Garden Clippings for Sept 2, 2023

Go to the Maple section of Connon Nurseries catalogue, one of Canada’s largest, and you will find 3 pages of Maples.  With 24 per page, that adds up to over 70 Maples.  Frank Shmidt Nursery, an American grower has over 100 listed in their catalogue.

Sorting out the varieties, species, patents, cross breeds and cultivars of Maples is a confusing task best left to experts in plant nomenclature.

There are only 10 types of Maples that are native to Canada, of which only 4 or 5 are common in Southwestern Ontario:  Sugar, Silver, Red, and Manitoba.  Big Leaf Maple is restricted to the Pacific Coast.  The other lesser-known Maples are not plentiful or are shrub type Maples.

Most of the Maples in nursery catalogues are variations of a theme.

Take, for example, the original native Sugar Maple, (Acer Saccharum), the iconic Canadian Maple prized for its stature and beautiful fall colour.  Nursery growers have tinkered with the Sugar Maple and come up with several cultivars such as ‘Commemoration’, ‘Autumn Fest’, and ‘Legacy’ each having specific desirable characteristics.

‘Autumn Fantasy’ and ‘Autumn Blaze’ are examples of cross breeds, a mix of Red and Silver Maple, taking the fast-growing qualities of Silver Maple, and adding the fall colour of Red Maple, arriving at a popular tree for urban environments.

Sometimes, the introduction of foreign or uber-cultivated trees can backfire.  Case in point is Norway Maple, introduced into North America from Asia, and touted as a miracle grow-anywhere tree.  We have now learned that Norway Maple may not be suited for native environments primarily because its aggressive roots slowly knock out native plants and wildflowers.

Japanese Maples are in a class of their own, easily identified by their dwarf growth habit, range of leaf colour, and interesting forms.  Expert horticulturists claim there are over 1,000 varieties of Japanese Maples, with new creations appearing continuously.  For the Canadian market, our most popular variety is ‘Bloodgood’, an upright clump style grower with distinctive deep red leaves.

Other popular Japanese Maples include Red Select Cutleaf, botanically known as Acer Palmatum Dissectum ‘Inabe Shidare’, a cascading form rarely growing more than 4 or 5 feet high with equal width.  One of its green growing counterparts is called ‘Viridis’, noted for its incredible fall colour.

Maples are the number one tree for consumers and nursery growers alike because they are versatile, hardy and will tolerate growing in adverse city conditions.  Other than the weak-wooded Manitoba and Silver Maples, Maple trees have a tidy shape and strong branching structure.

Common to all Maples are their seeds, called samaras, always found in pairs, with wings attached.  All Maples are deciduous, meaning their leaves fall off in winter.  Maples can be both monecious or dioecious where male and female parts may or may not be on the same plant.  Most Maples have a very fibrous root system making them easy to transplant.