A Surprise in the Garden: Bloodgood Japanese Maple

I love my Bloodgood Red Japanese Maple.  It is the jewel of my shade garden.   Not only is it beautiful on its own but it was given to me by a very special friend who is dead now so I treasure this tree all the more.  It was over 6 feet high when I got it and I have had it for almost 3 years so I figure the age of the tree to be between 10 and 15 years old.  Every spring it bursts forth with bright red new foliage that looks like it is illuminated with an internal light so bright are the leaves.   In summer the leaves calm to a plummy burgundy.  In fall just before the leaves fall for the winter, they are a bright crimson again.  My Bloodgood Maple is now over 9 feet tall having grown about a foot a year which is pretty amazing for any Acer Palmatum (Japanese Maple) as they tend to be a slow growing, ponderous lot.

In keeping with its Japanese heritage, I have pruned this tree much as you would a Bonsai creating separate “clouds” of leaves so that the tree mimics its larger surroundings.  This kind of pruning is truly an art I have come to appreciate but not master.  Here is my Japanese Maple demonstrating my plebian efforts:

I have decided that now that the form is airy and I have established my leaf “clouds”, perhaps I should just let it grow for a year or two and fill in.

I was surprised this spring, and I am embarrassed to say this, by a number of twin set seed pods growing on the tips of the branches I have allowed to remain on the tree.  What I mean is that surely as a tree, even Japanese Maples produce seeds of some sort but I have never see them on a Japanese Maple nor expected them at all.  In fact I thought it likely that the Bloodgood Japanese Maple is a hybrid and might therefore be sterile.  Nevertheless, the seed pods have arrived this year a bright cherry red standing out against even the leaves and looking decidedly aerodynamic as each set of two seeds have corresponding “wings” which will likely helicopter the babies a respectable distance away from the mother tree thus eliminating any competition to her.  They look like this:

I do not intend to collect the seeds and grow them as I am not interested in an 8-10 year endeavor to have produced a respectable sized offspring.  I will however let the seeds fall where they may and I will be on the lookout for the seedlings as I tend this portion of the shade garden.  Who knows, maybe I will end up with a whole grove of awkwardly pruned Bloodgood Japanese Maples!

Happy Gardening and remember to “bee” positive!


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