I’m not complaining, but without question, the peak period for Japanese maples is spring when foliage colors are most vivid. July brings a stark contrast, and while a collector can excuse maples that fade from this peak in summer’s heat, gardeners with more limited space and budgets must choose more wisely. There are no ugly maples to my thinking, but the gardener is advised not to be seduced only by brilliant spring colors.
The cream bordered leaves of ‘Gwen’s Rose Delight’ Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Gwen’s Rose Delight’, aka ‘Shirazz’, above in early May and late June) are extraordinary for sixty days if there is not an extended spell of May heat. This spring, the period was shortened by ill timed rainfall that spotted leaves, and in early summer leaves have faded typically to remind the gardener that he must enjoy this maple while its going is good. Now, and through the remainder of summer, ‘Gwen’ is a tree that is likely to disappoint.
For years I sought a reasonably sized Floating Cloud maple (Acer palmatum ‘Ukigumo’, above), and now there are three in the garden in various sunlight exposures. The first was planted into mostly full sun, and after a brief period of delightfully colorful leaves in spring, it faded to green. Two others were planted with varying degrees of shade, and only one with no direct sunlight shows any variegation by early summer. Probably, I should be disappointed, but I’m happy to have found an ideal situation for the one tree.
In the heat of a Virginia summer, variegated and red leafed Japanese maples fade to varying degrees, with ones exposed to late afternoon sun fading most. Newly planted maples fade more, long established trees less. In addition to considering the mature size that a Japanese maple will grow to, the gardener should also locate a maple with sun exposure that will bring out its best color.