A better understanding of 'Koto no ito'

Discussion in 'Maples' started by JT1, Oct 20, 2012.

  1. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    Hello,

    'Koto no ito' is one of my favorite trees. I love the softness and texture of its leaves when viewed from my patio. The fall color is outstanding. A great all around tree with a lot of interest during the growing season and fall.

    I have always been fascinated with its long leaves that hang down like the strings of a harp. A very fitting name, since 'koto no ito' translates to harp strings. Being American, I always thought of the tall narrow harp that I have come to know growing up in the US. The tree is also tall and narrow much like a harp.

    Recently I had the great pleasure of meeting someone from Japan that is now living here in Northeast Ohio. I always love the opportunity to meet someone from Japan and invite them over to see my garden and my bonsai collection. I am always fascinated with understanding the true meaning behind the names of the Japanese maples that we love to grow in our landscape.

    When showing her Koto no ito, I was excited to learn more about the translation. During our conversation, I realized what I thought of as a harp is actually different from the Japanese harp that the tree was name after. To give me a better understanding, she sent me this link to a YouTube video. I thought it was something to share, since I know there are others who love this tree. Also, the video shows beautiful images of Japanese maples in fall color, which I thought is very fitting for this time of year.

    I hope you enjoy:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBe8jIJQgaU
     
  2. Atapi

    Atapi Well-Known Member

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    Hi John,

    How are you?. I happened to picked up a Koto no Ito this past Saturday at a local nursery for 1/2 of the price from $140, quite happy. The tree has a nice shape and it is turning its color to yellow (pics). I am not sure how old is the tree but the trunk is almost 2" in dia. and it is about 6-7ft tall from the crown of the trunk. I made sure this one is planting above the ground this time :).
    Do you know what is the height of this tree, say in 10yrs?. Is there a basic rule of thumb to guess the age of the JM tree by the trunk dia. or other factor?.

    Thanks & cheers, Steven
     

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  3. Schattenfreude

    Schattenfreude Active Member

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    A stunning specimen you have there! And at $70?? I'm totally jealous.... <sigh>

    Kevin in KC
     
  4. JT1

    JT1 Contributor

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    Hi Steven,

    The 10 year estimate on this variety is 6'x3' (TxW). You found a great tree for a wonderful price. This is the time of year to find deals, because some nurseries would rather clear them out, than to keep them over winter and find room for them next spring as new stuff comes in. The last few years we have added to our collection by taking advantage of such sales.

    I will tell you that our Koto no ito has slowed down in growth substantially now that its acclimated to our environment. Expect it to maybe put on some growth initially, then it will come to a slow crawl.

    Mine is happy in morning thru mid-afternoon sun, but would not tolerate the full spectrum of afternoon sun.

    The first couple of years it needed above average water to get adjusted to our climate (note, even more than average for a newly planted Japanese Maple). Some varieties will tolerate warm roots in the summer, but this variety needs to stay cool, so a good layer of mulch on the surface is a must, or a planting close by that will provide shade to it's roots would prove beneficial. It's not a rugged variety.

    Glad to hear you didn't plant it in clay. Make sure you have a good amount of soil around the sides of the root ball (just a tip, I can't tell from the photo). I like to tell people to remember the planting site should be large enough for a gentle mound (plenty of soil to insulate along side of the root ball with plenty of room for the roots to grow into) and not a small area with a steep slope along the sides. It needs to be a gentle slope like a mound and not a steep slope like a mountain. It takes more soil initially to do it right, but it pays off in the long run.

    The fall color on my tree is bright orange with some afternoon sun. In more shade its closer to yellow. Just be mindful that too much sun will result in no fall color, because the leaves will not make it through late summer in all day sun.

    Congratulations on a great tree!
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2013
  5. Atapi

    Atapi Well-Known Member

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    Hi John,

    As always, thank you for your insight on the Koto-No-Ito. Yes, I felt very lucky to acquire this beautiful tree. Actually I also bought a 'Skeeter's broom' and a 'Fireglow' for similar trunk size.
    I am learning it from Charlie that if we can afford a larger tree to enjoy it now rather than start them from the first year graft. Although I have been acquired quite a few of those young one in the last five years. My original approach was due to the cost of having more varieties vs. less with larger trees. But I now learn that JM is a slow growing species and requires some attention through out the growing progress and there is no guarantee they all make it and even if they do there is no telling how they will look like five or ten yrs from now.

    Back to the Koto, my tree will get shade in the morning and full sun in the afternoon cause my new JM garden is back to the forest (tall trees). There is an easement (forest) about 20ft between our property line and the back yard of the other house (opposite side) that the county left it untouched. The sun comes from the east side (other house) in the morning and gets block by all the tall trees in this little forest so my garden will not get any morning sun until noon on.

    So according to your last sentence, this tree will have some orange color next year due to plenty of afternoon sun. Thus I will need to watch for the summer heat in order to try to preserve those leaves for falls next year. Do you think with the dripping irrigation system will help the tree against the sun?. Also do you only use pine bark for mulch or alternate it with other mulch (shredded)?. When I heard you say put an extra layer of mulch, I am thinking you may mean one layer of shredded for more moisture reservation then another layer of pine bark on top of it?. please comment.

    Thanks much, Steven
     
  6. Schattenfreude

    Schattenfreude Active Member

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    Steven,

    Full afternoon sun will probably fry the leaves of your Koto no ito. Mine is sited on the east so it gets plenty of morning sun, but shade after noon or so. She's turning a beautiful shade of yellow currently and has never had any toasted leaves in July or August.

    Can you provide some shade for your trees in the afternoon? What a shame you don't live on the other side of the easement. Then you'd have the ideal site for a Japanese maple forest--- morning sun and afternoon shade.

    Kevin in KC
     
  7. emery

    emery Renowned Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    Although I grow Koto-no-ito in morning light and afternoon shade, it's worth noting that "Japanese Maples" (4th edition, Vertrees/Gregory) lists this maple as capable of growing well in any light exposition. The mature height is listed as 2-4 meters, ( ~ 6-12 ft) which probably means the authors have seen a larger one than I have. Mine doesn't put on much vertical growth either at around 6 ft.

    Full sun means different things depending on where you are. If you experience some oceanic haze for example, as in parts of Oregon, or DC or more coastal Virginia for that matter, the sun has much less strength than in someplace far inland. So that will effect how tolerant a plant can be. For example some people have reported Hogyoku burning in full sun, whereas for me it thrives in that exposition.

    @Steve, you should consider buying the Vertrees/Gregory book, it's packed with information and IMHO is a must have for anyone interested in Japanese Maples.

    One last note, I find Koto-no-ito is always beautiful in fall but the colors are not reliable. Sometimes it is a very good orange, but if it's too wet (like this year) it goes directly to brown after a brief yellow. What's nice is that the leaves don't turn all together, and since mine is quite full it looks splashed with green, yellow and brown. And the brown leaves do stay on the tree for some time, so that even when totally brown it's an attractive accent plant.
     
  8. jacquot

    jacquot Active Member Maple Society 10 Years

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    This is one of my very favorites. Mine gets morning and very late afternoon sun. At about 15 years old it must be 8' x 8', and I have done some pruning to be able to see the structure of the tree. It's just past prime color now, but has been consistent every year and always great. I agree that the texture is just outstanding as is the cascading form with the leaf structure.
     
  9. Atapi

    Atapi Well-Known Member

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    Hi Kevin,

    Yes, I wish I was on the other side of this forest. Well, I didn't become JM enthusiasm until six or seven yrs ago. I will take my chance next yr to see how the afternoon sun will effect the tree, perhaps with extra watering in Jul/Aug will work?.
    Tks, Steven
     
  10. Atapi

    Atapi Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for your input. Yes, I do have Vertrees/Gregory book but not the latest edition. I also read their 'light' comment but since this is my first experience with this JM garden setting (just built it this falls) so there will be a lot of learning experience nxt yr. Some of my JM trees this yr got leaf scorch in the summer thus there is not much leaves left for falls color. I will put in a dripping system next yr and see it will make any different.
    Thanks again, Steven
     
  11. Shelley Blaho

    Shelley Blaho New Member

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    Hello all!
    I just picked up a Koto-no-ito today on clearance- its my first Japanese Maple! Does anyone have any experience growing them in pots? I have a VERY large container(24+ x 24+ inches, heavy glazed Vietnamese terracotta- it took 2 men to pick it up- also a clearance prize!). I was planning to plant it in a protected area in the southeast corner of my yard a few feet from my brick house and the fence. I live in zone 5 and have had VERY good luck growing shrubs, trees and perennials in containers for many years. I normally would put a smaller plastic container upside down in the bottom of my container before filling with soil to improve drainage, but I wondered if I should in this instance since another post said to keep the roots warm?
    any insight is appreciated. Thanks
     

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