The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Japanese maple. Acer palmatum ‘Atropurpureum’

japanese maple in AutumnI bought this little tree on eBay three years ago. It looks bereft now in autumn and it is rapidly losing its leaves. They have turned from dark purple to a stunning red. For nine months it delights me. The foliage is small, dainty and exquisite. I had always thought that Japanese maples were a bit prinky, until I got one. Somehow this diminutive tree has crept under my skin. I would like to buy more.

Old friends had a large one in a stone pot in their garden and it looked superb. I was disappointed when mine arrived. It looked so small and tatty. Somehow I imagined that it would magically have thick foliage from day one like the tree I had seen at my friends’.

I potted it on in year two and it settled down and started to look much happier. This year it has really come into its own and loved the rainy summer. I plan to move it to a bigger pot in the spring.

Our acer lives near the east facing back wall of the cottage so it gets morning sun and shade in the afternoons. I reckon that during its first two summers it needed more water than it was given. Next year I am planning to set up automatic watering for the pots at the back of the cottage as they easily get forgotten when we are busy.

These Japanese maples are slow growing trees. In the spring and summer the delicate leaves of our specimen are a dark burgundy colour which looks pretty as a contrast to the pale walls of the cottage. In autumn, the leaves turn to this superb red. When I moved the scented geraniums out of the pots beside the back door, I replaced them with the maple so that we can see it when we open the door and enjoy the autumn colour as the leaves fall.

Maples can be expensive to buy but a brief foray onto the Internet this morning tells me that they are a cut price bargain in the Autumn and Winter. Thompson and Morgan is selling an 18 specimen for £8.99. So if you would like to own one this would be the perfect time to buy one. You wouldn’t really start to enjoy the little tree until the Spring but the saving would make it worth the wait.

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  1. lenny

    i’ve just been given a japanese acer for a birthday present. i’m not good at gardening so i don’t know whats best. planning on planting it in the front garden. don’t want to kill it, (i’m good at that) so i’m going to be careful. i’ve got some acid compost, will it be alright in that, it did’nt do my hydrangers any good. looked at all the tips on your site, so i’m hoping its going to live long enough to enjoy it.

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Brenda

    The ants are a problem and you need to get rid of them.

    I found this thread which is interesting

    Hope that this helps.

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