While an obvious choice for an Asian inspired garden, a Japanese maple is at home in traditional and contemporary landscapes as well. When incorporating a Japanese maple into your landscape design, look for a prominent site that will capture attention. In "Japanese Maples," J.D. Vertrees describes over 300 cultivars of Japanese maples (Acer palmatum). Regardless of the variety, a Japanese maple is an architectural tree, used effectively as a focal point in the garden. Complement a Japanese maple with boulders and plants with contrasting color and texture that will draw the eye to the Japanese maple, without stealing the show.
Things You'll Need
- Japanese maple
- Medium boulder
- 5 perennial plants, 24 inches tall
- 2 varieties of ground cover
Look for a prominent spot for the Japanese maple where it will serve as a focal point in the landscape. Select a well-drained site in full to partial sun.
Dig a hole two to three times wider than, but only as deep as, the tree's container. Place the tree in the hole with the root crown---where the roots meet the trunk---at the existing ground level. Back-fill the hole with the existing soil. Do not pack the soil too firmly. Spread leftover soil around the tree.
Leave three feet of space on all sides of the Japanese maple for accent plants. Place a medium-sized boulder to the front left of the tree, three to four feet away from the tree trunk. Position the boulder in a small hole, one-fourth to one-third the depth of the boulder. Fill dirt around boulder.
Install perennial plants, such as Japanese roof iris, behind the boulder. Plant a short ground cover, 6 to 8 inches tall, in front of the boulder, spacing them 8 to 12 inches apart. Apply mulch.
Plant a different ground cover around the tree to accentuate the Japanese maple, spacing plants 12 to 18 inches apart. For example, using the design principle of contrast, plant a chartreuse ground cover such as creeping jenny to complement the reddish foliage of a Japanese maple. For trees with green foliage, select a red hued ground cover, such as creeping raspberry. Apply mulch.
Tips & Warnings
- Japanese maples grow very slowly. If size is important in your design, splurge on a larger, more mature tree.
- Because cultivars vary significantly in size and growth habit, look for these specifications when purchasing your tree. With hundreds of varieties, you should find a perfect fit for your landscape.
- Avoid surrounding the tree with large, "busy" plants, as they detract from the tree's bold impact.
- The Garden Helper: How to Grow and Care for an Acer palmatum
- "Japanese Maples"; J.D. Vertrees; 2001
- Photo Credit japanese maple image by Kathryn Palmer from Fotolia.com boulder adorned by wildflowers image by Steve Marquez from Fotolia.com Blue Iris image by PinkSkyPhotos from Fotolia.com
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