Japanese maples are often thought of as exotic and a little difficult – plants for special conditions and prime locations. This is true for many of the more delicate kinds, but these beautiful trees can also be grown as more general parts of the garden, for their grace, and above all for the glory of their fall colors. Some are slow growing, but others out-pace many trees, adding 12 to 15 inches of new growth each year. In that category, the Tobiosho Japanese Maple is our top-pick for a reliable, fast-growing tree, for gardeners who want to enjoy the beauty of Japanese maples, without a lot of work.
The Tobiosho Japanese Maple is one of the toughest varieties available, and one of the fastest growing. Fifteen inches a year of new growth when young is normal, and before you know it this tree will be a glorious presence in your garden. Within 10 years it will be 15 feet tall and around 12 feet across, growing naturally into a multi-stem tree of great charm. It will continue to grow more slowly, reaching at least 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide after another 10 years. Its medium-sized leaves have 5 or 7 lobes, spreading out like the fingers of a hand. Because they are relatively broad, and the leaf is not tiny, this variety is much more resistant to burning and scorching than most others, and this tough tree stays looking great from spring to fall. The leaves emerge in spring a beautiful pale green, with a thin red edge and red tips. Then it open fully to be a warm medium green color. Fall is the big moment for this tree, and then we see it gradually transform, first turning golden yellow, then becoming suffused with orange, and finally turning scarlet red in a blaze of glory. Often all three colors are on display at the same time. On mature trees, after the leaves fall, there will be dense clusters of small red maple keys, called ‘samaras’, which decorate it all through the early winter.
Grow the Tobiosho Japanese Maple as a beautiful specimen tree on a lawn in a smaller garden. Classic shade trees are too large for today’s smaller gardens, especially in urban areas, but this tree is just perfect. Plant at least 8 feet from walls, hedges, property lines and the outer line of larger trees, and allow enough room for its full development. It will naturally have several trunks. You can control this by some selective pruning in winter when the tree is young, if you want a single trunk, or just two or three trunks. This tree is also a great addition to a woodland area, adding beauty and interest underneath the crown of taller deciduous trees. Be careful not to plant in deep shade, as some sun is needed for the best fall colors.
The Tobiosho Japanese Maple is also a lovely choice for the back of a larger shrub bed, where in a few years it will create its own shade, allowing you to grow shade-loving azaleas, hydrangeas and other shrubs beneath it. Use it in a row to mark a boundary, or to line a driveway, where it will soon have a real presence. It will color well even in areas where many other maples and oaks don’t color much because the fall is not cold enough, so this tree is a great way to enjoy fall colors in warmer zones.
Grow the Tobiosho Japanese Maple is full sun in zones 5 and 6, if the soil is not too dry. In warmer zones morning sun and afternoon shade are best, giving you good color, but protecting the tree from the full intensity of the summer sun, which can scorch the leaves. Plant it in moist but well-drained soil, and supplement it with plenty of rich organic material like compost or rotted leaves when digging the planting spot, and mulch with more each spring. This hardy and reliable tree normally has no pests or diseases and it is an easy choice if you are unfamiliar with growing Japanese maples. Water regularly and deeply during the first two growing seasons to build a good root system, and don’t expose it to dry conditions during the summer.
The Japanese maple, Acer palmatum, is a famous and popular tree that grows naturally across the hills of Japan, Korea and parts of China. There are many exotic and unusual forms available, and the one called ‘Tobiosho’ is fairly close to the natural tree, but selected for its outstanding fall colors and more compact growth. It was spotted in the fall of 1982 by Milt Tobie, the production manager at the time of Iseli Nursery in Boring, Oregon. The name is both a play on Milt’s name, and on the brand name of a highly-regarded professional Japanese secateur. Milt has sharp eyes, spotting the outstanding colors of this tree among hundreds of seedlings growing at the nursery. We highly recommend this tree to all lovers of fall color, to those who want a beautiful small tree for their garden, and for those who love Japanese maples but who want an easier plant to try their hand at growing them. This tree is highly recommended, and we know our stock will soon be gone. Order now, because you will simply love this tree.