The arrival of fall is always an exciting season and nowhere is that truer than in the garden. Suddenly those trees and shrubs that have passed the summer in cooling green are bursting into glorious color, and those who live in cooler areas might take all this for granted, but others fly across the world to experience the glory of an Northeast fall.
So when planning your garden you don’t want to miss out on the fun and choose plants that will only be green all year. The maples are well-known for fall color, and among the American native trees, a couple stand out. Besides the Sugar Maple, which is always spectacular and popular, the lesser known Red Maple is a tree that deserves more attention and planting, since it produces the most amazing rich red fall colors of any tree. However trees grown from seed can be variable in color, so those in the know make sure they choose a named variety, which is guaranteed to really deliver when those cool nights arrive. Of all the varieties of Red Maple that exist in the garden world, ‘Autumn Flame’ is undoubtedly the best.
Here’s why. First, the Autumn Flame Red Maple begins to color early, up to two weeks before most other fall trees, so you won’t be waiting and waiting for color. This also means that even in warmer areas this tree colors well, even without hard frosts. Also, it remains in color for several weeks before the leaves begin to fall, so it will be the queen of your garden for the whole fall season.
Second, it grows faster than the ordinary Red Maple, putting on two or even three feet of growth per year in its early years, so you won’t be waiting long before you have a beautiful shade tree growing in your garden.
Third, the foliage is smaller, and the crown more rounded and compact, so the tree has excellent proportions and scale to fit into a smaller garden.
Fourth, this is a male tree, so it does not produce the well-known maple keys, which of course are the seeds. This means no cleaning up those pretty but annoying seeds, and no seedlings sprouting in your garden beds – a great saving on garden labor. With all these advantages, this really is the best red maple you can choose for reliable fall color and for an excellent shade tree too.
The red maple grows wild from Canada to Florida, and west into Texas and Minnesota. It is usually found growing in damp areas and along streams, but it is also found on dry sites, and it grows in a wide range of soils. Its leaves are characteristic, and normally only have three lobes, with possible two smaller ones lower down the leaf, unlike the sugar maple, with its five distinct lobes. The leaves of the Autumn Flame Red Maple are 2-3 inches long and wide, and grow opposite each other on the twigs. Being a male tree, older trees will produce some small, greenish-yellow flowers in early spring, before the leaves appear, but these will not produce any seeds.
The Autumn Flame Red Maple is a special, selected form of the common red maple, which was patented in 1964, so this is a variety that has stood the test of time and still outsells newer, untested varieties. Cheaper seedling trees will not have its early, reliable and spectacular fall colors.
Plant your Autumn Flame Red Maple in a sunny or partially shaded part of your garden, allowing plenty of room away from buildings and walls for it to spread – do not plant closer than 20 feet from your home. It will grow well in almost any kind of soil, and in almost any kind of moisture conditions, although soil that is rich and damp will produce the largest trees. Keep it well-watered for the first few years, and then it will resist all but the most severe periods of drought, when it will appreciate a big, deep drink once a week.
Use a shade-tree fertilizer each spring for the first few years of your tree’s life with you, and it will reward you with rapid growth, and be free of major pests and diseases. Keep the area below the tree free of grass while it is young – bark mulch is a good way to do that, as well as helping to keep the soil moist. Be careful not to hit the trunk with a mower or string trimmer, as the bark on young trees is thin and easily injured.
This special form of the red maple is justifiably popular, so although we have a good supply, our trees will quickly sell out, so order now and enjoy this wonderful tree, and be ready to be blown away in fall by the spectacular scarlet of the Autumn Flame Red Maple.