Japanese maples in April

Again this spring, two twenty degree nights slightly damaged newly emerging leaves of ‘Twombly’s Red Sentinel’ Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Twombly’s Red Sentinel’, below). Happily, other maples show minimal or no damage, and all (including Twombly’s) will be fine with no evidence of damage by late spring. ‘Twombly’s’ suffered similar browned leaves a year ago, with no long term problem.

Browned, cold damaged leaves of ‘Twombly’s Red Sentinel’ can be seen in the background, but there are few and the minor damage will be forgotten within a few weeks. ‘Twombly’s’ has grown in a few years from six feet to at least double that height with the narrow, columnar form that was necessary to squeeze it in.

Tender, emerging leaves of Japanese maples are vulnerable to freezing temperatures, though long term problems are remarkably rare. I’ve witnessed severe injury that resulted in the failure of young trees, but established trees bounce back quickly. Many of the Japanese maples in this garden are twenty and thirty years old, so I barely give a thought to potential damage from late freezes.

Leaves of ‘Bloodgood’ maple are a bit off, but they’ll come back quickly. ‘Bloodgood’ has been here for most of the garden’s 34 years. It is as wide as it is tall, and while it is perhaps shaded a bit too much, its color is outstanding through the seasons.

The other half (or more) of the garden’s maples are later to leaf, so the graceful and colorful emergence of leaves is spread over weeks. With later leafing, there’s less worry that the Golden Full Moon maple and others will suffer in the cold as spring progresses.

Two ‘Seriyu’ maples show no signs of cold damage. Both arch over the front walk.
The Lion’s Head maple (Acer palmatum ‘Shishigarshira’) shows no injury. Lion’s Head was slow to grow after planting, but two have now grown to a vase shaped fifteen feet in height.
No damage is visible on ‘Burgundy Lace’, one of the tallest Japanese maples in the garden. ‘Burgundy Lace’ is too shaded, so its color is somewhat muted, but it remains a lovely maple.
Leaves of ‘Sangu kaku’ are very slightly wilted. This is the second ‘Sangu’ in the garden, with the first suffering in soil that was too damp. In a drier spot, this one is thriving.
There is a very slight amount of wilt to leaves of ‘Mikawa yatsubusa’, but I expect this to disappear in the next week. ‘Mikawa’ was planted a year ago after a long wait to find one of decent size. I’m so happy to have it.
The emerging, pink leaves of ‘Butterfly’ seem very fragile, but there is no cold damage at all. With little green in leaves until summer, ‘Butterfly’ grows slowly and it has a bit of a problem with occasional dead branches. I wouldn’t be without one.
A seedling maple resides in a large pot, doubling the possibility of damage, but there is none. I regularly weed through the abundant Japanese maple seedlings to see if there are any that are unique. Most look close to their parent plants, but this deeply lobed seedling does not look like nearby maples.
‘Trompenburg’ has no damage. It is quite shaded, but keeps excellent color.
Very tender leaves of ‘Viridis’ were not damaged. This green, leafed weeping maple has grown to at least twenty feet in width, a splendid tree that grows over a third of the round, upper patio.
The fernleaf maple ‘Aconitifolium’ was at its most vulnerable, but there is no damage. It has suffered some branch dieback in recent years, but appears in excellent health to start this year.
No damage is seen on ‘Okushimo’, another wide, vase shaped grower with leaves that curl. It has excellent autumn leaf color.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Chuck says:

    A viridis over 20 feet wide! How old is this specimen ? I planted one a few years ago thinking it would stay in the 8ft tall and wide range…should I expect a larger tree?

    1. Dave says:

      ‘Viridis’ is at least twenty years old. I expect it will continue to spread, but someday it’s likely I’ll have to selectively prune to keep the walkway open on the patio it overhangs.

  2. Tom says:

    Great variety in those Japanese maples. Nice to have so many. It’s difficult to choose which one to get if you only have room for one or two. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Dave says:

      While building the garden I couldn’t decide, so I had to have one or two of each. If I had another couple acres I could easily fill it with more Japanese maples. I have a handful in pots that I keep on the patios that someday will have to be planted.

      1. Tom says:

        That’s funny – “might as well face it we’re addicted to plants.”

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