Great Design Plant: Vine Maple

Great Design Plant: Vine Maple

Whether you are interested in a well-behaved, smaller-size ornamental tree, wish to add some height to some native planting place, want to inject some fantastic fall color and winter attention in your garden or simply love something distinct, the Pacific Northwest indigenous vine maple (Acer circinatum) may be the solution.

Pendleton Design Management

Botanical name: Acer circinatum
Common name: Vine maple
Origin: Native from southwest British Columbia to Northern California, generally within 200 miles of the Pacific Ocean.
USDA zones: 6 to 9 (find your zone)
Water requirement: Drought tolerant once established but prefers a moisture-retentive dirt
Light requirement: Morning sun and afternoon shade or dappled light daily
Mature size: Rarely exceeds 30 feet in its own natural habitat; garden size is generally 12 to 14 feet tall and wide
Benefits and tolerances: The seeds and buds provide food for squirrels, chipmunks and numerous birds.
Seasonal curiosity: Year-round
When to plant: Spring or fall is the ideal planting time.

Photo by Walter Siegmund

Le jardinet

Distinguishing attributes. In their natural surroundings, vine maples develop as a understory little tree or large shrub under much taller forestry trees, such as Douglas fir and western red cedar.

The one shown here is tucked away over the forest at the edge of the property. Its wonderful sinewy branches are concealed each branch, in moss wrapping around its neighbor like a vine.

Spring highlights. Each pleated glowing green foliage slowly unfurls in spring such as a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. Dark reddish and butter-yellow flowers mature to two winged, scarlet seedpods called samara.

Photo by Walter Siegmund

Beautiful bones and rocks

Autumnal shades. Hillsides all across the Pacific Northwest region ignite in fall with the fiery color of vine maples. Adding these ornamental natives to your garden brings that same drama, together with the daring shades of tangerine, gold and scarlet persisting for many months.

Ross NW Watergardens

Winter silhouette. The smooth, olive-green bark is as beautiful as that found on any of the specimen Japanese maples and brings color to the winter landscape.

How to use it :
As a transitional shrub involving the ornamental garden and the natural landscape outside
At a native plant layout
Within an ornamental shade garden, in which it will partner beautifully with ferns, hosta and bleeding heart(Dicentra spectabiis)
As a specimen tree in the garden; it is especially suited to small spaces.

Vine maples are usually have several trunks, even though you can occasionally find single-trunked trees. Pick a shape and shape which will work best for the space. Avoid planting wide-spreading multitrunked vine maples near paths in which their mature spread may be an issue.

Le jardinet

Dwarf cultivars. There are a few smaller cultivars of cherry walnut, such as ‘Little Gem’, shown here. This looks spectacular in container houses, especially where the orange fall color and red winter stems can take center stage in the color scheme.

Le jardinet

The foliage of ‘Little Gem’ is a miniature version of its big brother — perfectly in scale with the petite tree.

Planting notes. Dig a hole as deep as the root ball but twice as wide. Backfill around the tree using the indigenous soil mixed with some well rotted compost. Sprinkling bonemeal in the planting hole can encourage root growth. Keep the tree well watered until it’s established.

So whether you are searching for a little tree in order to add interest to some thoughtful shade garden, to help indicate the transition from garden to the wilder landscape outside or to have something different in your container garden this year, a vine maple might be the perfect answer. I can guarantee that in the event you include one, you’ll quickly be searching for an excuse to buy another.

More: 5 Amazing Small Maple Trees

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