Jean Atkinson of Richbar Golf and Gardens says maple trees are the most popular shade tree sold by the nursery. (Black Press File Photo)

Jean Atkinson of Richbar Golf and Gardens says maple trees are the most popular shade tree sold by the nursery. (Black Press File Photo)

GARDENING WEEK: Maple trees provide shade, piece of Canadiana

Jean Atkinson from Quesnel’s Richbar Golf and Gardens says maples are their most popular shade tree

Special to the observer

Jean Atkinson, Richbar Golf and Gardens

The maple tree is the most popular shade tree that we sell at the nursery.

They provide shade, deliver spectacular fall colour and are the beloved tree of Canadians. There are many types of maples, each with their own characteristics and site preferences.

Most people are familiar with Sugar Maples because they are the source of that delicious maple syrup we pour on pancakes. And if you have ever been back east you may have been lucky enough to see those beautiful orange and red fall colours.

READ MORE: Making Birch syrup a ‘labour of love’ for Bouchie Lake couple

The Canadian native Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) prefers full sun to part shade and will grow up to 50-feet tall with a spread of 45 feet. The variety we sell is: “Fall Fiesta.” This variety will grow in Zone 3 and is resistant to leaf hoppers, sunscald and frost cracks.

Maple trees are susceptible to sunscald and frost cracks because their bark is very thin. It is a good idea to wrap newly-planted trees with plastic tree trunk protectors in the fall. Remove them in the spring and use them for several years as they expand with the trunk. The white tree wrap reflects light away from the trunk, protecting it from the temperature fluctuations of day and night. On sunny winter days the sun reflects off the snow and warms the inner cells just inside the outer bark.

Freezing night temperatures then damage these newly-activated cells. Sunscald is prevalent on the south and west side of the tree. Damage may eventually heal by itself but an application of pruning paint will keep the wound clean and prevent insects entering.

Red maples, Acer rubrum, form handsome, oval heads of dense, green foliage that turns fiery red in fall.

These shade trees can be grown in the sun to part shade. We have two varieties. ‘Scarlett Jewel’ turns scarlet red two weeks earlier in the fall than other maples and sports bright red blooms in early spring. This is a beautiful specimen tree that reaches a height of 60ft and has great frost crack resistance. ‘Northwood’ is a slightly smaller maple reaching a height of 40ft and has a rounded oval crown which turns orange-red in fall. This variety is drought tolerant once established. Both are hardy to zone 3.

The most popular of all is the Royal Red Maple, Acer platanoides ‘Royal Red’ because it keeps its purple leaved foliage all season long and intensifies in the fall. This is a beautiful specimen, slower growing with a dense, oval canopy and reaches a height of 33 feet. This variety seems to be less susceptible to powdery mildew during hot, humid summers.

If you don’t have the space for one of these large shade trees consider an Amur Maple, Acer ginnala.

This graceful small tree (15 feet) is one of the toughest adaptable trees we have. The foliage has a brilliant scarlet-red fall colour. Very hardy, zone 2, and drought tolerant.

We get many requests for Japanese maples but the bottom line is they just aren’t hardy here. However, this year we do have the Northern Glow Maple which is a hybrid of the Korean maple and Japanese maple.

The graceful leaves emerge bronze to green and turn scarlet in fall. A mature height of 15 feet and is hardy to zone 4.

I didn’t have much luck growing a Korean maple in our Richbar location but we did plant one in the hospice garden and it is doing very well.

This beautiful little tree may have a place in the right microclimate in your garden.

One last thing about maples is the when to prune them.

Wait until mid summer to prune. The sap is running freely in spring and if pruned the tree will lose excessive amounts. This advice goes for birch as well.

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