Acer palmatum 'Orion'
|Acer palmatum 'Orion'|
The maple ‘Orion’ in the photo above was planted about ten years ago and is now larger than I am, both taller and more wide. It is said in Vertrees/Gregory Japanese Maples, “Richard P. Wolff of Red Maple Nursery, Pennsylvania, discovered this curious dwarf on a witches’-broom.” I think what was meant is that it was discovered as a witches’-broom, not on a broom. Also I find it surprising that the book’s punctuation uses s’ instead of 's, like I just did with book’s. The plural form of witch is witches, but do various witches ride-share on the same broom? Since the single broom was found in a single tree I think the singular witch’s broom would be more appropriate, and I’d skip the hyphen too. By the way I looked at other broom-originating cultivars in the book, such as ‘Shaina’ – another Wolff introduction – ‘Koto maru’ and ‘Kandy Kitchen’, and at least the Timber Press editor is consistent with the witches’-broom designation… no matter how much I dislike it.
|Acer palmatum 'Orion'|
Yes, I have been called pedantic before. Anyway, my interest in looking up ‘Orion’ was because I noticed seed on my large specimen. Some aficionados have said that maples originating from brooms do not produce seed, but obviously that is not true. I have never seen seed on ‘Shaina’, however, and my largest specimen is nearly thirty years old. I’ll harvest the ‘Orion’ seed this fall and we’ll see if its viable.
The Vertrees/Gregory book’s latest 4th edition (2009) was “Revised and expanded to include over 600 plants.” I guess that I grow the majority of them, and also many more that are not in the book. Acer palmatum ‘Orion’ did not make the main lineup of the 600 plants, and instead is relegated to a section called “Cultivars Not Yet Assessed,” where sometimes a small photo is included, and sometimes not, and where a couple of sentences suffice as a description. There will of course always be cultivars “not yet assessed” by any author of any plant book, as it is impossible to be completely up to date. But some of the not-yets have been well-assessed, at least by me, since the 2009 publication. I’ll correct one mistake: that ‘Orion’ is red, not green as written, and I would also be leery of assigning it to a “dwarf group.”
Acer palmatum 'Adrian's Compact'
Let’s take a look at a few other cultivars that many growers today have been able to assess. Acer palmatum ‘Adrian’s Compact’ is correctly described as “red,” but again I'm not sure that I would call it “dwarf.” In fact the book’s first sentence calls it a "medium-sized upright growing shrub..." In my website I size it as “5’ tall by 3’ wide in 10 years,” but as you can see in the photo it grows just as wide as tall, so I should probably amend my original description. ‘Adrian’s Compact’ was selected by the late Adrian Ellerbrook, the propagator at West Oregon Nursery who was the brother of the Dutchman I used to work for. I never met Adrian because he had retired when I did time at West Oregon, but his landscaper-son indicated that his maple was of seedling origin.
|Acer palmatum 'Alpine Sunrise'|
|Acer palmatum 'Alpine Sunrise'|
Acer palmatum ‘Alpine Surprise’ is another cultivar in the not yet assessed category, but I think it should be “Sunrise” not “Surprise.” Maybe due to the Vertrees/Gregory book, one will see the surprise name used in Europe, such as at Esveld Nursey in Boskoop, Holland. The lads at MrMaple.com are usually in the know, and their website reads, "‘Alpine Sunrise’ is a dwarf selection of a red Japanese maple found as witch’s [sic] broom mutation in Alpine, NJ by Bob McCaffery.” Mr. Maple describes ‘Alpine Sunrise’ as a “miniature,” but for me it will attain 6’ tall by 3’ wide in 10 years. I think it is a worthy selection for its dense pillar-like habit, deep red foliage in spring and summer – at least in Oregon – and outstanding bright crimson color in fall.
|Acer palmatum 'Ao yagi gawa'|
Curiously Acer palmatum ‘Ao yagi gawa’ is listed with the Ao and yagi as two words, while the cultivar ‘Aoyagi’ combines them. ‘Aoyagi’ is the older listing and it features green palmate leaves while ‘Ao yagi gawa’ is in the linearlobum group due to its “strapleaf” lobes. Gregory mentions that ‘Ao yagi gawa’ features two types of leaves, that most have “very narrow untoothed lobes but a fair proportion, although still in the strapleaf category, are broader and have clearly toothed margins.” For me, this phenomena gives the tree an appearance with more depth than if all lobes were the same.
|Acer palmatum 'Pung Kil'|
A red counterpart to ‘Ao yagi gawa’ is Acer palmatum ‘Pung kil’, and it too displays the two types of lobes. V/G writes that “This Korean cultivar is similar to 'Red Pygmy' but with longer, narrower strap like lobes.” My experience is that ‘Pung kil’ grows at three times the rate as ‘Red Pygmy’, plus it holds its purple red color in summer much better than ‘Red Pygmy’. Apparently ‘Pung kil’ – the worst maple name ever – originated as a seedling of Acer palmatum f. atropurpureum, and my original start came to me with the name ‘Pung kill’. According to MrMaple.com the name translates as a “look of wind,” describing how “these thin red strap leaves flow in the wind.” I wrote in a Flora Wonder Blog about three years ago that Pung kil was actually a person’s name, and that he was associated with the Chollipo Arboretum in Korea, and if so, then the cultivar should be spelled with a capital K.
|Acer palmatum 'Dragon's Fire'|
Acer palmatum 'Dr. Brown'
Acer palmatum 'Van den Akker'
The likable Acer palmatum ‘Dragon’s Fire’ was unassessed at the time of 2009 edition but we have a pretty good feel for it now. Leaves are deeply dissected and are colored bronze-red, a nice alternative to the more common purple-reds of ‘Red Dragon’, ‘Crimson Queen’, ‘Tamuke yama’ etc. In many respects 'Dragon's Fire' is similar to Acer palmatums ‘Dr. Brown’ and ‘Van den Akker’ and I think these slow-growing, mounding dissectums with the bronze-red to brown-red foliage make nice additions to the landscape, but maybe it’s because I have become over-saturated with the purple-reds that are seen by the millions in American gardens. V/G states that ‘Dr. Brown’ is a green dissectum, and indeed they include a greenish photo taken by Peter Gregory. Mention is made of its “brown-red new leaves” though, and maybe the “green” resulted from being grown in shade. As for ‘Van den Akker’ the photo and description are not the same plant as that currently growing in the trade. V/G pictures a large green leaf and a cultivar in the matsumurae group. The ‘Van den Akker’ that I know was selected by a Washington state landscaper, he of Chamaecyparis nootkatensis ‘Van den Akker’ fame. Perhaps there is someone else from Holland or elsewhere who selected the V/G maple; or more likely the photo and description have been mixed up by the author or by Timber Press, both of which have occurred in other cases.
Acer palmatum 'Peve Dave'
|Acer palmatum 'Kinshi'|
Vergeldt Nursery in the Netherlands has a couple under-assessed selections, and as with all Vergeldt introductions, both maples and conifers, the cultivar name begins with the prefix Peve (for Piet Vergeldt). So we have a variegated Ginkgo – ‘Peve Maribo’, a compact Taxodium – ‘Peve Minaret’, a dwarf Serbian spruce – ‘Peve Tijn’ etc. V/G include Acer palmatums ‘Peve Dave’ and ‘Peve Multicolor’ in the 2009 edition's category. I don’t know who “Dave” is, but sometimes Vergeldt plants are named after sons, employees, and maybe also friends and neighbors. I like ‘Peve Dave’ but there’s not a huge demand for it. V/G says, “This strapleaf is similar to the green ‘Kinshi’ in habit and size, but has slightly broader lobed leaves…” I don’t think they are so similar, and judge for yourself from the photos above. In spring ‘Peve Dave’ has lustrous red-purple leaves, but after our typical 100 degree F July-August spells the color will fade to more bronze-red. Don’t be too quick to dismiss the color, though, because late summer’s new growth will perk it up again.
|Acer palmatum 'Peve Multicolor'|
|Acer palmatum 'Shigitatsu sawa'|
As for Acer palmatum ‘Peve Multicolor’, the book lumps it into the ‘Shigitatsu sawa’ group of variegates, and one wonders if the parent tree to the seedling selection is known. I have raised many look-alikes to ‘Shigitatsu sawa’ – such as the “Ghost Series” – but ‘Peve Multicolor’ is unlike anything that I have grown. At first you would suspect the white leaves to fry in Oregon, but I have a specimen in the garden that holds up with very little PM shade. As a container plant on the patio with a little shade, ‘Peve Multicolor’ commands attention, especially when placed next to red-leaved cultivars.
Acer palmatum 'Margaret'
Acer palmatum ‘Margaret’ is described as “palmatum group, green,” and was selected by Dick van der Maat of Boskoop “for its outstanding bright yellow fall color.” I’ve never seen the yellow, only orange, and it illustrates why pronouncing fall color should probably be done by committee. Besides the fall color, van der Maat writes in his book, De Collection, “The small 5-7 lobed leaves emerge a light pink with yellow-green centres which gradually change to light green for the summer. It forms a compact tree, perfect to use for bonsai." I don’t know about its use for bonsai, but it is a pretty compact tree, though the green-leaved cultivars never have the same commercial appeal as their red counterparts.
|Acer palmatum 'Rhode Island Red'|
|Acer palmatum 'Rhode Island Red'|
|Rhode Island Red hen|
Acer palmatum ‘Rhode Island Red’ was perhaps too new to include in the Japanese Maples top 600 in 2009, but now it is grown by the thousands. It is a slow-growing upright tree with a broad form, but a good selection for the smaller garden. Foliage in spring is bright red before turning to a more dark red in summer, then in autumn the gardener is treated to outstanding orange and red coloration. This cultivar comes from Rhode Island Nurseries in Middletown, Rhode Island, and not surprising since Gallus gallus domesticus – the Rhode Island Red hen – is the state bird, and was so-designated on May 3, 1954.
Acer palmatum 'Usu midori'
|Acer palmatum 'Usu midori'|
Acer palmatum ‘Usu midori’ is not a strong grower, but it can be so delightful in spring that you somewhat forgive that it will burn by summer if not sited properly. New foliage is green-yellow in April, changing to light yellow by June, then leaves can turn to yellow with red tips in autumn. Midori is “green” in Japanese, and when used with the word usu it means “light green.” I received my start in about 2009 when the Timber Press maple book was published, but when young the cultivar didn’t impress me. A few years later an enthusiastic customer discovered a group in the back end of a greenhouse and gushed about its beauty. I’m glad she visited when she did, for they were indeed wonderful then, but a month later they were half defoliated from sun scorch. I pruned back the new growth so they wouldn’t look so bad, and they rebounded nicely later in summer with fresh yellow new growth. V/S calls ‘Usu midori’ “ a small hardy tree with colorful spring foliage similar to ‘Katsura’.” For me it is much more slow-growing than ‘Katsura’, and I doubt that it could withstand colder winters than -10 degrees F, USDA Zone 6.
Acer x 'Gossamer'
Acer japonicum 'Ao jutan'
I received the slow-growing Acer japonicum ‘Gossamer’ about seven years ago and it is now only waist high. I guess it should be listed as Acer x ‘Gossamer’ since it is reputed to be a cross between A. japonicum and a green A. palmatum f. dissectum. The word gossamer means “light, delicate or tenuous” and it comes from Middle English gossamer, from gos for “goose” and somer for “summer.” ‘Gossamer’ is definitely not a name I would have chosen and I don’t see what the maple has to do with a summer goose. To me it looks like a smaller-leaf version of Acer japonicum ‘Ao jutan’, except with a more compact body. I would call ‘Gossamer’ more strange than beautiful, so naturally it will be popular with collectors afflicted with maple fever.
Acer circinatum 'Pacific Sprite'
Peter Gregory provides a crummy photo of Acer circinatum ‘Pacific Sprite’ and calls it “a dwarf tree with small deep green crinkly leaves turning orange-red in the fall.” My largest specimen is 12’ tall by 10’ wide at 10 years of age, with A. palmatum used as rootstock, and it is an oversized hunk that will have to be cut down in a couple of years. When I first acquired ‘Pacific Sprite’ I speculated that it would grow to only 6’ tall by 2’ wide in 10 years, but that was based on observation of a tree in another’s garden. I haven’t propagated it the last two or three years because frankly I don’t like it. Furthermore my specimen turns to brown-yellow in the fall, nothing spectacular, then the leaves smother the dwarf conifers beneath it.
Acer circinatum 'Sunny Sister'
|Acer circinatum 'Sunglow'|
V/S wrote of Acer circinatum ‘Sunny Sister’, “New from Talon Buchholz, [it] has yellow gold leaves in spring with pink tinges, later turning green with pink tinges. As the name suggests, this vine maple thrives in a site with sun.” Well, actually not; it does prefer partial shade over full sun. It received its name because it was a sister seedling with Acer circinatum ‘Sunglow’ along with five more siblings that are apparently lost to horticulture. V/S is correct that ‘Sunglow’ and the other seedlings were discovered by gardener Floyd McMullen of Portland, Oregon. He passed away before I could meet him, but mutual friend Reuben Hatch (aka my Grandfather) dug two of the seedlings out of his garden for me. ‘Sunny Sister’ is the more vigorous of my two “sisters,” while ‘Sunglow’ is perhaps the more colorful.
Acer palmatum 'Spring Plum'
Acer shirasawanum 'Mikado'
Again there will always be maple selections that are “not yet assessed.” But that doesn’t keep them from being propagated, named and sold. They may or may not prove stable and worthy, but then I can name quite a few of the 600 mainstays in the book that I don’t think are worthy, at least in my collection. My personal code is that if I intend to propagate a selection that I have made, then I will name it before hand. This is contrary to what Vertrees and others preached, but I have defended my position before so I won’t rehash it now.
|Acer shirasawanum 'Sonya Marie'|
Acer shirasawanum 'Green Snowflake'
Appendix D follows the Not Yet Assessed, and it lists Cultivar Names Not Elsewhere Described, and it’s a bit scary that there’s over a thousand of these that have been named. Some are my plants like ‘Sonya Marie’, ‘Shira Red’, ‘Heavy Seed’, ‘Iro iro’, ‘Green Snowflake’ and many others. Some of these one thousand are in the trade and some are not. Authoring a book on maple cultivars seems like an endless purgatory, and I’m worn out already with my little Flora Wonder Blog.