Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Japanese Maples at the Terrace Shop

Acer palmatum 'Peaches and Cream'
By Annie Yang
Duke Class of 2020
Photos by Annie Yang

If you missed this month’s Spring Plant Sale (our most successful ever -- thank you!) or if your garden is calling out for more, there are still plants available in Duke Gardens' Terrace Shop, including many cultivars of Japanese maples (Acer palmatum).

Native to Japan, China, Korea, eastern Mongolia, and southeast Russia, these plants are super versatile and come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colors. Some varieties are naturally smaller and shorter and can grow in containers. Other cultivars can serve as understory plants grouped together in shady woodland areas of a garden.

Japanese maples usually run relatively small for trees, but some of them can stand out even when planted alone. Their leaves run a whole spectrum of colors: red, orange, yellow, green, purple. In general, they prefer some afternoon shade but also a good deal of sunlight to showcase their colorful foliage.

Japanese maples require well-drained and consistently moist soil, as well as protection from strong winds. Watch out for late spring frosts, which they are especially vulnerable to when young. Despite this, many cultivars are relatively easy to grow and are long-lived. Below are a few of the Japanese maple cultivars available at the Terrace Shop. We recommend that you call in advance (919-684-9037) if there is a particular cultivar you are seeking.
Acer palmatum 'Summer Gold'

‘Summer Gold’

True to its name, ‘Summer Gold’ maintains an energetic yellow color throughout the summer, as well as the fall. Its foliage starts off light green in the summer and deepens into the fall, retaining wonderful shades for months.

Standing at 10 to 12 feet at maturity, ‘Summer Gold’ is a somewhat taller tree compared to its Japanese maple relatives. This tree thrives in well-drained soil and has average water needs. It is also resistant to deer and insects, and it is drought tolerant. ‘Summer Gold’ distinguishes itself from other Japanese maples not only with its color but also with its ability to withstand full sun without burning. This is a tree that is well adapted to the summer and isn’t afraid of full sun, heat or humidity.

‘Autumn Fire’

The leaves on this deciduous tree start off typically green like any other tree you might encounter in the early spring. But as spring transitions into summer and then into fall, ‘Autumn Fire’ begins to show its true colors. The edges of its unique, narrow leaves are first tinged with red, and eventually a fiery red engulfs the entire leaf. In the fall, ‘Autumn Fire’ is alight with its stunning scarlet hues, standing out even in a season packed with attractive foliage colors.
Acer palmatum 'Autumn Fire'

‘Autumn Fire’ grows to be about 6 to 8 feet tall and requires well-drained, rich soil and regular watering. As a bonus, ‘Autumn Fire’ can also tolerate humidity. Like many Japanese maples, this tree prefers full to partial sun. But be careful exposing ‘Autumn Fire’ to too much full sun or else it will really burn!

‘Peaches and Cream’

When I first encountered this tree, I wasn’t sure what was so “creamy” about ‘Peaches and Cream’. There seemed to be a lot more peaches implied by the red than any cream or white! But to truly appreciate ‘Peaches and Cream’ you really have to follow it through the seasons. In the early spring, the leaves on this deciduous tree actually take on a pale green, almost white color, accentuating its veins, which are still dark green. As the weather gets colder, the cream is replaced by an orange-yellow color reminiscent of sweet summer peaches.

As with other Japanese Maples, ‘Peaches and Cream’ is on the shorter side, from 6 to 12 feet tall, but it certainly makes up in personality and vibrancy what it lacks in stature. ‘Peaches and Cream’ thrives in acidic, well-drained and rich soil, and it is also drought and humidity resistant. This tree can grow under mostly sun to mostly shade, but it prefers the shade. Imagine enjoying a bowl of peaches and cream under the cool canopy of a tree during the summer!

The following cultivars may also still be available through the Terrace Shop: Vitifolium, Taki no Gawa, Green Mist, Skeeter’s Broom, Crimson Princess, Katsura, Alan’s Gold, Calico, Meigetsu, Little Cindy, Emerald Lace and Tamukeyama.

Thank you again to all shoppers for making the 2018 Spring Plant Sale our most successful ever! If you love gardening, remember that Duke Gardens members get 10% off all plant purchases at the spring and fall sales, and first dibs at the members-only preview sale in spring. Please see our website to learn more about becoming a member of Duke Gardens.

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