If you asked me which plant is my favorite, I would be forced to say, “On what day?”
As any mother would say, all of my plants are my favorites. It just depends on the season and what kind of year we’re having. Is it dry? I love sedums, agaves and salvias. Too much rain? Then I’m partial to roses, phlox and leaf lettuce.
That being said, my favorite plant du jour is Acer palmatum ‘Sango kaku’, coral bark Japanese maple. This tree is a four-season wonder, and it can be grown in the southern United States, as long as it is placed in dappled shade.
In winter its bark glows as though one of my children got out the day-glo crayons and colored it vivid red/orange/pink. Not only is the bark beautiful, but the tree stretches its branches upward and out like a cheerleader at the end of a cheer. In spring, delicate lime-green leaves edged in red begin to unfurl and glow against that red bark.
By summer A. palmatum ‘Sango kaku’ is covered in bright-green leaves minus their reddish tinge. So the tree takes a backseat to other shady performers, including ferns, coralbells and hostas.
Then, in the golden light of fall, its leaves turn a lovely yellow with orange highlights, as if trying to outshine the sun. In English ‘Sango kaku’ means “coral tower,” an apt name for this lovely, slow-growing tree eventually topping out at 26 feet.
For brilliant color in any season, you can’t go wrong with coral bark Japanese maple. I just wish I had room to plant one more.
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