A tree dipped in dark chocolate? – Yes please!

Springtime, this year, has been a very pleasant mix of cloudy, rainy days and days filled with warm sunshine. Yesterday was one of those amazing sunny days that remind me of my childhood. Everything in the garden is coming alive with springtime freshness. The air smells clean and sweet with the scent of early flowers and newly mowed lawns and… Teriyaki! Someone in the neighborhood was enjoying the weather with their outdoor grill.

Spring foliage is a deep brick-red color.

With rain in the forecast for next several days, I knew that I had better mow what little lawn still remains in my garden, or it would become a more difficult task in a week or so when the weather will allow me another opportunity. Every time I do mow my lawn, I dream about a new conifer planting bed to build here or expand there, further reducing my workload by reducing the surface area of my garden that is filled with lawn. That being said, I do still love to lay on the cool grass as much now as I did when I was much younger.

Laying there on the grass, breathing in the assortment of scents as they seem to randomly drift by in unseen clouds of enchanting delight, I took in the sight of my garden from this lower than usual perspective. I drifted back to the days of childhood when I would play with army men in the grass and garden beds where I grew  up. As I lay there, enjoying the moment, and the memories of those boy-hood adventures so many years ago, I began to rotate myself to take in more of my garden from this unique perspective. Eventually, as I slowly spun myself around, my eyes fell upon one of my favorite small Japanese Maples, Acer palmatum ‘Tsukushi gata’.

Brick-red spring foliage begins to harden as light green veins become more pronounced, matching the color of the stems and branches.

Complementing the light green branches and stems of this small tree, the new foliage begins to emerge with deep, brick red color. As the leaves grow and begin to harden, their distinctive light green veins seem to pick up the color of the stems and provide another point of interest. As the foliage matures through the spring and begins to darken as summer begins, noticeable bright green, ornamental seed clusters dangle from branches and continue the color coordination. As summer heats up, the leaves darken to almost black and depending on variables of heat, humidity, intensity of the sun, perhaps even hours of daylight, the dark leaves may show different shades of chocolate with green undertones. With the onset of the shorter days and cooler nights of autumn, the leaves begin to brighten with orange tones until leaf-drop and the bright green branches and stems are exposed for the winter.

Dark, chocolate colored leaves cover the small tree through the summer.

I have had my little tree for 15 years or so, and it must have been over five years old when I planted it. It is no more than five or six feet tall and probably eight to ten feet across its breadth. ‘Tsukushi gata’ would be a very nice small tree to grow in a container on the patio or deck, and certainly will be a well-loved addition to any smaller garden where larger trees will just be too big. The smaller scale of this tree fits well with some of my miniature and dwarf conifers to make a very nice rockery island where the ‘Tsukushi gata’ sits atop a rocky mound with a collection of conifers and other dwarf and miniature plants all working together to make a very delightful space.

Looking out the window, I see that the predicted rain has arrived, and my barometer confirms that we are likely to see little good, warm sunshine for at least a few days. Perhaps the sun will chase away the clouds in time for me to take another trip around my garden with the mowing machine and allow me another warm evening to enjoy my garden from a prostrate perspective.

Conifer Lover

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