Colourful fall leaves collected from the 7 small Japanese maple trees I am growing in my garden.
The colder days and nights of fall have really brought the city’s Japanese maples (Acer) trees into full form. Lately, as I walk through Toronto neighbourhoods, I am blown away again and again by the vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows on display. This is their season.
Japanese maples are the perfect urban tree: they grow slowly, are fairly hands-off, have beautiful form, and they bring a pop of colour to a small space that shifts and transforms through the seasons. You can also eat them (battered and fried) or use them to dye threads, yarn, and fabric. While a mature tree can be quite expensive to buy, a small seedling of some of the more interesting types can run about $20-35. And if you’re lucky (as I have been), you may know someone who has seedlings popping up in their garden that they’re willing to part with freely or cheaply.
The week I photographed this Herbaria was also the week that I started to seriously pick up the pace in shifting my houseplants indoors and I think it shows. The Japanese maple leaves have their autumn colour and this is the last sighting of outdoor basil until next June.
From Left to Right:
Top Row: 1. Salvia elegans ‘Golden Delicious’ If only you could smell this chartreuse-leaved pineapple sage through the screen. Delicious. This one is definitely coming inside for the winter. 2. Sunflower ‘Vanilla Ice’ (Helianthus debilis) It’s a short, creamy white sunflower with a cheesy rapper name. There are times when the name of a specific variety leaves me with no choice but to grow it and this was one. 3. Tomato ‘Bali’ I have a thing for ribbed tomatoes and have made it my mission to grow them all. I quite liked this determinate variety and will definitely grow it again.
I recently purchased the wide angle/macro lens to use with my iPhone. I bought it specifically for the macro lens as I find that the built-in camera lens is wide enough. There are other cellphone lenses available; however, I bought this one because it was affordable at $20 for the pair and looked to be of good quality.
Japanese Maple and Persicaria virginiana flower
Here’s how it works:
My first ever Japanese Maple (Acer)!!!
I have always wanted one, but it was one of those plants I stayed clear of under the condition that I would get one eventually, but only when I got rich and/or became a homeowner. I bought a Purple Smoke Bush (Cotinus coggygria) instead; the poor man’s Japanese maple. Nearly ten years later, the Purple Smoke Bush is a monster [ed: I just checked and it turns out I bought the smoke bush in 2003, although i wanted a Japanese Maple long before.] and I am still gazing longingly at other peoples’ Japanese maples.
Looking back, it comes as no surprise that I would still be pining for one. Chances were pretty good that I would never meet the ridiculous self-imposed conditions required.
And so I decided that this was the year we would get one and grow it in a pot rather than waiting for the magical moment that may never come. You see, way back then, I was under the mistaken impression that Japanese Maples are uber expensive. And it is true. A single, mature tree can cost hundreds of dollars. But seedlings are affordable, and growing your own from seed costs nothing but patience and time. What’s more, every seedling is unique, offering you the chance to grow a few and then select the one you like best to grow on.
In the end we got ourselves a little 10″ tree, but it’s not a store-bought tree. Our tree comes with a story and a personal history. A friend collected the seed and another friend (Barry) grew the subsequent seedlings on for three years. It’s a special tree and a strange step forward in my gardening life.
Now all I have to do is keep it alive!