Friday, October 19, 2012

The Myriad Shades of Green


Acer palmatum in Kokyo, the Emperor's Garden in Tokyo, Japan


The previous two web logs featured blue conifers. I certainly never want to give short shrift to green plants, so I began a list of green trees to discuss, those trees which I grow. But our master plant list reminded me that we have over 5,000 entries, so I decided to limit it to maples only, and we'll only have a chance to examine a small percentage of the green maples at that.

So yes, the myriad shades of maples green it is. Everybody loves fall color, and I've included a few photos; but let's face it: the best time to view a green tree is in spring. Anyway that's my preference, and for conifers as well. The new growth in spring is usually a lighter shade of green, a fresh color that hasn't been hardened and abused by the summer heat. I confess that there are private times in the greenhouses and gardens, when everybody has gone home, and I wander around and gawk at the beauty, my mouth agape and my heart filled with joy. Truly I have a VIP pass to Flora Wonder.


Acer circinatum





























Acer circinatum


There is no maple species that is prettier than our native "Vine Maple," Acer circinatum, and I pity those of you in harsh climates where it does not prosper. In nature it is usually a small understory multi-trunk tree. It is famous for fall color, usually yellow in moist lush soils, but orange to red in higher altitude, lean soils.


Acer circinatum 'Little Gem' at 10 years old


Acer circinatum 'Little Gem' at 26 years old


Acer circinatum 'Little Gem'


The circinatum species, so named for its round cercis-like leaves, offers us cultivar selections from miniature congested shrubs to larger broad-canopied forms, but never does any cultivar get too large. Full sun to partial shade in well-drained soil is the recipe for a happy circinatum. The poster-plant for a dwarf was for many years 'Little Gem', which originated as a witch's broom mutation in Stanley Park in Vancouver, BC. With time, however, my 'Little Gem' at twenty six years of age is eight feet tall by ten feet wide. On a windy fall day a couple of years ago it blew over, and it was amazing to see this large specimen, which supports thousands of leaves in spring and summer, that it was all being fed through a palmatum trunk no more than four inches in caliper. We staked the specimen back up, and it hasn't missed a beat since.


Acer circinatum 'WB Hoyt'


Peter Gregory with Acer circinatum 'WB Hoyt'




Acer circinatum 'WB Hoyt'



















Equally as dwarf, or not, is Acer circinatum 'WB Hoyt', a witch's broom found at the Hoyt Arboretum in Portland, Oregon. I collected scions about fifteen years ago and temporarily named it "WB Hoyt," which was only intended to be a code name so we could keep track of it. But the name stuck as I propagated, gave away or sold it. "Mr. Maple," author Peter Gregory from England, saw 'WB Hoyt' in my garden, and also the original broom at the Hoyt. Peter is always nice to me, but I fear that privately he must despair at my naming and introducing so many trees, that perhaps I should be a little more selective. But Peter is at home in his world of botanical inquiry, while I'm the grubby capitalist just trying to feed my family.


Acer circinatum 'Baby Buttons'


One final Acer circinatum is 'Baby Buttons', which also originated as a witch's broom mutation. While it is still new, so far it appears to be more dwarf than 'Little Gem', and the leaves are much smaller as well.


Acer japonicum 'Giant Moon'


In the Flora Wonder Arboretum the Acer japonicums are beginning to show fall color. Many gardeners dismiss this green species in spring and summer, perhaps considering them boring. Three cultivars, however, are far from boring: 'Giant Moon', 'Aki hi' and 'Yama kage'. All three were named and introduced at about the same time, and all three introducers were unaware of the others. What they have in common are leaves much larger than the type.


Acer japonicum 'Aki hi'





























Acer japonicum 'Yama kage'


Acer japonicum 'Yama kage'



I first saw Acer japonicum 'Aki hi' at Vergeldt's nursery in Holland, but I doubt it is his discovery, as it isn't named in his fashion. I raised 'Giant Moon' from seed, and selected it because the leaves were twice as large as its brethren. My start of 'Yama kage' came from the late Jim Schmidt of Oregon, but I'm not certain how he acquired it. Jim patronized a local Japanese restaurant, and he used the owner to assist with Japanese names and their meanings. But maybe something was lost in translation, as 'Yama kagi'--the Schmidt version of the name--means "mountain key," which doesn't make much sense. My Japanese wife suggested that kage was probably the word, not kagi, for 'Yama kage' means "mountain shadow." I've taken the liberty to rename this cultivar then, but I'll be very embarrassed if I am wrong.


Acer palmatum 'Green Fingers'


I've introduced a number of green maple cultivars, and only just now do I realize that four of them begin with the word "green." Acer palmatum 'Green Fingers' is a slow-growing tree with thin linearlobum foliage. I sell a few, but there are so many similar cultivars which are better known and long established, such as 'Kinshi', 'Koto no ito', 'Scolopendrifolium' etc.























Acer palmatum 'Green Tea'


Acer palmatum 'Amber Ghost'


Acer palmatum 'Green Tea' is unusual, as the foliage really is the color of green tea. New leaves in early spring are pinkish red, which provides no clue to the future summer color. 'Green Tea' originated as a seedling from Acer palmatum 'Amber Ghost', but the two cultivars couldn't be more different, as you can see with the photos above.

Acer shirasawanum 'Delicut'






























Acer shirasawanum 'Green Snowflake'


Acer shirasawanum 'Green Snowflake' originated as a seedling from a shirasawanum parent, and its seed stands erect, although it could possibly be a hybrid. In any case, I'm unaware of any nursery or individual who has introduced cut-leaf weeping green cultivars other than Buchholz Nursery. We also introduced shirasawanum 'Delicut' which is more compact than 'Green Snowflake', and with leaves very differently shaped.























Acer palmatum 'Green River'


Yet another green laceleaf is Acer palmatum 'Green River'. This also has a shirasawanum parent, but appears palmatum-like with seeds that hang down. It's difficult to explain with words, but 'Green River' has a certain rhythm to it, a flow of leaves down the branches...something like a green river.


Acer shirasawanum 'Mr. Sun'


Acer shirasawanum 'Mr. Sun' forms a small tree with a broad canopy. As I've explained before (and as those of you who have copied me know) I've described the leaf shape as a child's drawing of dear Mr. Sun with his pointed rays. All you need to add is a house, the cat and Mommy and Daddy.


Acer shirasawanum 'Sensu'






























Acer shirasawanum 'Sensu'


One final Acer shirasawanum is 'Sensu', which is Japanese for "moving fan," so named by my wife as we were looking at the original specimen one evening with a pleasant summer breeze. It was like hundreds of leaves were fanning themselves, or it was a concerted attempt to draw our attention. It became my wife's favorite Japanese maple of all, and as you can see from the photo above, fall color can be outstanding.


Acer palmatum 'Fairy Hair'


Acer palmatum 'Fairy Hair'


We can't forget Acer palmatum 'Fairy Hair' as a choice green tree. Although it is a dwarf with delicate thin lobes, I find it to be a tough cultivar. I've planted it in a number of locations and never has one died; and for certain I'm no stranger to dead trees. 'Fairy Hair' originated as a seedling from 'Scolopendrifolium' growing in the late Dr. Corbin's garden in Portland, Oregon. That was at the beginning of my career. The original tree was eventually sold, and while I treasured the money, it's all gone now, spent on property taxes or tractor repair etc., none of which gave me any pleasure. But my first grafts from 'Fairy Hair' still remain, and they grew at twice the rate of the mother tree, as they have vigorous palmatum rootstocks. Last year we sowed seed from 'Fairy Hair'. A little bit of every leaf type came up, with one cutie having tiny thread-like foliage.


Acer palmatum 'Kinshi'


Acer palmatum 'Kinshi' can resemble 'Fairy Hair' but Kinshi's green linearlobum foliage is larger, and the tree grows to a much larger size as well. Fall color is gold, which is apt as the name means "woven with golden strings."



Acer palmatum 'Chiri hime'




Acer palmatum 'Coonara Pygmy'




















Two semi-dwarf Acer palmatum cultivars, 'Chiri hime' and 'Coonara Pygmy', make nice additions to the garden. 'Chiri hime' has pretty, though tiny, light green leaves with serrated lobes. So far mine have grown as dense round shrubs. 'Coonara Pygmy' originated as a witch's broom mutation in Australia. It too is dense and bushy, but don't be fooled by the name, for 'Coonara Pygmy' can spread to great width in time. I don't know about the name "Coonara," but I know it certainly isn't spelled "Corona," as some have it listed.




























Acer palmatum 'Usu midori'



Acer palmatum 'Usu midori'



Acer palmatum 'Usu midori'



Acer palmatum 'Usu midori'



Acer palmatum 'Usu midori' is an interesting cultivar, and while "midori" means "green" in Japanese, at times it can develop a totally straw yellow color. I need to pay more attention in the future, to document the foliage changes, but I like it best at the mixed yellow-green stage.



























Acer palmatum 'Ryu sei'
























Acer palmatum 'Jiro shidare'


Finally, a couple of Acer palmatums, 'Ryu sei' and 'Mikawa yatsubusa', are currently very popular, or at least our sales are strong. 'Ryu sei' forms a narrow weeping tree, much more strict than its parent 'Jiro shidare'. Without staking it would sprawl along the ground. I must make a point to train a couple up to maybe twenty feet--wouldn't that be something! In Japan the owner of Tsukasa Maples had a half dozen in pots, tied up on a ledge eight feet tall. It provided a narrow green curtain at the entrance to his office.


Acer palmatum 'Mikawa yatsubusa'

Acer palmatum 'Mikawa yatsubusa'

Acer palmatum 'Mikawa yatsubusa'

Acer palmatum 'Mikawa yatsubusa'

Acer palmatum 'Mikawa yatsubusa'

Acer palmatum 'Japanese Princess'


Acer palmatum 'Japanese Princess'


Acer palmatum 'Mikawa yatsubusa' is wonderful in the garden, in a container, or in a bonsai pot, for each one has a certain character. At any age it seems you are looking at an old bonsai tree, and it can be especially attractive when bare in winter. We germinate seeds from 'Mikawa yatsubusa', from our old specimen in the photo above which is just across the road from some red palmatum cultivars. The hope is to discover a red version, and we've come close with 'Japanese Princess' which is pink-red in spring, changing to a blonde-on-green and pink color by summer.

That's probably enough green maples for now, and I'll finish up with other maple species next week. But its obvious that green is a very good color.


Acer palmatum

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