Tony Dick­er­son an­swers your ques­tions

How should I care for my young acer?

Garden News (UK) - - Contents - TONY DICK­ER­SON

Q Please can you tell me how I should care for my acer? Mrs O Black, Fi­ley, North York­shire

A Your young tree ap­pears to be ei­ther acer ‘Sil­ver Car­di­nal’ or ‘Red Flamingo’, which both have var­ie­gated fo­liage. The young leaves open a pink­ish colour and, later, the fo­liage turns dark green with ar­eas of paler var­ie­ga­tion. The re­ally dra­matic fea­ture, how­ever, is bright red leaf stalks and young stems. On young growth, leaves are lobed, but adult leaves are tri­an­gu­lar in shape, quite un­like the typ­i­cal maple leaf.

‘Sil­ver Car­di­nal’ and ‘Red Flamingo’ can be grown as trees, but they’re of­ten hard pruned as young plants to cre­ate more shrubby growth, with mul­ti­ple stems on a short trunk. This makes them more suit­able for smaller gar­dens and dis­plays the bright red shoots bet­ter.

To achieve this you want to prune your young tree in the first win­ter to about 50cm (1¾ft) above two pairs of strong shoots. These need to be short­ened back in spring to en­cour­age them to branch. Acers are very prone to bleed­ing from prun­ing cuts, so it’s best to do this be­fore the end of Jan­uary or sooner, while they’re to­tally dor­mant.

Prune out any dead or dam­aged shoots in the sec­ond win­ter and shorten the main shoots back a lit­tle. In the third win­ter re­move any very low branches to dis­play the bark. Also, re­move shoots grow­ing into the cen­tre of the tree to pre­vent over­crowd­ing.

Other acers to prune hard to en­cour­age multi-stemmed growth in­clude the pinkstemmed A. pen­syl­van­icum ‘Ery­thro­cladum’ and

A. pecti­na­tum ‘Mozart’, which has white-striped, red-pur­ple shoots over win­ter pre­ceded by bright yel­low au­tumn colour. Both grow to around 6m (20ft).

Acer ‘Sil­ver Car­di­nal’ is sim­i­lar to ‘Flamingo’

For the best dis­play in a small gar­den prune acers hard for brighter stems

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