When designing a garden for all seasons it is important to include cultivars that have both good structure and eye-catching bark or foliage. Coral Bark Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku’) is one of my all time favorites on all accounts. Coral Bark Maple is a vase-shaped deciduous shrub or small tree that is native to Japan, China and Korea. Hardy to zones 5-8, this beautiful specimen grows to a mature height and width of approximately 15-20 feet and displays delicate palmate lobed leaves that are approximately 2-5″ in length and almost fern-like in appearance. The Coral Bark Maple is considered to be one of the most prized of the upright palmate maples during the winter months for its stunning coral-red bark that appears after the leaves fall.
The name of this cultivar, ‘Sangu Kaku’ means coral tower (sango meaning sea coral and kaku meaning tower) as if to suggest this lovely pink-barked specimen resembles coral rising upward from a reef. The foliage display starts in spring when leaves emerge as a beautiful yellow-green with red edging and small reddish-purple flowers are an added surprise when the tree is viewed up close.
As the season progresses a succession of colorful foliage continues to occur. In the summer months once yellow-green foliage with red tips turns to light green and the insignificant flowers are followed by samaras that ripen in late summer. In autumn the show continues as the foliage turns to an amazing bright golden-yellow and then to a fiery orange before the leaves drop. The coral-red bark is visible as the temperatures and leaves fall and the show continues throughout winter and can be striking against a backdrop of snow.
Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku’ prefer to be grown in full to partial shade and should be sheltered from harsh drying winds. They prefer a moist, organically rich, well-drained soil but are adaptable to a variety of soil types. Coral Bark Maple requires little to no maintenance but should be monitored for insects or disease on a routine basis as one would with any prized landscape tree. Best pink coloration appears on young branches. In order to stimulate new growth of stems with better pink coloration the tree can be occasionally pruned. Since Japanese maples are generally grown for their attractive foliage and shape, ‘Sango Kaku’ is best served as a focal point in a location where the beautiful pink bark in winter and colorful foliage can be appreciated. It will fit into just about any type of landscape whether a foundation planting, formal or informal garden, grouped in a perennial/shrub border or as a single specimen and will bring years of enjoyment to you outdoor space.
As Always…Happy Gardening!
Author: Lee@Landscape Design By Lee, 2013, All Rights Reserved