One of the most popular tree varieties is one with reddish or purplish foliage. This colorful variation can be found in large shade trees like beech or Norway maple, in many smaller trees, from birch to crabapple, and in shrubs too. The rich, dark tones make a beautiful contrast with the green-leaf plants around them, and these trees are always admired. Among the Japanese maples, the variety called ‘Bloodgood’, with its rich red leaves, has been widely planted for a long time, but it has some limitations. It grows into a larger tree, reaching 20 feet tall and wide – dimensions that mean it easily overpowers smaller gardens. As well, particularly in warmer zones, the red leaves have an unpleasant way of turning a dirty purple-green once summer arrives, and they definitely lose their charm. If you love the look of this tree, but have a smaller garden, or live in a hot zone, then you should choose instead the Fireglow Japanese Maple, which looks similar, but has none of these limitations.
The Fireglow Japanese Maple develops into a well-formed small tree, typically reaching around 12 feet tall, and perhaps eventually reaching 15 feet. It is densely branched, and has an upright habit, with a rounded crown, so that it is rarely more than 10 feet wide. Those dimensions make it perfect as a specimen in a smaller garden, leaving plenty of room for other small trees. It looks lovely at the back of shrub beds, or planted in a row, perhaps along a boundary, or lining a driveway. The elegant leaves have 5 slender lobes, dividing the leaf deeply. Each lobe is toothed along its edges. These lovely leaves are a little larger, with slightly wider lobes, than the Bloodgood maple, so they are less prone to drying in summer – another plus.
It is in color though, where the Fireglow Japanese Maple literally shines. The new spring leaves are a gorgeous, brilliant red, and although it deepens, the color turns a rich burgundy, avoiding the dark purples and dingy greens of many other ‘red-leaf’ maples. Even in hot weather the leaves stay a bright and true red, which is very rare indeed, as gardeners in zone 8 know well. The tree looks especially gorgeous with the sun shining through the foliage. This makes the tree truly live up to its name, as it glows in the sunlight as if on fire, making a spectacular specimen. In fall the leaves return to the bright red they had in spring, looking gorgeous, and after they fall there is a great bonus. Once well-established this tree produces abundant crops of small, red maple keys (called ‘samaras’) which hang in bunches for months, giving your tree a festive look for most of the winter.
Although it grows smaller, you should still allow enough room for the ultimate height and spread of your tree, which deserves the chance to show itself off without competition. Considering that, don’t plant too close to a wall, in front of a ground-floor window, or too close to existing large shrubs and trees. The Fireglow Japanese Maple looks equally good as a lawn specimen or at the edges of a wooded area. In an Asian-style garden it finds a natural home, and it will also grow for many years as a container tree, where it will probably reach only 6 or 8 feet in height.
The Fireglow Japanese Maple will grow best in full sun in cooler zones, or with afternoon shade in hotter ones. It is hardy in zone 5, so it thrives across most of the country. Too much shade will reduce the intensity of the leaf coloring, and too much sun can cause scorching, especially if the soil is allowed to become too dry. The ideal soil is rich, moist and well-drained, and regular watering is needed, especially when the tree is young. With its relatively broad leaves, though, this tree will tolerate drier spells better than many other Japanese maples do. Pests and diseases are almost never problems, and once established its good growth rate will soon turn your young tree into a beautiful specimen.
The Fireglow Japanese Maple is a unique variety of the Japanese maple, Acer palmatum. This tree originated in Japan, as well as growing naturally in Korea and parts of China. Special trees have been treasured and collected by Japanese gardeners for centuries, and the tree is also popular in Western countries. The variety called ‘Fireglow’ was developed in Italy, by the Fratelli Gilardelli nursery in the Agrate Brianza region, not far from the city of Milan, around 1970. It was probably a seedling that stood up well to the hot summers of that area, so it had good credentials right from the start. It was given its name in 1977 by a nursery in the Netherlands. Since then it has proved itself to be a wonderful tree, for all the reasons we have outlined, and it is being planted with great success. Our stock of this ‘hot’ tree is limited, so order now, while we still have trees ready to ship to you – it could be a while before we have this chance again.