Plant of the Month: October
Embrace autumn with richly-coloured acers. The popular acer palmatum – also known as the Japanese maple – gives wonderful seasonal displays. The acer is a garden favourite for many reasons. It’s a hardy shrub that looks stunning, doesn’t need much maintenance and gives a gorgeous display of colour. It can provide a focal point in the garden, with foliage that looks good from spring right through to late autumn. Some varieties are slow growing, and a perfect choice for any small or courtyard garden, as they remain a compact size without the need for regular pruning.
Acers like dappled shade. They are best grown in moist, free-draining neutral to acidic soil. They can be grown in the ground or in a container. A sheltered site is most suitable, especially one that provides shade from the sun at its hottest and protection from windy conditions.
The acer mixes well with other plants. With its Eastern origins, it is a good choice for a garden with an Oriental theme. It also goes well in a traditional English garden. It can create a focal point in your garden, brightening a shaded corner, or elegantly overhanging a pool or water feature.
Don’t crowd your acer with other plants, as it prefers space to flourish. Planting partners to consider include ferns, hostas and bamboo. It goes well with the rhododendron, hydrangea, magnolia, azalea and camellia. Acers also contrast with evergreens, particularly those coming into their own around now with berries or buds. Skimmia, pyracantha and cotoneaster are good planting companions, along with flowering cherry and plum, wisteria and juniper.
Tips for growing your acer
1. Choose a sheltered spot with well-drained soil.
2. Add plenty of compost to lock in moisture and ensure the ground never dries out.
3. A thick mulch of leaf-mould, compost or shredded bark over the soil around the maple will also help retain moisture and reduce annual weed growth.
4. When growing in a container, choose a large and stable terracotta pot with drainage holes in the base. Use a loam-based John Innes No.3 compost with horticultural grit added for good drainage.
5. Water regularly especially during dry periods.
Acers put on a show for many months, starting as soon as foliage unfurls in spring and continuing through the autumn before the leaves fall. You'll be spoilt for choice when picking one to add a little maple magic to your garden.
Garsons card holders benefit from 20% off the Plant of the Month range, so you can stock up on Acers for 20% off in October.