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The MrMaple Garden: How to Mass Plant With Japanese Maples As our garden continues to grow in beauty, we are now getting frequently asked, "How do I create the MrMaple Garden?". Most of this garden was planted in the last 10 years, so it isn't that far off from what you can have in your yard in the next few years.
If someone gets 300 Japanese maples and crams them in a small space, this would be an attempt we would like (especially if they bought them from us) but it would lack the design and adequate spacing to make the garden "pop" like in the picture. Below, we will discuss the the planning process behind creating The MrMaple Garden.
We need an area that can grow Japanese maples. This is simply an area that isn't boggy. Japanese maples don't like wet feet. If this may be an issue, think about raising your beds.
Every landscape will have a different blank slate to start with so here are a few tips. We decided to get rid of all the grass at the MrMaple Garden. The grass was killed and a black gardening weed barrier was placed across the entire yard above. The yard was then mulched. This gave us a nice blank slate to work with including the yard's natural slope. While some may have the perfectly shaped and sloped yard to bring attention to the trees, one can bring in dirt to make raised hills or beds if needed. This has to be done in this early stage, as once the yard is filled with Japanese maples, it becomes harder to bring in dirt.
Think about your garden. Is is a full sun garden, full shade garden, or mixed light garden. When going through the next steps choose your maples accordingly.
1. Pick Your Anchors. These are the most important trees your landscape plan.These are some of your favorite maples at key places throughout the Garden. These can Japanese maples that you look and think, I have the perfect spot for this tree! They are often larger trees further away from the walkway and may be more a special dwarf that you just love near the entrance. Like all planting, draw a diagram. Figure out 15-20 year sizes of the trees and make your plan based on the size of these trees during this timeframe.
Keep in mind where your best viewpoints are. These may be from your driveway as visitors pull up, from your porch as you relax in you rocking chair, or from your favorite bench in the garden. You want to be able to see your anchors from these spots.
Choose at least 1 large upright tree that will make a presense as an achor. Choose at least 1 large growing orolder weeping Japanese maple as an anchor. Make sure your anchors provide color contrast with spring color, summer color, and fall color. When you choose trees that provide dynamic contrast, it will make your garden pop. Make sure to not forget to use yellow in your landscape design. It is the most underutilized color that will make your green and red Japanese maples show up better, while also holding its own in the garden. Picking a yellow tree as an anchor is great way to insure you are utilizing this dynamic contrast.
2. Once your anchors are in place, then you can add your flare. Flare are Japanese maples that provide a dynamic contrast in texture, size, shape, habit, and color with the anchors. If your anchor is large upright green Japanese maple with orange fall color, think about planting dwarf weeping Japanese maples where they can grow under the canopy that might provide red color in the spring with yellow or red fall color. When you plant this flare with the most dynamic contrast it will spark that natural appeal everyone loves. Remember to choose maples that give different textures. Large leafs selections near smaller leaf selections. Open habits near tight growth habits. Weeping selections near uprights. Its all about contrast. Keep in mind the 15-20 year heights of these trees and remember you always want to be able to see your anchor from your main viewpoints.
3. Once the anchors and the flare are in place, then you place the signature pieces to the garden near the walkways. These signature pieces may be unique rare dwarf selections that you want to show off to those who walk through your garden. Often Japanese maples with variegation end up being signature pieces because you want to be able to walk up and see the variegation on the tree. During this process remember you still wan to be able to see your anchors from your main viewpoints. Contrast is still important in placing your signature pieces, but they are some of your last maples in the landscape.
4. Fill every spot in the yard with a Japanse maple's 15-20 year size in mind. It takes careful planning of 15-20 year sizes and the use of many dwarf Japanese maples.
5.Ground covers are key! If you notice our MrMaple Garden utilizes a lot of seedum of different colors. This can be where you use yellow to contrast underneath red trees and red to contrast underneath green trees. Don't use a ground cover that gets larger underneath a dwarf Japanese maple. It will take away from maple's size and the garden overall. Whatever groundcover you choose, make sure it has a non-invasive root system that won't compete too much with the shallow root system of a Japanese maple.
Other tips: When placing a tree near a dark colored home, a green Japanese maple will often provide more color contrast than a red Japanese maple. Lighter colored homes may be contrasted best with a red Japanese maple.
Coral bark and yellow bark Japanese maples often show up really well when the viewpoint has a backdrop of a brick home.
Keep in mind 15-20 year sizes especially near homes. The roots are non-invasive but you don't want to misshapen a tree by planting it too close to the house. It is also good to think about how close you want a large upright to be near your roof and gutters in 15-20 years.
These are the main keys to a MrMaple Garden. With so many different Japanese maples available, you can pick maples with plenty of contrast throughout your garden.
How to Build A Traditional Japanese Garden Last September, Matt and I were talking about how we would love to go Japan, but we just didn't have in our budget since I knew I would be saving for a wedding ring and Matt and his wife were having a child.
Less than a week passed and we got an email that asked if we wanted to go to Japan paid for by a Japanese TV Show. It was almost unbelievable but we filled out paperwork and sent them an introduction video. It didn't' seem real until we got off the plane in Japan with a TV crew filming us.
One of our first stops was Nakada Nursery. Nakada-san and his staff were so friendly. Nakada-san told us he was going to teach us how to make a traditional Japanese garden. Traditional Japanese gardening replicates what can be found in nature. As our first step, Nakada-san took us out in the wild to show us how Japanese maples grow naturally in the wild.
Nakada-san showed us how Japanese maples grow naturally in the wild near his nursery in the Fukushima prefecture.
Notice how the Japanese maples lean out toward and over the water In the Fukushima prefecture, Japanese maples can be found near the river jutting out over the water. They are not growing straight at all. In fact they are crooked, but extremely beautiful and graceful. Nakada-san pointed out that it is the trees at the top of the mountain that grow straight up. In this region it is evergreens on the top of the mountains like Japanese pines and cedars.
This was my hardest and most important lesson on Japanese gardening. Trees should look natural and paint a picture of a scene found in nature. If we were going to recreate this natural beauty, the Japanese maples would have be planted crooked, not upright. They were going to have to jut out over the water feature.
The next day we spent time digging up trees and trimming them in a traditional Japanese style. Trees are trimmed and pruned so as to maximize the amount of light hitting the leaves. Limbs that would get shade, should be pruned out to give more energy to those branches that get more light.
Then came the planting. We started with 3 piles of dirt and a few rocks. While we placed each tree, we did it under the direction of Nakada-san who continued to how us how to make the garden appear natural. We planted the pine trees straight up at the top of each hill. Then we planted Pieres japonica near the top of each mound. This paints the picture of the natural elevation change. Then we took the Japanese maples and planted them leaning out over the "waterway". The finishing touch was placing eco-mats around the garden to fill voids. The eco-mats where trays filled with native trees like oaks, stewartia, and other ornamentals that grow really close together and have been cut back to make a small ground cover that gives the appearance of smaller young trees.
The finishing touches included pouring maple leaves in fall color down the river section of the garden. This created a momiji river that added an extra artistic effect for the garden. It was an honor and a privilege to be taught in Japan how to build a tradtional Japanese garden. I hope you can incorporate some of these ideas into your Japanese style garden.
Matt, Tim, Nakada-san and his employees who helped in training us how to build this Japanese Garden.