You have heard me go on and on about the wonderful year-round color that conifers provide for the garden. From time to time I have even discussed non-coniferous plants with exciting characteristics including, but not limited to, the great color they add to the garden. Today, I thought it might be fun to take a look at some of the most color-saturated plants in my garden and shortly after I began I realized that this will be the first part in a series on intense garden color.
Red is a color that conifers generally add to the garden in small doses. There is Picea abies ’Rubra Spicata’ with its blood red new foliage push in spring, but it is a rather quick display lasting only a week or two. Many conifers put on a spring-time show with their colorful, and sometimes, bright red cones. Some of these will persist in their colorful stage for several weeks to a few months while others have a shorter duration. For the longest lasting and most intense red color in my garden, I look to broad-leaved trees and shrubs.
Without a doubt, some of the best reds in my garden are provided by Japanese Maples and there are two which have become favorites of mine. First, Acer palmatum dissectum ’Crimson Queen’ (Crimson Queen Laceleaf Maple), is an older selection that has been used in gardens since it was introduced in 1965. Rich, purple-red leaves emerge in spring, slowly covering the weeping branchwork with deeply cut, lace-leaf foliage. There is a graceful delicacy to the way each individual leaf is held on the stem which gives ‘Crimson Queen’ its delightful good looks.
As the temperatures rise in summer, many red-leaf Japanese maples begin to lose their color and fade to a muddy green as the red pigment becomes an undertone to the green. ‘Crimson Queen’ holds up particularly well to summer heat – especially if planted in a location which will provide some afternoon shade. With the onset of autumn’s crisp, cooler temperatures, ‘Crimson Queen’ becomes a bright scarlet red exhibitionist drawing many eyes before she finally disrobes, showing off her internal structure.
Second, there is a newer Red Laceleaf Maple in town, one which has earned a tremendous reputation for unbeatable, dark, rich, reddish-purple leaves with color that just won’t quit! Holding its dark, rich color all summer long, ‘Red Dragon’ just brightens up in autumn before finally exposing its attractive branch structure through the winter months. Acer palmatum dissectum ’Red Dragon’ has a neat and tidy, dome-shaped, habit similar to ‘Crimson Queen’, but without the same delicate grace. That’s not to say that ‘Red Dragon’ lacks any beauty, in fact it is one of the most attractive Red Laceleaf Maples available today!
Adding these two Red Laceleaf Japanese Maples to your conifer garden will bring a pleasing addition of red color to complement the array of blues, greens and yellows available in today’s colorful conifer selections. Don’t just imagine your garden full of year-round color, make it your reality with amazing conifers and other exciting garden plants!