At Cleeve Nursery, we sell a large variety of Japanese Maples because they are some of the best foliage plants for the gardener. They are delicate and graceful looking deciduous trees grown for their autumn colour and beautiful leaves which may be deeply dissected (or hand- shaped, which is what gave the tree its Latin name, Acer palmatum). Because many acers are small and grow extremely slowly they are perfect for a smaller garden, being particularly suitable for borders because the root systems are compact and not invasive, and many varieties live happily in containers.
Acers can be dome-shaped, cascading, or tall and slender – reaching heights of 6–10 m, Red-leafed cultivars are the most popular, but the range of colours available goes from deep purple to gold, including bright orange and green, or variegated with pink and cream markings. They flower and produce winged seeds, and are prized for their delicate branch structure in winter.
In their native country, acers grow beneath other trees in shady woodlands, so most prefer shade or tolerate a little sun. This depends on colour – red and purple leaved varieties need some sun to develop whilst the foliage of green or variegated Japanese maples can be scorched by the afternoon sun. The perfect soil conditions for Japanese maples is well drained, slightly acidic, sandy loam, but most can be grown in other soils. What they do not like is wet, dry or very alkaline conditions.