Japanese maples are among the most desirable of garden plants, so they make an ideal gift tree, but if the garden they are heading for is in the South, some extra care is needed to make the best selection. Many Japanese maples, especially those with finely-divided foliage, can easily scorch and dry up during the summer, especially if they are exposed to full sun. So in warmer areas it is important to make the right choice. However some varieties have much greater resistance to sun, and the Ryusen Japanese Maple is one of the very best for sun-resistance. It can be grown in full sun right through zone 8 and only in zone 9 will it need the protection of shade during the middle of the day. The leaves will stay fresh and green throughout the heat of summer. Planting this tree in sun has the extra benefit of making sure that you get a really spectacular fall display, and Ryusen has one of the best displays of all the Japanese maples, producing a riot of oranges and reds that will be a highlight of any fall garden.
The Ryusen Japanese Maple is also a great example of a weeping tree. With branches that cascade vertically down, there are lots of opportunities to train this tree into various forms. It can be allowed to fall naturally over a wall or down a bank, in which case even a mature tree will be no more than five feet tall. It can also be staked to make a taller plant, with one or two long stems staked vertically, allowing others to cascade down. If this is done a stronger trunk will develop and the tree can be grown as much as 20 feet tall. It can also be trained onto a wall or fence, and grown in a small garden without taking up any significant space at all.
Another wonderful thing to do with this tree is to plant it in a tall pot and allow it to cascade down to the ground. This gives a very elegant and graceful form to the tree and can be done even if you only have a terrace or balcony to garden on.
The Ryusen Japanese Maple has leaves like a hand, with long lobes, but these are a little broader and more substantial than on many other cut-leaf forms, in keeping with this tree’s hardiness and sun-resistance. The new growth in spring is chartreuse green, turning into a beautiful, rich dark-green as summer comes. New leaves in summer are still chartreuse, making a lovely contrast with the older and darker foliage. In fall the leaves turn rich oranges and vibrant reds, rivaling the best display from sugar maples, but doing this even in the warmer weather of the South.
Like many of the older, classic Japanese maple varieties, ‘Ryusen’ was developed in Japan, by Kobayashi Maple Nursery, in Saitama Prefecture. It was released in 2000, so this is a new variety you will not see in older collections. In Japanese the name means ‘falling waters’ or ‘flowing river’ and it fits perfectly the pure cascading form of this plant – almost unique among Japanese maples, since other weeping forms are still quite rounded in their habit. Because of the year of its release an alternative name is ‘Millennium Green’.
When placing your new tree in the garden, choose a bright spot with soil that is not dry. Although it loves the sun, your Ryushen maple also likes moist, well-drained soil, so avoid hot, arid areas. Enriching the soil with organic material before planting, and using organic mulch over the root area will give lots of protection from dryness. This tree will also grow well in partial shade and the best fall colors will develop on trees that receive direct sun at least in the morning. In very hot areas protection from the afternoon sun may be beneficial, especially if the soil is a little dry.
To plant your tree in a pot, choose a tall one, or place it on a tall stand or the top of a wall. Make sure your chosen pot has a drainage hole and fill it with outdoor potting soil. Water well as soon as the top inch or two is dry, and use liquid fertilizer in spring and early summer to keep the growth vigorous and healthy. Speaking of health, Japanese maples are known for being almost pest and disease free, so this exotic tree is actually very low maintenance. It also needs no pruning and only needs staking if you want to develop a taller form to show off the perfect cascading habit of this wonderful new tree.
For a unique and special gift, the Ryushen Maple Tree will bring many years of pleasure as it develops into a living river of cascading branches, covered in beautifully formed leaves that make fall a real high-point. For a southern gardener who loves Japanese maples, this is choice number one.