Acer – Popular Shrubs for the Garden
Most of the acers or maples are big trees, Acer pseudoplatanus, for instance, is the Sycamore. There are, however, many others, particularly Asiatic species and their varieties, that are no more than shrubs in this country, some of them slow-growing and eventually not too big for medium-sized gardens.
Most of the leaves of these plants are maple-like, that is they have five or seven deep angular lobes. In some instances these are divided yet again into numerous other segments, sometimes so narrow that the leaves look more like the fronds of a fern than the leaves of a shrub.
The Japanese Maples, varieties of, are deservedly the most popular, because they are not too large and because their leaves turn such brilliant colours in the autumn. There are many from which to choose but, if there is room for one only, Acer palmatum heptalobum ‘Osakazuki’ makes a strong claim as its autumn leaves turn the brightest of scarlets.
For longer-term colour, Acer p. atropurpureum is worth considering as its foliage is a good bronze-crimson throughout the summer and there are many others that grow slowly to 5-8 feet. The species itself is more vigorous and may reach 15-20 feet. There are a few varieties of Acer japonicum, another Japanese Maple, of which aureum has yellow leaves while others provide good autumn colour.
Although these Japanese Maples will tolerate chalky soils, this is not really the correct medium. They prefer ordinary, well-drained loam, with fair quantities of moist peat dug in at planting time. Cutting winds can sear them so it is best to plant them where they get some protection from wind. Frost damaged and wind damaged shoots should be cut back in late spring but unless the size must be restricted nois necessary.
Propagation of the choice garden forms is usually done by grafting on to seedlings of Acer palmatum, preferably in a greenhouse during the spring. Seeds that are saved from good forms of these Japanese Maples will usually give quite good plants but it must not be expected that they will necessarily resemble the parent plants.