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Design Your Garden With Japanese Maples

How to Design Your Garden With Japanese Maples

by MrMaple.com

These beautiful Japanese maples are at our nursery. This was taken in June of 2013 when our friends from "In The Garden With Bryce Lane" from UNC TV were filming a special on "Magnificent Maples" here at our nursery.

 

People often ask the question, how do I design my Garden? The answer is simple. As long you incorporate the beauty of Japanese maples into your landscape, there is no wrong answer. Every garden design is quite different and should be. A garden design should express the individuality of each gardener or designer. Think of a garden as a living portrait which you paint with shapes, textures, and colors of the plants you select. This is a living portrait that gets more and more beautiful each year. Not only can you enjoy this art in photos, but you can visit it daily and find relaxation in its essence. Take these tips below on Japanese maple placement in the landscape design into consideration. With these tips you can make your gardens unbelievably beautiful for everyone to enjoy.

Garden Design with Japanese Maples

This photo was taken at Westonbirt Arboretum, the National Arboretum of Great Britain in 2011. Here you can see how these red Japanese maples provide great color in the landscape.

Garden Design Tip #1 - Add Color With Japanese Maples

Japanese maples display amazing colors in the landscape. One should consider the spring color and the fall color of the tree when determing the placement of the Japanese maple in the landscape design. When looking at the design, a gardener can determine  which of these colors might create the most dramatic affect for garden-goers.

The most simple and easy way to add color in your garden design is by using a red Japanese maple. A red Japanese maple provides excellent contrast in the traditional green landscape. Red Japanese maples come in many different shapes and sizes. The larger upright red Japanese maples can produce a lot of color in the garden. Many of the more dwarf weeping red Japanese maples  give great color but to smaller space in the landscape. This allows you to determine how much color you want in the landscape and where you want it.

Some Japanese maples can even present great color in the winter garden such as the coral bark Japanese maples . These Japanese maples provide excellent focal points even during the winter due to their bright red bark.
Designing YOUR GARDEN WITH fall color Japanese Maples
Look at where your eye is drawn to in this garden design. This is an excellent example of a fall focal point planting of a Japanese Maple at Kubota Gardens in Seattle, Washington.

Gardening Design Tip #2 - Focal Point Planting With Japanese Maples

Focal point plantings are reserved for the plants which the garden designer believes display exceptional beauty. This makes the Japanese maple an ideal candidate for use as a focal point in the garden design as there is nothing more beautiful than a Japanese maple.  Since there are many different Japanese maples, that means are many different options for the focal points in your yard or landscape.

By selecting a Japanese maple that you love and enjoy you can express your personality through the focal points in your garden design. Deciding which Japanese maple fits your personality or the personality of your garden may take more time than less important plant, and that is okay. You will find detailed information on our site that will help aid you in selecting the right Japanese maple for your focal point.
Design Your Garden With Japanese Maple Trees
This is a great example of accenting your garden with Japanese maples. This Inabashidare Japanese maple accents the outstanding rockwork at our display gardens at Hill Stone Arboretum.

Garden Design Tip #3 - Accent Your Garden With Japanese Maples

Accent plantings are often some of the last peaces added to the garden. If a gardener can plan ahead, accent plantings can be more than an afterthought and add a lot to the garden. Accent plantings are typically smaller plants that can be continue the overall concept of the garden deisgn without . Dwarf Japanese maples are excellent choices for accent plants. Due to their smaller size and slower growth habit, dwarf Japanese maples make great choices for accent plants. Dwarf Japanese maples come in an array of colors and growth habits providing plenty of options to select the right Japanese maple.

Often a foundation planting can become an accent planting to accentuate architecture of a home or building.  Japanese maples can perform well as foundation plantings in the garden design due to their non-invasive root systems. Even after 50 or 60 years, a Japanese maple should not damage the foundation of a home or building. This cannot be said to be true about many other trees and shrubs. This rootsystem also makes them ideal for plantings near rock walls, for water features ( Tip #4), and container plantings (Tip #6).
Design Your Water Feature Garden With Japanese Maples
Japanese maples make great water features. Here are two weeping Japanese maples in a trational Japanese gardening style near a small gentle waterfall at the famous Portland Japanese Gardens.

Garden Design Tip #4 - Japanese Maples For Water Features

Water features are an interesting way to bring a new dynamic to the garden. Not are water features pleasing to the eye but they are enjoyable to listen to as well. Hearing the water trickle across rocks begins to set the mood of the garden design. Water is something all plants and animals need to survive. To many cultures, water not only represents life but it is synonymous with it. Japanese maples make a perfect pairing with a water feature. Like water, Japanese maples symbolize life. They provide vibrant colors in the landscape while giving the appearance of an aged tree. The branching habit of a Japanese maple flows like a river creating a repeating theme that grabs anyone's attention.

Water features are often accompanied by Koi. According to a translation from our friend the famous Mamoru Kodama, "Koi and Japanese maples make perfect harmony".  With that being said, if you have a koi pond then you need Japanese maples to create that harmony in your garden design.

Laceleaf Japanese maples are perfect selections to go directly on the side of the koi pond or water feature, especially for smaller water features. These weeping Japanese maple selections will cascade out over the water feature creating a more natural appearance. They give a soft display in the landscape with their delicut leaves which flow in the wind like a stream or river. The branching holding these finely cut leaves give this maple the shape of the waterfall. In fact, there is a Waterfall Japanese maple that is often used near ponds or waterfalls that performs well in this garden design. It is a green laceleaf Japanese maple with an exceptional shape and a good fall color. If you are a looking for a red laceleaf Japanese maple, then I would recommend an Inabashidare which is a red weeping Japanese maple companion to Waterfall maple.

For larger water features, taller upright Japanese maples may be used. For a large pond in a traditional and authentic Japanese garden setting, one should use tall green Japanese maples. In Japan, the green Japanese maple is the most commonly used maple in the landscape because they display an elegant summery feel in the garden with exceptional fall color. If you are going for a more modern Americanized Japanese garden, one can add flare with the use of taller red Japanese maples. This is one of our favorite gardening styles and one we highly recommend.
Design Your Garden With Background Japanese Maples
An an example of Japanese maples being used effectively as background plantings can be found at the Japanese Gardens at the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, Washington. The maples located here in the background give a soft appearance until fall when these background plantings light up landscape.
 

Garden Design #5 - Background Planting With Japanese Maples

In traditional Japanese gardening, background plantings are to mimic the colors of the sky in the fall. Look at the yellows, oranges, and reds in the photo above. Can't you imagine a sunrise in the background of the photo above? Japanese maples make excellent background plantings as certain selections can blend in with soft green tones during the summer while providing excellent fall color in autumn that create the perfect background planting.

One should take time to decide the background of picture they want to create in their garden design. A landscaper can use different shaped Japanese maples to provide different textures, while using different fall colors to decide how you want your portrait to be painted. Red and orange fall colors are complimented well by golden yellow fall colors. Finding the combination for each particular garden design is up to the designer or artist. This is part of what makes each garden unique and special.
Design Your Container Garden With Japanese Maples
Japanese maples are ideal for container gardening. This is a container at our display garden at our propagation nursery.
Garden Design Tip #6 - Japanese Maples for Containers
The Moveable Garden
Japanese maples have non-invasive root system that makes them an ideal candidate for container gardening and bonsai culture. This allows you expand your garden to porches, decks, patios, near your pool, to your driveway, or any other place on your property.

Growing Japanese maples in containers creates a moveable garden. If you decide you want to change your location of a container, you can simply move it to another part of your yard or garden. For those who live in apartments, this allows them to have a garden on their deck. This moveable garden comes in handy for those who know they will living at a location temporarily. Instead of leaving your landscape behind, you have the option to load up the potted maple and take it with you to your new home.

Since Japanese maples grown in containers also are dwarfed to their roots being constricted to the container size, collectors can have more Japanese maple selections in containers in their landscape than if they planted all the Japanese maples in the ground.

The concept of how big a Japanese maple will get in a container is similar to that of how big a goldfish will get inside a bowl. A Japanese maple will grow the size container it is put in. A small container will dwarf the size of the tree from the size the tree would naturally be in the landscape. Dwarf Japanese maples are often used in containers because they get fairly close to full-size in most containers. The best tip for container growing is a well-drained pot.

Steps:

1. Choose your Japanese maple based on the location you plan on growing your container grown maple (ex. Sun or shade?).

2. Select the container you would like to use. The primary thing to look for is good drainage. You may be able to drill extra holes in non-ceramic containers. At least one drain hole is necessary. For containers with only one drain hole, you may consider lining the bottom of the container with 1-2 inches of medium sized gravel to increase drainage.

3. Soil should be selected based on how frequently you plan on watering the plant. For Japanese maples that will be regularly watered by an irrigation system, a soil with more perlite is ideal. An example of this would be a regular bag of miracle grow mix. For maples that will not be on a regular irrigation system, make sure to add more peat moss to the mixture. This will allow for the maple itself to retain a higher amount of moisture. When adding the soil to the container make sure to keep the root collar and trunk of the Maple at the same level it was in it’s previous container. It is also good to leave at least 1/2 inch to 2 inches of the top lip of the container free from soil. This allows for the maple to be watered effectively.

4. Select a companion plant such as small sedums that can cover the soil-surface to reduce heat and moisture loss for the roots of the maple. When choosing a companion plant it is essential to use only plants with extremely shallow and tiny root systems that will not grow into the roots of the maple.

5. Water frequently based on the finger test. If the soil around your Japanese maple feels dry, water.

6. For small containers (smaller than a nursery 3 gallon) check the root system of your Japanese maple during the winter every 3 years. If the root ball is getting very thick, trim the root system leaving 3/4 of the root system. Add soil as necessary. For larger containers, you can go much longer without root pruning the roots of your Japanese maple. We suggest checking every 7-8 years. For those that do not want to root prune, you can always upgrade your Japanese maple to a larger pot size or put the tree in the landscape, however, with a few minutes of root pruning every few years a Japanese maple can stay in any pot for its entire life.

We only ship Japanese maples within the continental United States of America.

When you buy a Japanese maple from MrMaple.com, your order of Japanese maple trees will be shipped out the following Monday or Tuesday. This helps prevent your trees from being in shipment over the weekend. If for some reason your Japanese maples do end up shipment over the weekend, there is no need for alarm as we take ever precaution so that our trees can safely be in shipment for extended periods of time.

We have custom boxes that extra thick and allow for the safest shipment of your Japanese maples. Our new custom boxes allow us to ship your Japanese maple trees in their container, making the smoothest transition from our nursery to your garden. These boxes can fit two Japanese maples easily inside each box. You will simply need a pair of scissors to cut the tape around the box and pull your Japanese maple out.

Location is something that should be considered. Nearly all Japanese maples can handle growing in the shade or getting morning sun and afternoon shade. For planting trees in the sun it is important to make sure you are getting a selection that can handle full sun in your area. We have plenty of Japanese maples that grow and do well in full sun in Zone 8. When you get to zone 9, many of the Japanese maples should be planted with protection from the hot afternoon sun. There are a few maples we carry that can handle full sun in zone 9.

One of the most important things to remember is that Japanese maples do not like wet feet. This means that heavily boggy areas will need raised beds that allow drainage for the Japanese maple roots. This can simply be done by raising the area where you will be planting the Japanese maple with more soil.

The whole should be dug 1.5 times bigger than than container the Japanese maple is in. This extra size is primarily to losen the soil for the roots of your Japanese maple which will allow for it to get established quicker. Take the Japanese maple out of the container and place it in the whole. The main thing to remember when planting a Japanese maple is that it should be planted level with where the soil level was in the container. This is important as Japanese maples planted too deeply do not perform well in the landscape. This means that you will have to put part of the soil that you already dug back into the whole before planting.

People often ask where or not they should condition their soil for the Japanese maple. For the most part, you shouldn't. Japanese maples can do well in both sandy soils and clay soils. When you ammend the soil they have to get established in your ammendments and then get established in the exterior soil.

Japanese maples have a non-invasive root system that makes them ideal for container growing and bonsai culture. This will allow you to bring the ornamental appeal of Japanese maple to your deck, patio, poolside, and driveway expanding your garden. The concept of how big a Japanese maple will get in a container is similar to that of how big a goldfish will get inside a bowl. A Japanese maple will grow the size container it is put in. A small container will dwarf the size of the tree from the size the tree would naturally be in the landscape. Dwarf Japanese maples are often used in containers because they get fairly close to full-size in most containers. The best tip for container growing is a well-drained pot.

Steps:

1. Choose your Japanese maple based on the location you plan on growing your container grown maple (ex. Sun or shade?).

2. Select the container you would like to use. The primary thing to look for is good drainage. You may be able to drill extra holes in non-ceramic containers. At least one drain hole is necessary. For containers with only one drain hole, you may consider lining the bottom of the container with 1-2 inches of medium sized gravel to increase drainage.

3. Soil should be selected based on how frequently you plan on watering the plant. For Japanese maples that will be regularly watered by an irrigation system, a soil with more perlite is ideal. An example of this would be a regular bag of miracle grow mix. For maples that will not be on a regular irrigation system, make sure to add more peat moss to the mixture. This will allow for the maple itself to retain a higher amount of moisture. When adding the soil to the container make sure to keep the root collar and trunk of the Maple at the same level it was in it’s previous container. It is also good to leave at least 1/2 inch to 2 inches of the top lip of the container free from soil. This allows for the maple to be watered effectively.

4. Select a companion plant such as small sedums that can cover the soil-surface to reduce heat and moisture loss for the roots of the maple. When choosing a companion plant it is essential to use only plants with extremely shallow and tiny root systems that will not grow into the roots of the maple.

5. Water frequently based on the finger test. If the soil around your Japanese maple feels dry, water.

6. For small containers (smaller than a nursery 3 gallon) check the root system of your Japanese maple during the winter every 3 years. If the root ball is getting very thick, trim the root system leaving 3/4 of the root system. Add soil as necessary. For larger containers, you can go much longer without root pruning the roots of your Japanese maple. We suggest checking every 7-8 years. For those that do not want to root prune, you can always upgrade your Japanese maple to a larger pot size or put the tree in the landscape, however, with a few minutes of root pruning every few years a Japanese maple can stay in any pot for its entire life.

*Japanese maples that have been stressed should be given Super Thrive at recommended doses from the bottle. This can often be purchased at Wal-Mart or your local garden center or department store. This simply gives Japanese maples the proper nutrients and hormones that will help it heal and recover and help it get back into a growing mode.

Japanese maples are extremely easy to care for. The less you do the better. Japanese maples do not like a lot of nitrogen so fertilizers are not necessary. Fertilizers with low amounts of nitrogen can be used in the early spring and mid-summer, however it is not necessary.

Trimming your Japanese maple can actually make your tree grow faster. If you trim the smaller branches back leaving larger and thicker branching with buds, your tree will often grow very quickly. This is because you get a cleaner flow or nutrients from Japanese maples that have been trimmed. It is like excersing your Japanese maples. It is best to do this in the early spring right before your Japanese maple leafs out. This is typically around the late February to early March time period for us in North Carolina. The main trick for trimming is to never trim more than 45% of your tree off. Yes, that means you can trim a Japanese maple heavily. Remember to clean your pruning tools with rubbing alcohol. This helps keep your pruning tools sanitized which helps your Japanese maple stay healthy.

Steps for Pruning:

1. Start out by pruning out branches you don't like on your Japanese maple. If the branch is larger than 3/4 of an inch in diameter we recommend using a saw. Large branches you don't like only get bigger so it is best to prune them out early in the tree's life.

2. Prune out the twiggier smaller branching. Smaller branching only makes smaller branching. This means these will make the tree grow slower. By pruning your Japanese maple and leaving the large branching you will get a larger tree quicker.

3. Trim out conflicting branching on your Japanese maple. This means if two limbs are touching are are too close, one of them should be trimmed out. A lot of pruning is judgement calls. Picking which one stays and which one goes will be a judgement call that only the owner or the pruner can make.

4. If you are trimming an upright selection, make sure to keep one branch as a central leader. This is typically the tallest part of the tree on most upright Japanese maples. If you are trimming a dwarf or a laceleaf Japanese maple, you can trim the Japanese maple to accentuate the natural shape of the tree. This can be done with laceleaf types by trimming your Japanese maple to create different levels of branching.

5. Trim out the fishtails. When there are three small branches coming out of the terminal buds on the end of a branch, it is often good to trim out the middle branch. This gives room for the other two branches and allows them have more energy.

While trimming is not necessary, if you follow these steps, your Japanese maple should grow much quicker for you.

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