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Originally published Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Japanese maples offer texture and color to Northwest landscapes

Japanese maples offer texture and color to a landscape.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Spring landscapes with azaleas, rhododendrons and dogwoods look simply incredible. But as magnificent as these landscapes are, they are not complete without the addition of a Japanese maple with its lacy, fernlike foliage.

These Japanese maples are from the dissected group, meaning they have leaves that are generally seven-lobed, each deeply incised and serrated. The trees form a mushroom shape with twisting, gnarled branches. I read somewhere that you can expect a lace-leaf Japanese maple to reach the size, height and shape of a Volkswagen beetle.

The most popular varieties of the dissected, or lace-leaf, Japanese maples are Crimson Queen and Tamukeyama. These old varieties have stood the test of time, with Tamukeyama dating back to Japan in 1710.

Crimson Queen is known for its heat tolerance and ability to retain its deep red color during the summer. It will reach 4 to 5 feet tall after 10 years. That seems speedy compared to the popular Red Filigree Lace that only reaches 3 to 4 feet tall after 10 years. This is a great example of why Japanese maples are popular tub or container plants, giving an exotic Bonsai look.

Many garden centers also carry both Garnet and Ever Red selections, which reach about the same height as Crimson Queen. The most popular green-leafed selection is Seiryu, which has dissected leaves and an upright habit reaching close to 12 feet after a decade.

Now is a great time to buy your lace-leaf Japanese maple while selections are greatest.

Norman Winter is a garden lecturer and author.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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