Acer palmatum Bloodgood

Acer palmatum “Bloodgood” – Japanese Maple

Deep purple foliage in summer, turning brilliant red in the autumn.

Habit:

This is a small tree, growing up to 5M if left un-pruned. It starts life as a somewhat hemi-spherical shrub, and can grow with several stems. As it grows, small inner branches will self-prune. When this happens do not just prune back to the living part, but take that stem off where it joins a larger branch. The leaves are not very finely divided, as in the “Dissectum” cultivars, and the tips of each lobe do not dry out, unless in drought.

Origins:

A. palmatum come from China and Japan, where varieties have been grown for hundreds of years. The variety “Bloodgood” is an improved selection of “Atropurpureum”, the improvement being in the brilliance of the autumn colour, rather than form or summer foliage. The origin of “Bloodgood” is thought to be around 1800.┬áIt is named for the Bloodgood Nursery founded in 1793 on Long Island, shortly after the Civil War, and when Japan was still closed to the outside world.

Soil / Aspect:

A. palmatum “Bloodgood” prefers acid soil in common with all other varieties of this species. The purple leaf colour holds up reasonably well in light shade, but, in truth, this is not a good plant in shade as the summer leaf colour can be a bit green and the autumn colour is not the best. However, it does not like to grow in ground that is baked dry in summer. So, this is another of those that prefers to have its feet in the shade and it head in the sun.

Maintenance:

A. palmatum varieties can be grown as Bonsai. So pruning is certainly possible. However, it has to be done with care. In a garden context, you should use a pruning saw for all but the tiniest branches. And always take the piece you are removing back to the next largest branch, and cut flush to that branch. Never leave a stump. Do not prune like a hedge; but instead, shape methodically by carefully choosing individual branches to remove. In due course the lower branches will all die back and be removed, leaving bare stems that creates an interesting planting space especially for early flowering bulbs that make the most of the time before the canopy forms.