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On Gardening: Bloodgood Japanese maple has stood the test of time

January 4, 2016
 

Today I got a spring in my step as I visited the garden center and saw it was loaded with new roses, as well as the first trees and shrubs for the new year. Among the new varieties I saw were some old-timers, too, like the Bloodgood Japanese maple. Just six weeks ago it was one of the most stunning trees in our garden a testament to its ability to thrive in the heat and humidity of coastal zone 8b.

Like many in the Savannah Ga., area, this small maple has a storied past that began overseas. The Bloodgood is believed to be an old variety from The Netherlands that was sold to Bloodgood Nurseries in New York. It is still the most highly sought-after and respected Japanese maple in the Deep South and treasured in much of the country, as it is recommended from zones 5-8.

Bloodgood is brilliant in the spring with new dark bronze-red leaves followed by exotic foliage throughout the summer and a fall blaze of crimson-orange. It may hold the deep red color and never turn green. The leaves are usually five lobed, coupled with two smaller basal lobes.

The attractive red fruit of the Bloodgood is called samara. When shed by the tree, the winged fruit rotate like helicopter blades and fly through the air.

The Bloodgood Japanese maple prefers well-drained, moist, slightly acidic soils with morning sun and afternoon shade or areas of dappled light. Now is one of the best times to plant a Japanese maple.

Spread a 4-inch layer of fine pine bark and peat over the bed and till to a depth of 10 inches. Dig the planting hole three to five times as wide as the root ball but no deeper. The top of the root ball should be even with the soil profile. Set the tree in the hole and backfill to two-thirds the depth. Tamp the soil down and water to settle. Then add the remaining backfill, repeating the process. After planting, water and apply a 3-inch layer of mulch.

Supplemental water during the summer and protection from wind goes a long way in preventing scorching and keeping the leaves looking their best. It also will help retain the red leaf color.

Feed in late winter with a light application of a slow release 12-6-6 or 8-8-8 fertilizer and broadcast evenly under the canopy. If grown in a tub, use time-released granules or water-soluble fertilizer in early spring and again in early summer. Maintain moisture and mulch through the summer.

The Bloodgood Japanese maple is a beautiful multi-stemmed tree with a fine-textured appearance. To get this multi-stemmed look and graceful appearance, selectively prune during its early years of establishment.

It is an upright grower, reaching 15 feet in height, occasionally 20 feet, making it ideal for the urban home. To me it is the ultimate accent or focal point for a garden. They deserve to be seen and admired. In our fall display it was showing out in partnership with Camellia sasanquas and an almost white leafed ornamental grass.

In the spring garden, however, you want to plant yours where it will be most at home with azaleas, rhododendrons and woodland phlox. The Bloodgood also excels in a large container on a patio or deck and would be considered the signature plant for the Oriental-style garden.

I know it was just Christmas, and certainly our weather pattern seems to be the ultimate in unpredictability, but planting season is coming and faster than you think. Look and see where you can fit in one of the most exquisite Japanese maples of all time, the award winning Bloodgood.

 

 


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