The naked silhouette

The sky was dark gray. The clouds were thick and low rendering the nearby hills to appear more as shadows than the beautiful, rich, green, tree-covered mounds that I knew them to be. The rain was falling at a 30° angle in a heavy, fine mist, which contributed to the obfuscation of the bright and warming rays of the sun. Looking at my watch, I confirmed that it was near noon, though outside it was dark enough that one might confuse the time of day by several hours thinking we were in the midst of twilight.

I poked the few hot coals which remained of the morning fire and added additional fuel to warm the house since we had no intention of venturing out on this day. Once the fire had settled into place, I did the same in my favorite chair. My wife joined me with a cup of tea and the newspaper while I sat and gazed out of the picture window which overlooks the main section of my garden. The cat insisted he needed some attention before he nestled himself back upon his favorite chair near the same window, through which was the focus of my attention.

Acer palmatum dissectum 'Ever Red'
The sculptural framework of an old lace-leaf maple.

By now, all but a few leaves had fallen from my deciduous trees leaving my collection of conifers as the primary players in my winter garden composition. As I slowly scanned the garden, admiring how my tiny, newer plants looked happy and healthy in their new homes and enjoying the forms and textures of older specimens that had been maturing in this garden for quite a number of years, my eyes came to rest upon the naked silhouette of a very beautifully shaped, older Red Laceleaf Japanese Maple.

Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Ever Red’ is one of the old standards in the world of landscape gardening. A Japanese selection, imported into Europe and given the name, ‘Dissectum Nigrum’, it made its way to the United States and was marketed commercially under the name ‘Ever Red’. Nomenclature purists will insist that the only legitimate name is ‘Dissectum Nigrum’, but it is grown in nurseries from coast to coast with the name ‘Ever Red’ and one is more likely to find it in the local garden center with that name.

Acer palmatum dissectum 'Ever Red'
Beautifully clothed during the summer with red lacy leaves.

Of course, this time of year, and of particular note on this dim, gray, drizzly day, was the characteristic branching structure of the tree. The lace-leaf maples, for the most part, are known for their low-growing, mounding, arched to weeping branches and their curvaceous main trunk. I like to keep my lace-leaf maples trimmed with a somewhat open form which, even during the peak of the summer growing season, when the finely dissected, colorful leaves cover the plant, allows a veiled glimpse of the inner structure of the tree. Then, after the brilliant autumn show of brightly colored leaves comes to its finale and the foliage falls and is swept away, the magnificent beauty of the sculptural framework may be appreciated to its fullest.

The rain eventually slowed and came to a brief end on that otherwise gloomy day. Within minutes the moisture began to accumulate in tiny droplets along the branches of my lovely, naked tree. Its intricate form became highlighted with tiny reflective sparkles of light as the clouds thinned and the sun began to poke its powerful golden rays of light down into my garden for a few moments, before the next shower began.

Conifer Lover

12 thoughts on “The naked silhouette

  1. Dear Ed,

    Thank you so much for the beautiful photo of your aged red leaf maple in its bare boned winteriness and your very vivid poetry about settling in for the day in homebound comfort.

    Naomi Rudo


  2. Ed, What a wonderful photo! Personally, I think Japanese maples are one of those trees that are much more interesting (and beautiful) in their winter ‘nakedness’. I have a client who has an old Japanese maple on their property and their three girls play in the tree like a fort. They call it the grandfather tree and they make decorations for grandfathers with pipe cleaners and then crawl around in grandfather’s branches. Talk about a tree that is loved!


    1. My goodness, I apologize for missing your comment months ago! You are so right about having the right plants in the garden for winter color and interest.


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