The red coral bark maple Acer ‘Sango-Kaku’ (12’) has light green foliage edged in red in spring, and then turns spectacular shades of yellow, gold, pink and red in the fall.

Spring in the Garden: Maples make great focal points for a garden

Ellen Presley

Special to The Record

With any design, you need a focal point; whether it is a painting, a floral arrangement, a container or the garden.

The focal point creates an anchor to the garden and draws the eye to various areas of your yard. Without it, the garden can look flat and ‘something seems missing’ no matter how many plants you put in.

Trees and shrubs are the easy solutions. Adding various heights, colors and textures makes your garden come alive and add interest. There seems an endless amount of choices, but choose according to the size, what you like and what will grow well in your area.

Maples (Acer) are a popular choice and there are over a hundred species and many more cultivars. These deciduous plants come in a variety of heights, shapes, bark type and leaf color. Depending on the variety they can take full sun to partial shade, most soil types and an average amount of water.

You may be familiar with Acer ‘Bloodgood’ (18’) with its bold burgundy leaves but a lesser known variety is Acer ‘Esk Sunset’ (9’) from the Esk Valley in New Zealand with stunning leaf coloration of varying tones of pink, with splashes of white and green. Acer ‘Ben Fushgi’ (6-8’) is a dwarf upright tree with red leaves edged with hot pink that change to green-red in summer and by fall the leaves turn the brightest pink reds you can imagine.

Most maples are noted for their spectacular fall colours, turning from their summer green to splashes of yellow, orange and vibrant red. Even when they drop their leaves, some Acers have different bark texture that are fascinating during the winter.

Acer ‘Joe Witt’ (20’)( Manchurian Snake Bark Maple) has prominent white stripes on green bark that allows the trunk to almost appear white and ghost-like during the winter. The paper bark maple Acer griseum (18’) looks cool as the cinnamon brown bark peels away in thin sheets from the trunk as it ages. The red coral bark maple Acer ‘Sango-Kaku’ (12’) has light green foliage edged in red in spring, and then turns spectacular shades of yellow, gold, pink and red in the fall. It maintains that amazing red colored truck and branches throughout the winter.

Another alternative is the weeping forms of trees. Two lovely dwarf forms are Acer ‘Eagles Claw’ (3’) which is a slow growing lace leaf with curved toothy leaves resemble an eagle’s claw. It matures into a lovely mounding form with light green leaves in spring and summer, and then turns yellows and oranges in the fall. The Acer ‘Lemon lime lace’ (4’) has finely cut lace leaves that turn from pale green to lime green in summer and then golden yellow in fall.

The maple leaf on the Canadian flag is a conglomerate of 10 native species throughout our country. It is supposed to symbolize unity, tolerance and peace. With such diversity among maple trees and the people who make up our country, I think it was a wise choice. Happy gardening.

Ellen Presley is the owner of Anderton Nursery. Her columns appear weekly in the Comox Valley Record throughout the spring months.

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An Acer bloodgood in all its colour shows why it is named as such. Photo submitted

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