation of leaves to see what color the tree will be. I simply had to have one. I am now awaiting the arrival of my Osakazuki (64 gal) which was also ordered. My Fern Leaf seems to be doing well, and so far the Koto no Ito seems to still be alive. We’ll see in another month. Thanks for sharing your experience with Japanese Maples!

    1. Dave says:

      While Ukigumo is less than ideally suited to my Virginia garden, most Japanese maples thrive in the area. While red leafed maples fade to varying degrees in summer, green leafed maples thrive, and the variegated Butterfly is as beautiful here as anywhere. My only limitation in adding many more Japanese maples is space, and areas with enough sun.

  3. Linus says:

    It’s too hot in the DC area for ukigumo. Wondering if Acer pictum ‘Naguri Nishiki’ holds its white coloration better

    1. Dave says:

      After years of considering why some plants flourish in the northwest and struggle here, I’ve concluded that it is warm nights, mostly due to high humidity, that do not allow plants to destress from summer heat. I am convinced that Ukigumo will not perform at its peak, and this partial failure influences my selections as I choose other maples to plant.

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