What's under and/or around your Japanese Maple? Pictures please!

hovegator(z9 NorCal)October 20, 2006

I'll bet this has been asked, but when i did a search i came up with a million threads that didn't help. I also posted in the "Maples" forum, but didn't get much response.

Hope ya'll can help me.

I have decided that a Japanese maple (variety to be decided) would look good in a corner of my yard. What shorter plants would look good and thrive under or around it? I am going for a natural, but manicured look that will be easy to maintain. Already walked miles around my neigborhood looking for examples, but all the yards are covered with old junipers of every size, shape, and condition!!! These northern Californinas LOVE their junipers! :)

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jkom51(Z9 CA/Sunset 17)

I live in the Oakland hills, and I have bearded iris, vinca major (a major mistake, I wouldn't recommend it), bacopa, a very pretty yellow-leaved plectranthus you can't see in this photo, and a variegated alstroemeria that isn't doing well in this much shade. The hydrangea does well as it's far enough way from the canopy of this 'Emperor 1' JMaple to do well. This is from last year, the maple is about 5' taller now.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2006 at 11:47AM
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I am confused... "I am going for a natural, but manicured look..."

Wouldn't a manicured area combined with a tree from a distant land represent the antithesis of natural?


    Bookmark   October 20, 2006 at 12:15PM
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hovegator(z9 NorCal)

by natural, i meant plants that would actually grow together in nature hence looking more natural. Not like a sunflower under a maple or something like that.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2006 at 12:38PM
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Brent_In_NoVA(z7/6 VA)

The thread linked below might give you a few ideas. You are both in South Carolina; though zone 7 versus zone 9. You don't mention how much sun your area gets...I would hope you plan on giving that maple a little break from the hot afternoon sun.

Somewhere around here is a picture of a Japanese maple (maybe Crimson Queen) in my front yard. It and the pink flowering Evening Primrose that surrounds it were planted by the previous owner and the combo is rather ugly.

- Brent

Here is a link that might be useful: I am NOT happy with this bed!

    Bookmark   October 20, 2006 at 4:09PM
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Gold standard hostas and bleeding heart (excima).

    Bookmark   October 20, 2006 at 6:25PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Classic companion plants that would also be found in a japanese garden would include dwarf Nandina cultivars, Baby Tears, Carex morrowii, Acorus gramineus 'Ogon', Azaleas, Aucuba, Bletilla striata, etc. If you have room for them, Daphne odora marginata or Edgeworthia chrysantha are beautiful accent shrubs as companions to Japanese Maples.

Don't give people the wrong impression of northern California, you certainly don't see mass quantities of Junipers for landscaping here in Berkeley!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2006 at 12:27AM
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If you don't know what the box is, then it is easier to think outside of it...

    Bookmark   October 21, 2006 at 7:33AM
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jkom51(Z9 CA/Sunset 17)

per bahia's "you certainly don't see mass quantities of Junipers for landscaping here in Berkeley!" -- actually, we live just a few miles away in the Laurel district of the Oakland hills. And here we DO see tons of junipers, both old and new plantings, by many homeowners. Not my favorite either, but they are tough, pest-free and drought resistant, so it's understandable.

And I will say that the only planting I've seen of Strelitzia (bird of paradise) that hasn't gotten away from the owner, is completely surrounded by mature junipers. The perfect containment strategy, LOL!!

    Bookmark   October 21, 2006 at 3:58PM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

Brent beat me to it! But here are some imbedded pics--just to make your life easier.

From this angle you can see: Rhodedendron 'Yaku Prince', Heuchera 'Obsidian', Japanese Painted Fern, Autumn fern, Hakonechloa 'aurea', Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' (black mondo grass),and hosta 'Gold Standard.' Oh, and some ripening daffodil foliage--ignore THAT.

Same bed--different angle:

Mostly what you see here is the heuchera...and some sedum whose name I've forgotten.

The JM is a 'Waterfall'--btw.


    Bookmark   October 21, 2006 at 5:58PM
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mylubbock(Austin, TX 8)

I have low-growing catmint on one side under my Japanese maple. Plant association-wise, it makes no sense, but it works in my garden. On the other side of the catmint there are some toad lilies, but I don't think those would do quite what you want.

On the other side, I have a low growing thyme. (Also makes no sense.) I like to think that it looks like a lake next to the tree. It is dying out - not sure if it is water competition or just a harsh summer.

Sorry I don't have a picture.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2006 at 10:54PM
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I think that a lot of people use the term "look natural" to describe something not looking out of place - like "act natural". Others use it or hear it more literally. I'll assume the latter.

What makes a plant not look out of place? Very often it is when the plant is within expected surroundings or appears the way that we are familiar with it looking. What is a familiar scene for a Japanese Maple? Is it in a corner planting in someone's yard surrounded by lower plants that are easy to maintain?

I believe that a Japanese Maple, at least many cultivars, don't really lend themselves well to a flat bed with other plants in them when it is to be viewed from a distance. When it is going to be viewed up close the detail of the plant dominates and captures our attention. When the plant is at a greater distance, even twenty feet away, its form is what captures our attention. Many of the cultivars have weeping forms and/or interesting branch structure. Those forms are very unexpected in an orderly garden and are very hard to make "natural looking" because they are unfamiliar.

What is a familiar look of a Japanese Maple that is seen by us from a distance? Can we envision a cutleaf weeping Japanese maple in the middle of a lawn with a mulch ring cut around it? ... in a border perennial bed? .... a foundation planting? What about in a Japanese Garden? (ding!)

How are they handled in a Japanese Garden? Are they on flat terrain surrounded by several of the same smaller shrubs? More likely there is some topography to the garden and there is a wide variety of individual plants of contrasting form, texture, and foliage color. There is usually stone involved to unify the composition. The form is what you have to make viewable because the detail is too far away. Red leafed varieties are easily viewed as strong color up close, but at a distance the greens of surrounding plants absorb the red of the maple making it far weaker than you might expect. Elevation isolates the form as well.

Here is an example of elevating the form:


    Bookmark   October 22, 2006 at 9:08AM
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I always use the wrong tag.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2006 at 9:09AM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

Laag--is that a 'Tamukeyama'? Lovely form. Brent--I'm fairly certain your JM is 'Crimson Queen.' Another tree I lust after! (JM lust is 'SPENSIVE.)

    Bookmark   October 22, 2006 at 1:37PM
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Japanese maple can be pruned into a lollipop or meatball just like any other shrub or small tree and if it is used that way its purpose is to add contrasting leaf colour, when surrounded but green leaved plants pruned similarly. Trust me, this is a very common technique here and it negates every thing laag says about looking out of place. I am certainly NOT suggesting anyone does this, I only wanted us to be clear about what Andrew is therorizing about 'natural'.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2006 at 3:18PM
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I'm not sure of the variety. I planted it about 25 years ago. The picture was taken a couple of years later.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2006 at 6:10PM
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cassidyway(Z6 PA)

I have candytuft planted around my japanese maple. It's a Crimson Queen with a contorted trunk planted on a slight slope. It has holly behind it, and the green mounds of candytuft in front of it have a nice texture. When the candytuft is covered by white blooms, it creates a nice contrast with the red leaves of the maple.

    Bookmark   October 26, 2006 at 9:16AM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

Well whatever it is...it is GAWJUS. I'd love to see a current photo--JM's just improve with age.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2006 at 6:48PM
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Improve with age, well, it depends if and who puts a set of pruners to it. It may well be a mushroom that touches the ground 360 degrees all around with no hint of the rocks and under planting. It is in a nice area of a rough city that I do not go to or go through. It would be interesting to see that house again, though. My father originally landscaped it in 1966. I'm afraid that all of his work is fading away. That bums me out, but time marches on.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2006 at 8:43PM
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Funny you should ask this. I was outside for a stroll today and was noting the things that had to be done now that Jack Frost has kissed so many things.

Under our good ol' stand-by "Bloodgood" (I think?) I've been patiently cultivating Asarum europaeum. I plunked a clump in a couple of years ago and it likes the site very much... little babies here and there. I have to be careful not to "weed" them. As more established clumps of it attain dividable size I add to the planting. It's a handsome, carefree groundcover, providing all season interest when we have a "brown" winter. There are also a couple of Hostas in the immediate vicinity. And bulbs.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2006 at 5:12PM
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