Please see my new “sap App” specifically developed for choosing a Japanaese Maple that will be perfect for you .. This article and the “Sap app” should start you on ther road to intellegently choosing the perfect Japanese Maple.
Just click on this link and use my app whenever you want to add a new Jm to your collection
This article is a work in progress .I am posting it in sort of diary form ( unfinished and ongoing) since I feel it is a process of learning and answers to many questions change over time with ones experience as well as that of many of you and my peers in the business, This article may never be complete as I find more and more things out though my daily experiences with these trees in this area and expand into other geographical areas through my internet contacts. The actual scientific study of Japanese Maples is very limited and most info, even allot you’ll find here, is gleaned from “experts” that are self, or industry/colleague appointed who have written books based on their experiences. Many of these frolks are long time growers, innovators, collectors who have discovered and named many of the trees found on this site . This is allwell and good but allot of the info is “area subjective” and non scientific learning begot from their own experiences. This information should be helpful to a lot of folks ( especially newbies) in their adventure of choosing their own special Japanese Maple . But always use of any info on Jms should be taken with a grain of salt .. There are so many variables with where each of you live and each individual tree that blanket statements should be parced … including mine .We are just not dealing with items that you can mix up in your “Mr Science” kit and they will be exactly as advertised or as the ingrediens listed on the box .. They are living growing things that are effected by their surroundings and each one is differnt in many, many respects .
My first experiences in choosing Japanese maples
( DON’T MAKE MY MISTAKES )
When I first started collecting Japanese maples it was difficult . I found a few dealers on Ebay that had web sites and tracked their web addresses down ( which isn’t easy since Ebay does not want you to buy direct ).But I did not want to buy off of Ebay because it was a gamble, only small plants available…and NO guarantee of getting a good price or a good tree after a lot of hassle. Most were twigs and some were not what they claimed to be… you sometimes got what you paid for but often not even that. There was also not many sites on google that looked both reasonable and reliable. Most of those dealers I contacted were so bad at email ( and still are) i never heard back or did so months later. Some were just plain rude and some were very customer unfriendly. My basic mantra was getting quantity of cultivars , since I was enamored with them , and getting them cheap.
At that time I wanted all red trees in particular those that kept their red well, were hardy to this area, and had authentic Japanese names. I was also interested in upright non dissectum type trees that were more like what I was used to in this area. Being a big planting and gardening freak with over 2 acres of land I thought containers were an bit silly for me with all that space and also seemed unnatural. I therefore wanted only those I could “plant out”. This made choosing even more difficult and required personal attention from sellers which many ( even those I did make contact with ) didn’t have interest in giving me… personal help in choosing cultivars!!. My first trees were almost entirely as stated above.Many being duplicatede and mostly just snatch and grab so to speal. After several years of severe addition I finally opened my eyes and mind and discovered the wide diverse multitude of fantastic cultivars , many of which were newer , with non Japanese names, and had all sorts of leaf types and colors. Others very rare and not easily available from anywhere. Some others were touchier ones I would have never ever considered, that I learned could be successfully container grown grown in this area . I found that container growing was actually as enjoyable and often more enjoyable than actually plant the tree out I enjoyed the challenge , hand mixing of soil , and placement possibilities I didn’t have with planting out the tree.
This journey took me on a trip of loosing many of my JMs Ebay and other internet purchased trees bought on the cheap from unreliable folks and learning how to minimize my losses by buying larger JMs from quality dealers . It also taught me that quality and being a bit more selective was allot more important than quantity and cheapness. It also taught me NOT what to do when I became an internet seller since 99% of my internet experiences were average to hideous. I still always think of myself as a buyer first and seller second once ya go the other way, as most you will find already are, you have entered the world of slockdum. I pledge to you to never go over to the “dark side”.
Now that I have become more critical I now have a hard time choosing my favorite type , color or specific cultivar and it can change daily .If you are just starting out, hopefully the info found herein can help you, and you won’t flounder through for several years like me. My hope is that you will use this knowledge of the fantastic and ever changing world of Japanese maples, found both here and elsewhere on my web site, and not waist both time and more importantly money and so you too can have have a spectacular hobby/pass time that will be a life long enjoyable pursuit like I have.
My most important words of advise is “don’t limit yourself “. Free yourself from any predisposed ideas and be open minded when choosing . If you don’t have allot of $$ buy one larger special tree that you can enjoy right away, not several cheapo ordinary ones that take years to see without a microscope. I feel these trees are really for a special type of folks: those with creative minds that understand art and beauty up close and personal and love to grow things ,and who are not anal or persnickety about having everything perfect. Others, to be blunt, will be most likely be happpier with buying a common JM from Lowes or in the case of a persnickety person , a plastic one from Ebay. But if you a true Japanese maple person open minded and artistic , and not constrictive with compulsive obsessive personality traits, be prepared for a whole new “life” hobby and experience unlike any other you have been involved in.
Davidsans first (really first) piece of advice
I would first advise reading Davidsans “Care and Cultivation” section for a good overview . Many of the issues addressed in that section directly deal with decisions you must make on criteria for deciding on what Japanese maple you want. That section alone may answer most of your questions and provide a basis for choosing a specific cultivar. then after reading that and this go directly to the sap app and play around with it.
Your decision can be as easy or as hard as you make it . For most folks it will just be choosing color. If you ask 100 folks wanting a Japanese maple, 95 will want a red one. Period . It is important to realize that size and hardiness are also very important . In addition you can choose from the multitude of leaf shapes and branching types. As I said “we can do this the easy way or we can do this the hard way”. Once you have read that section go and to my sap”choosing” app and give it a whirl… you should be a semi expert at least on paper and have it much a easier time in narrowing your choices down.
General statement of JM uses and placements
Remember around here as well as most places even in the south Japanese Maples are not considered shade trees rather ornamental trees . At least for most, they will not offer shade ifor many many years … and obviously some will never nor are they suppose to. They can be considered specimen trees but even if you buy a larger directly from Davidsans, it is unlikely it will be such for many years. I have found it really takes several years for both large and smaller Japanese maples to take off with any substantial growth. In addition as a specimen tree, placement is usually in open spaces for dramatic statement purposes ( although that is not written in stone). This of course is not an ideal place to put many Japanese maple, being exposed to severe sun and heat in summer and little protection in winter It is my opinion their best usage is for placement among groupings of other plants, bushes,flowers and trees in more of a garden setting and best with some understudy protection. The following is some helpful hints for choosing your Japanese Maple . Always remember I (Davidsan) am just a quick email away and I am more than happy to help you whether you buy from me or not. Your questions as well as your input is always welcome. What you should look for in any Japan ese Maple no matter what type
What you should be looking for in a tree after you decide the cultivars you like is one that is nice sized .. this doesn’t necessarily mean just tall or even tall at all . It means full with good form , branching and a nice caliper trunk for it’s pot size .. Trunk shape is often not important . Some folks demand a straight trunk but these are showy ornamental trees not not shade trees so a bit of a crook or bend is often just a cool personality trait … The same goes for lower branching .. if you want a more upright tree just trim them off as it grows like any other trees… but having a bushy upright can be a cool thing too. Many Jms are not single leader and V up from the trunk … this is of no real problem and contrary to many know it alls… these trees rarely if ever split like some larger shade trees. Finding a singler leader high tunked Jm is virtually impossible …
Choosing color can be very important since you tree will not be full for a while . and whatever is in back of it may dominate it .. A red Jm against a bred brick house is a good example .. so be careful you pick one the either highlights itself or is highlighted with what is in back of it
If you are just looking for a red Japanese Maple you should be advised that most if not all will not stay red all season. Your best, and often only red color, will be spring and fall, whereas in mid summer they will at minimum look dull or bronze out or green out. Many Japanese maples fit into this category . Also be advised shades of reds will vary from year to year and by your location within the mainland. Your best bet is to find the ones that have the most prolonged red during the growing season and the type of red you want . For most folks the type of red is simple , the brightest red they can find. Some others may have more subtle tastes want a nice deep red color , an orange red color , purple red or a multicolored tree that is predominantly red. In looking through Davidsans listing of trees and using the sap app you will find all of these variations. the “Sap App” can get you lists
Not to be repetitious but this area has the most variables and no clear answer . I probably wouldn’t worry so much about size being to big if you are from this area, Japanese maples tend to grow slowly here and rarely reach heights stated by west or east coast dealers. But even here, if you plan on planting close to a building or driveway or some such, the best advise for that option is DON’T.If you live in maple friendly areas you can always easily trim just about any Jm to keep it smaller .. but using the sap app will allow you to at least be a little more size aware.
I do see a valid and often critical area of questioning when it comes to garden planting where you want to add a bit of color , style or just something different as a part of your garden theme and you want to do so without over or under whelming the area. Your best bet in those situations is to use dwarf trees , being fully aware the word “dwarf’ is variable and sometimes a bit of a stretch depending on where you live. Also be advised that many dwarfs have are known as “Witches Brooms” that is actually a branch with odd leaves ( shape /color or both) growing on a mother tree that is unlike any others on the tree. That branch is used as scion to graft onto a base acer palmatum rootstock and developed as a new tree. These these “Witches Brooms are identified by having a truncated lobe, basically a shorter middle lobe of many if not all leafs . Although there is no real scientific knowledge , that I am aware of , these “witched broom” dwarfs do tend to be a bit more tender according to most growers with experience with these trees . If you live in a colder area it is best to keep these containerized, or at least sheltered. Although I personally have never had a problem with any of these myself and this may be another one of those non scientific folk tales.
You can look through the dwarf section of the Davidsans web site you can also find many more truly superior dwarfs for planting out in all climates climates or potting.
Type Of Branching
Branching types are of somewhat importance for the garden a setting . A lot of what you pick is dependent on the space you have . The dwarf section is of course for smaller gardens . Many folks fit into this “average back yard configuration . Some of you though like myself have much more space and larger gardens or planting areas. Your choices are Disssectums that can get tall but more often wide, regular uprights , and more weeping uprights.
Weeping upright cultivars usually don’t show much weeping for many years but eventually will do so . You should take that into consideration when making your decision . This is especially true in tight planting areas with other plants wanting a lot of sun. But there are some newer very nice both red and green cultivars that are weeping but conical and grow taller but stay tight .. these are a true delight for those with less open spaces
Dissectums also called lace leaf and cut leaf Jms are a funny bunch . There are a bare few upright types , basically the Sierryu and some other wannabes that don’t quite measure up as far as I am concerned but are “more” upright and have a more open branching structure. Most Dissectums will get much bigger than you expect and even the smaller ones will spread out . So planting them is tricky if you are thinking of using them to just fill in between some other plants. They also tend to be thicker around here even more so than many upright at least when they are new to their planted environment . Some will be better for closer placement than others because of their “more upright” stance , and their less thick leafing with and more open branch structure. Staking younger dissectums is usually best so you don’t get a low rangy tree. and of course Dissectums can also be easily trimmed . High grafted Dissectums IMHO are horrible .. Lazy growers do so because they would otherwize havre to stake and they get a bigger tree faster .. some are even grafted at three feet with 6″ of actual cultivar ion top … HIDEOUS . 99.0% of all Davidsan cultivars are low grafted under * ” a few a bit higher and some lower. DO NOT buy high grafted dissectums especially red ones . Other than their odd look most are grafted on green acer palmatum root stock so you see a red and green trunk .. In a recent trip to the St. Louis Botanical gardens rich with older Jms . I saw with such horror badly high grafted trees that looked perverted … The bad grafts stuck out like like a bad wig(rug)
The hardiest type of Palmatum is by far the linaerilobums ( bamboo type leaves) in my experience. Why this is so is hard to figure but I have found this basically true with most if not all green and red Linearilobums cultivars .. This may differ for others But I have yet to loose one to any winter.. they seem to take wetness , cold wind very well . Sun hardiness does vary greatly with these bamboo type leaves with some untouched but others crispy by mid summer.
Sun hardiness may have more to do with humidity and possibly wetness of soil, rather than sun . I hear time and time again how folks fervantly boasting how… “my ____ (insert name of any JM ) never burns in full sun” . i am not going to draw any conclusions on this whether these folks are legally blind , on drugs in and out of mental institutions or just not very observant .. But I will take them at their word they just may have a differnt enviorment. I myself have had several 15 year old bloodgoods in afternoon shade crisp up badly betwween mid july and mid Augustin a hor summer . Generally speaking sun burn gets better with age, but I ahve found very few cultivars that don’t burn , no matter what the age… So I think other factors IE: humidity, type of soil, or amount of water in soil may be the culprit.
Ones thing to always remember, Japanese Maples , like all trees are a natural living plant … they will never be perfect and all have quirks . That’s what makes them so cool . Many folks have a hard time with this because under perfect conditions ( usually spring ) they are stunning. .. but not always and not all season . My favorite statement to those annoyingly anal folks is simple . If you want a perfect tree go on ebay and buy a plastic one. Go the “pink flamingo” route. And I hope you find a way to enjoy our exceedingly imperfect world , Japanese maples included …
“Perfection is often sought and seldom achieved”… words to remember and a good fortune cookie saying:>)…. Just a bit of Davidsanian advise for those that are guaranteed to be unhappy or frustrated if they ever buy a Japanese maple.