'Osakazuki' has an upright habit and great fall color.
Photo/Illustration: Alan Mandell
and Henry Eastwood
With their small stature, tremendous variety, and four-season beauty, Japanese maples always offer something to see. Dark, undulating branches sometimes crested with snow create a variety of graceful silhouettes in winter. The rest of the year, the branches provide a structure on which a slipcover of leaves spreads colors and textures. Lush, new spring growth emerges, filling the bleak landscape with a variety of hues we usually expect in fall. Summer brings maturity—new growth hardens off, pinks and yellows fade while greens and reds deepen. In autumn, these trees fill the garden with a symphony of colors.
Japanese maples offer countless variations in size, shape, and texture. While nobody knows exactly how many different Japanese maple varieties exist, there are more than 700 unique cultivars in circulation. Selecting the right one from so many can be overwhelming, especially because virtually all of them are charmers. Though it was difficult to single them out, we have selected some of our favorite cultivars that are neither too obscure nor too obvious while showing a hint of the range one can find in this group of trees.
Pruning Japanese Maples