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The Best Japanese Maples

Look beyond ‘Bloodgood’ and you’ll find out-of-the-ordinary varieties that will make your heart beat just a bit faster

Fine Gardening - Issue 160

There aren’t many gardeners—beginners or experts—who don’t love a Japanese maple (cultivars of Acer palmatum, A. japonicum, and A. shirasawanum, USDA Hardiness Zones 5–8). They’re some of the most popular trees in our landscapes, offering graceful forms, vivid foliage colors, and undeniable beauty. The average garden center, unfortunately, has only five or six varieties to choose from, and they’re usually the popular standards, like ‘Bloodgood’ (A. palmatum ‘Bloodgood’), and various burgundy threadleaf varieties, like ‘Crimson Queen’ (A. palmatum ‘Crimson Queen’). While these varieties are wonderful, they offer no hint of the kaleidoscope of colors, shapes, and textures to be had in the wider world of Japanese maples. We surveyed a number of Japanese-maple aficionados to ask for their absolute favorite variety in several categories. Their picks will excite and entice you, and send you on the hunt to find a variety beyond ‘Bloodgood’.


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