Contributed by Ginny Oakes

On April 8, 2018

You need hands!

Acer palmatum, commonly called Japanese maple, is a deciduous shrub or small tree that grows to 6 to 10 m tall. It is native to Japan, Korea and China. Carl Thunberg, who travelled in Japan in the late 18th century, gave it the species name palmatum, describing the hand-shaped leaves. 

Different forms of Acer palmatum have been grown in Japan for centuries; it is believed that the first mention of them goes back to the 7th century. Now numerous cultivars are available that have been selected for variations in size, leaf shape and colour.

Our Number 15, Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’, is one such. It is a shrub or small tree, growing eventually to 6m high, with 5-lobed leaves, which open pinkish-yellow, becoming green in summer and yellow before they fall in the autumn. It is commonly named coral-bark maple referring to its distinctive red bark, which provides colour in the winter garden.


Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’ in the Winter Garden at Anglesey Abbey

It should be grown in a moist but well-drained soil and a deep mulch is very beneficial. Leaf colour is best in partial shade, although full sun can be tolerated. It received an RHS Award of Garden Merit in 1993.

You can see that this tree is fabulous at every season of the year and is considered by many to be the very best small tree available today. It’s certainly worthy of a place in our list.

The featured image at the top is Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’, courtesy of The Hardy Plant Society Image Library.



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