November plant of the month

The paperbark maple, Acer griseum, brings delightful shades of red, copper and bronze to gardens from autumn through till spring

Acer griseum at RosemoorThis Chinese native was one of many plants introduced to the UK by E H ‘Chinese’ Wilson. A specimen in Westonbirt Arboretum is believed to be a Wilson original from his 1901 introduction.
 
Perfect as a specimen tree in a small garden, it is grown for its brilliant autumn leaf colour of reds and oranges and for its attractive, papery cinnamon-coloured bark (hence the common name of paperbark maple).

As the bark peels, it reveals smooth, orange-red bark beneath. In spring, coppery young foliage unfurls along with the clusters of tiny yellow-green flowers. By this time, the flowers will also have developed into clusters of paired, winged fruits, typical of many maples.
 
Acer griseum AGM is not fussy about where it is grown, but it does like a sheltered spot and for the best autumn colour, it needs to be in full sun. It grows very slowly and may take up to 50 years to achieve its full height and spread of 10m x 6m (in ideal conditions). Any pruning should be done in early winter, as it bleeds if cut after midwinter.
 
At Rosemoor, we have several specimens grouped together in the Winter Garden for maximum impact; younger specimens can be found near to Rosemoor House and in the China and Himalayas section of the Bicentenary Arboretum.
 
It is best planted where the sun can shine through the wisps of bark peeling from the main trunk giving it a luminous quality. In the Winter Garden, the stark white trunks of birches (Betula) make a fabulous contrast when used as a backdrop to the dark chestnut coloured bark of the Acer. The bright evergreen foliage of Ilex crenata 'Variegata' contrast in colour and form, growing happily in the shade of the trees. We have also underplanted these acers with heathers, Scilla, hellebores and skimmias to create a planting scheme for winter and early spring.
 

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