Six on Saturday: Maples

Maples are annoyingly misrepresented here. Japanese maples are so much more popular than they should be, and imposed by just about every so-called ‘landscaper’ with something to prove, although few of them know or care how to take proper care of them. However, maples that actually develop as shade trees are still uncommon or even rare. Only two species are native locally. Of these, box elder (#5) is rather unimpressive, and bigleaf maple (#6) is potentially too big and too messy for refined home gardens. Norway maple has a bad reputation, but ‘Schwedler’ was a good street tree.

1. Acer platanoides – Norway maple is invasive elsewhere. I do not trust it here. I grafted noninvasive ‘Schwedler’ Norway maple on five naturalized saplings. None took. Ugly saplings survive.

2. Acer platanoides – Norway maple should look like this. I do not remember the name of this cultivar. It supposedly has better bronzed color than ‘Schwedler’. I still prefer classic ‘Schwedler’.

3. Acer rubrum – red maple performs quite well in mild climates, and works well as a street tree with symmetrical and rather compact form. I do not remember the name of this cultivar either.

4. Acer circinatum – vine maple should be more popular here. It is a sculptural understory tree like the countless cultivars of Japanese maple, but is not a Japanese maple. That is why I like it.

5. Acer negundo – box elder should probably be less popular than it is. It is the most common maple of North America, and is native to every state except for Alaska and Hawaii. It is wild here.

6. Acer macrophyllum – bigleaf maple is also native, but only to the West Coast. It is the sugaring maple of the West. This specimen is exemplary, but drops a lot of leaves into a few backyards.

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:


Make Copies Of Favorite Plants

Honeysuckle can layer naturally, and will most certainly layer if a portion of stem is simply buried or weighed down under a rock.

Where they grow wild in riparian environments, box elders, willows and cottonwoods are not as clumsy as they seem to be. As the rivers and creeks that they live so close to erode the soil around them, they often become destabilized and fall. Yet, this is actually part of their plan. If their original roots remain somewhat intact, the limbs and trunks develop new roots where they touch the ground. Eventually, these rooted limbs and trunks develop into new and separate trees.

In home gardens, a similar technique known as ‘layering’ can be employed to propagate one or a few copies of many other plants. Many sprawling vines and ground covers, such as ivy, honeysuckle, blue rug juniper and trailing rosemary, are likely to develop roots where their stems touch the ground anyway. Rooted stems need only to be found, dug and separated as new plants. Shrubbier plants need a bit more help.

Azalea, rhododendron, camellia, holly and just about any plant that has low stems that can be bent downward into the soil can be propagated by layering. Redwood, elm and magnolia do not always have limbs that reach the ground, but any that do would be pleased to cooperate as well. In fact, there are only a few woody plants that do not develop roots by layering, such as some pines and most eucalypti.

A layered stem only needs to be partly buried to develop roots. The tip should protrude from the soil a few inches. A short stem may barely protrude above the soil. A layered stem of a plant that develops adventitious roots very efficiently can be as long as a few feet. A very flexible stem can easily be held down by the weight of the soil that it gets buried with. A more rigid stem may need to be held down with a rock.

Before getting buried, the stem should be cut about a third of the way through to promote development of roots. The cut should be made on the underside so that it stays open when bend downward and buried. A bit or rooting hormone powder applied to the open wound accelerates the process. It works almost like taking a cutting, but without completely separating the cutting from the parent plant right away.

Once buried, a layered stem should be watered regularly until it gets dug while dormant (or mostly dormant) the following winter. By that time, the rooted stem can be dug and pruned from the parent plant, and then planted where desired. Because it takes a few months for enough roots to develop, layering should be done in spring.