Acer griseum: playing the long game

A small tree with green leaves in Spring, surrounded by other plants, next to it and growing under it. It's only about 1.5m high.
Acer griseum, in May 2020.

With some plants, you really have to play the long game. No instant gratification, just planning, and years of waiting. Acer griseum (Japanese maple, also known as the paperbark maple) is probably my favourite autumn-winter tree, for it’s leaf colour, and then the bark, which is a kind of deep golden cinnamon (orange-brown). When the afternoon sun hits the bark, it glows and is truly one of the great beauties of winter.

A closer photo of the same tree, but in Autumn with a mix of greeny-red and red leaves. It is surrounded by other plants, including a purple Verbena bonariensis.
The tree in November 2020

A. griseum is a very slow growing acer. It comes into leaf later than any other that I’m aware of, but then it keeps its bright scarlet autumn leaves longer, well into November.

Close-up of one of the leaves that's almost scarlet-red, with just some hints of green. You can see the texture of the leaves and the larger and finer lines within the individual leaf.
The scarlet-red autumn leaves of Acer griseum

My A. griseum is about 5 years old and planted in the front garden. This magnificent one, from the Sheffield Botanical Gardens, must be at least 70 years old, probably much older. As you can see, it glows in the autumn light. It’s what I’m aiming for with my tree. It has a way to go…

A very large version of the tree, from the Sheffield Botanical Gardens. Mine is 1.5m high, this one must be more than 10m high and about 4m wide. It's in full leaf but going orange to red and you can see the bark glowing in the autumn light.
Acer griseum at the Sheffield Botanical Gardens, November 2019.

Getting up closer to a younger A. griseum in the botanical gardens, you can see the trunk and it’s paper-like bark.

The trunk of a different tree in the botanical gardens with filtered light. The bark a a mix of looking mottled and peeling off.
The trunk of a different Acer griseum in the Sheffield Botanical Gardens.
This was a younger tree, probably about 50 years old.

When the winter sun hits, it shimmers a rich warm orange-brown, which you can already begin to see on my young tree.

This the the young trunk of my tree. You can see the same effect as the previous picture, only this one has the sun on it and you can see it glowing in parts.
The glowing paperbark of Acer griseum

I placed my tree to the front of the front garden, so that it’s easy to see both from the lounge room window, and from sitting down and viewing it from above in our bedroom. It should capture the autumn-winter light perfectly.

Acer griseum is going to take many years to get to just half the height and breadth as the one in the botanical gardens, but I adore this tree and it’s a highlight of winter; I feel it’s worth playing the long game. I’m going to continue to enjoy the journey.

An overview photo of the front garden. In the distance (upper right) you can see the young autumn colours of the Acer. In front of it is a larger tree, a Quince, along with different perennials, some of which are still flowering in purples and yellows.
Looking at the Acer from another area of the front garden. It’s small, but already the glowing potential is there.

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