Big container Maples

Discussion in 'Maples' started by Fabrice, Feb 8, 2011.

  1. Fabrice

    Fabrice Active Member Maple Society

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    Northern France
    I have this project over time to settle the big container ( 23 inches in diameter, at waist level )I have in the middle of my little garden and put a maple in it that would go upright first and then spread out so that we could walk under it )
    Do you think it could be done ?
    What cultivars would be most adapted ?

    Last edited: Feb 10, 2011
  2. jacquot

    jacquot Active Member Maple Society 10 Years

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    Larchmont Z7, NY, USA
    Off hand I'd say a japonicum, but the width of the container sounds a bit small for something you want to get fairly large. Mine tend to grow upright and then spread, and the larger leaves make for a nice feeling to walk under. I have aconitifolium where I walk under it, but it is in the ground and larger than what you would get in a container. It is now about 10 or 12 years old. I have seen fairly large maples in containers that size at the local nursery.
  3. Fabrice

    Fabrice Active Member Maple Society

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    Northern France
    Thanks David.
    I'll look into your info right now.
  4. jacquot

    jacquot Active Member Maple Society 10 Years

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    Larchmont Z7, NY, USA
    I'm not sure how much color you can expect from your maples in the fall there, but the japonica offer great color usually. Other possibilities that I really like, and might do well in a container waist high, are the thread leaf maples. I have a Koto no Ito in the ground that is taller than me at 10 years and absolutely stunning. It would need more attention for pruning--they get pretty wide but remain more dense and 'bushy.' I'm still leaning towards japonicum for you, and there are many choices.
  5. Fabrice

    Fabrice Active Member Maple Society

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    Northern France
    The main problem I see would be its exposition to the South in summer.
    The weather here could be compared to that in UK.
    Do you think it would take sun alright ? for I read semi shade would be best.
  6. prairiestyle

    prairiestyle Active Member Maple Society 10 Years

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    Omaha, NE, USA
    My first thought after reading the initial post was Acer palmatum 'Omure yama'. It is said to grow upright at first, and then begin to grow outward with pendulous branches. The best picture showing this habit is in one of the Vertrees books, possibly the pocket guide. Though as jacquot said, the container size could limit eventual growth, and it would surely take a while for a grand, weeping specimen to develop to the size desired.

    Japonica are indeed a good choice for outward growth and great fall color.
  7. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    Most any willowy upright Maple such as Sherwood Flame,
    even Burgundy Lace, would make an ideal Maple for having
    as a showpiece large container plant that can be easily
    be maneuvered under when tree gets some size and age
    to it.

    Omureyama is a very good selection but the trouble with
    this Maple is it is so hard to find the exact same plant
    as shown in the Vertrees second edition book of J.D.'s
    fine plant as pictured from his Roseburg garden.

    We have to keep in mind that for the Maples that cascade
    in order to maneuver under them then either we have to
    force these trees to grow taller or we prune out much of
    the cascading branches in order to be able to walk under
    them. An upright dissectum such as Seiryu might be a
    better choice once the tree is of mature age. Although
    some of the red atropurpureum dissectums can also
    trained to grow upright, create a round head with some
    cascade of the outward branches but for a container
    grown tree we will have to have some real patience
    and time to eventually get our desired result from
    a dissectum. [A word of caution is that a red or
    green dissectum once they reach a certain size
    or certain age will become less vigorous growing
    trees over time. This can cause some real havoc
    later with any internal and external disease issues
    once the trees slow down their growth rate. What
    happens is that the disease issues become much
    more noticeable and twig and branch dieback
    issues more frequent. I was mentored that there
    is a time line for how long we can keep a typical
    dissectum as a viable container tree and from
    what I've seen once these trees slow down in
    their growth rate it is very hard to correct and
    even live with, tolerate, a disease issue once
    this rate of growth happens. Think of it like a
    cancer that once the tumor is seen, it will only
    expand and infect other areas of the tree until
    the ultimate demise of the tree is inevitable.
    In some of the weeping cultivars this is a natural
    condition that once the tree is mature in the
    ground or grown as a long term in a container,
    its life cycle is on the downward slope for time.]

    Most any of the Japonicum aconitifoliums will naturally
    grow upright at first and then grow wider. Some of the
    very best and least fussy long term container trees I've
    seen were Aconitifolium. Long term here meaning can
    be kept in a large container for many years. I've seen
    some Maiku jaku that were 50 year old container trees.
    Hard to do this for that long of time with the palmatum

    The closely related Shirasawanum can also be kept
    as container plants for long periods of time as well.

    Many of the willowy upright growing Trident Maples can
    be grown as long term container trees without too much
    trouble as compared to several of the palmatum type

  8. Fabrice

    Fabrice Active Member Maple Society

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    Northern France
    Thanks Jim and Praieriestyle
    Kind of you to develop such rich answers.
    I read Burgundy Lace won't stand full sun, so that may be a problem.
    The best combination I find as for personal taste and requirements is Sherwood Flame but Vertrees doesn't list it among varieties grown in containers though.
    I'll ask my nurseryman about what he thinks would be best between Sherwood and Aconitifolium for I like them both.
    I like multiple trunks.
  9. maf

    maf Generous Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    Northamptonshire, England
    'Trompenburg' is another that has the upright at first growth, followed later by spreading almost horizontal branches, should work well in a situation like this. Nice structure, good colour, great leaf shape and does well in a large container in full sun here in the UK.

    (Sherwood Flame and Aconitifolium are good choices too!)
  10. Poetry to Burn

    Poetry to Burn Active Member

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    Philadelphia PA
    How does one accomplish root pruning and soil replenishment when the containers are huge? Even 8-10 yr old plants, if they are robust, will crowd a large container in a few years. It is quite a project to extricate, prune and re-pot.

    Anyone have experience performing this maintenance on trees in containers the size Fabrice describes?
  11. Fabrice

    Fabrice Active Member Maple Society

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    Northern France
    I woke up thinking about that... I think I'll give up the idea if it can't be done.
  12. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    Sherwood Flame and Burgundy Lace are
    directly related. Your intensity of light will
    not be as intense or hot as ours is and if
    you look around in this forum you will see
    a Sherwood Flame of ours that really gets
    no afternoon sun protection at all. It is
    not the open sun you have to be more
    concerned of, it is the hot afternoon
    winds, of which the misses home does
    provide some wind protection for her

    Generally it is good idea, prudent in
    some growing areas, to increase the
    size of the container every seven to
    ten years. When we take a Maple
    currently being grown in a 36" box
    and place it in a 48" box with new
    soil we can leave this tree in the
    new and larger sized box for upwards
    of 15 years, depending on the Maple
    and overall shape and size of the tree
    we desire. Adding in new soil every
    five years or so is not a problem and
    the tree does not have to be lifted out
    of the container, although I've done it
    even with Maples in 60" boxes. An
    old trick I learned years ago is that we
    can force the trees to have natural
    air pruning of the roots if we do not
    place the boxes on solid ground.
    Place a few bricks on the ground
    and then place the box on top of
    the bricks and from then on there
    is no need to lift the tree out of the
    box just to prune the roots. I am
    not fond of pruning roots anyway,
    unless we are forcing the tree to
    live in a root constrained area for
    many years of which we want the
    tree to scale down in size. Even
    the then 40 year old Ima deshojo,
    we had in the nursery in a 50 gallon
    concrete horse trough on blocks,
    for 30 years was never lifted out
    to prune the roots.

  13. jacquot

    jacquot Active Member Maple Society 10 Years

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    Larchmont Z7, NY, USA
    I'm trying to understand this. I live in a very climate where I have to move most of my containers into my unheated garage the winter. Are you saying that the larger containers in say a zone 7 or 6 environment would self prune in the winter if left outside and elevated? I'm not sure if you're writing about a milder climate like in northern France. This is a very interesting method. I've been fortunate to rehome many of my maples into the ground, but will always have some larger container trees, too, and have had varied experience overwintering if left outside.
  14. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    Perhaps I was mistaken but I had the impression
    that the Maple to be grown outdoors in France
    was to be left outdoors and not indoor protected
    during the Winter. I realize that for some of the
    palmatum type Maples that it may be resourceful
    to place them in protected areas during the colder
    months in areas that are subjected to prolonged
    periods of cold but what do we gain from this
    approach if our ultimate objective is to plant
    these trees in the ground. For young and
    juvenile trees left in let's say five or seven
    gallon containers we do not have the same
    issues with portability that we would have
    with trees in 24" boxes or larger in size.
    I am not trying to be facetious but good
    luck moving a 48" box into a garage for
    the Winter. Even a forklift might be
    challenged to lift and move a 48" box
    with a decent sized tree in it into a
    garage or enclosed protected area.
    The berm approach may even be
    a better way to go as I've seen it
    done on a grand scale at Toichi
    Domoto's nursery in Hayward.
    Whereby the large boxes were
    placed in a berm, surrounded on
    three sides with banks of mounded
    soil to Winter and Summer wind
    protect them.

    Container growing is not for everyone.
    Small container growing is one thing
    but to place a juvenile to close to
    mature aged tree in a large container
    requires some long term thought as
    to what we want from those plants.
    Years ago I bought a significant
    collection of Reticulata and Retic-
    hybrid Camellias. All 25 of them
    had been in a 15 gallon container
    way too long in my mind, so I
    went out and bought twenty five
    32 gallon trash cans, cut four
    rectangular shaped drainage
    holes near the base of the cans
    and then proceeded to transplant
    every Camellia into those cans
    and have not looked back since.
    Yes, in time some of those old
    Camellias that were rescued
    were planted in the ground,
    albeit not all at my location
    but at the time of purchase
    I was looking at trees that
    were potbound, starting to
    look distressed and felt it
    was my duty to try to save
    them as best as I could.
    Well, only a couple of them
    have perished since twenty
    years later.

    A long while back we had
    a discussion in theMaple
    in regards to some
    newly available, portable
    and elevated plant containers
    with pedestal feet that were
    not only portable, can be
    moved with relative ease
    but were in my mind better
    than the wooden (cedar)
    boxes I was much more
    familiar with in the nursery
    as well as at my home and
    elsewhere. The trouble with
    the wooden boxes is that
    they do not hold up well
    after years of use. After
    about seven to ten years
    gaps in the wood sidings
    start to develop and with
    that a noticeable loss of
    soil can be a problem each
    time we hose water. Plugging
    up those gaps can be achieved
    but even in time our renovation
    can deteriorate and we end
    up having the same problem
    all over. If we lose soil we
    also lose water and thus a
    good drink of water during the
    Summer may all go to waste
    as in some cases due to those
    gaps more water is wasted than
    is applied to the roots. Then
    after a few years of having a
    Maple in let's say a 24" or
    30" box and we decide to
    move it, I can pretty much
    tell you that when we lift or
    drag that box we are going
    to tear away the bottom boards
    from underneath that box and
    wish we had never attempted
    to move that box. The nice
    thing about placing the wooden
    boxes on top of bricks is that
    the bottom of the boxes do not
    rot out so easily, even upon
    super saturation from long
    term hose watering. The
    bottom boards stay pretty
    much intact. If the boards
    stay intact we lose less soil,
    keep more water in the root
    zone and will lesson the amount
    of stress upon that tree.

    The plastic boxes, in 24", 30"
    and 36" up to 48" as I remember
    it, provide a container that can
    be useful for a number of years,
    unlike the wooden boxes that
    do deteriorate over time. So,
    if we want to think in terms of
    a large container of which the
    tree is to be left in that container
    for a long period of time, it may
    be better to place the tree in a
    structure that does not deteriorate
    and with this in mind those large
    sized plastic boxes still are a
    better long term planter than any
    current day wooden box will be.

    Yes, we can get some air pruning
    of the roots during the Winter months
    but we also have to keep in mind we
    do not have a lot of root growth during
    this period. Some people feel that we
    have no root initiation at all but in trials
    whereby bare root trees have been
    heeled in the ground or into sand
    or humus, when we lift the tree out
    of that soil medium we can see new
    shoot growth that has developed on
    those roots but not a lot of it until
    the soil temperatures get above
    and are sustained at temperatures
    right at or above freezing.

    I've written before in a once thriving
    and well regarded, almost defunct
    now UBC forum of some of the
    parameters of container growing
    in which there were a number of
    different issues at play that may
    force us to grow those plants in
    a variety of ways: grown in ground
    or grown in containers outdoors,
    grown in grown or grown in
    containers indoors, grown in
    ground or in containers in a
    greenhouse or even in a well
    lighted atrium. We have the
    ability to do the same with
    a variety of Maples as long
    as we have a notion of what
    we want from those plants.

    I can say this that once we
    decide to leave a good sized
    Maple outdoors in a cold climate
    in a permanent large container,
    that either we let the tree better
    adapt to its location over time
    or we can try to harbor it from
    the cold but if we choose the
    latter portability and area
    constraints may be a problem.

  15. amazingmaples

    amazingmaples Well-Known Member

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    In this whole thought of the freeze, I still do not understand if the trees know they are in the ground or in a container when it freezes. The reason I say this is the fact that when it "freezes" where I live, the ground freezes just as solid as the soil freezes in the countainer. Both are just as frozen. now when I did bonsai and had large trees in small containers i di suffer issues but bonsai trees have issues with most seasons.
    I have now 800 japanese maples in containers and I have not seen problems from the trees being completely frozen but what I have had issues with is frost damage in the delicate varieties. This damage occurs late in fall when a tree does not loose it leaves before a big frost/freeze and also in spring when trees open up too soon and get hit by a big frost/freeze.
    The one thing I saw with bonsai was that by keeping a tree dwarfed by cutting its root system, it makes the tree at risk for many problems. where if you keep a tree in a container larger than its root system the problems greatly reduced.
    In a nut shell, I have had many container trees which have been frozen blocks and each year they come back great.
  16. Galt

    Galt Active Member

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    Oregon, USA
    I think the primary difference between the evaluation of a frozen container and frozen ground is has to focus on a couple of factors. One, a tree in the ground, after "X" number of years will have a root system larger than that of a container maple. For "X" number of years post-planting, the root system of the in-ground tree would be small enough that the two situations would be somewhat analogous. At the point the root system is larger, then we obviously have more roots to work with.
    The second factor would be the ability of the ground or the top layer of earth to insulate the the roots below from prolonged or progressively falling ambient or windchill temperatures.
    The issue with the potted maple, depending on the size, material and location of the plant, is that the ability of the container to insulate the maple is limited or finite. If the pot is exposed to any degree of temperatures in the "killing" zone for any length of time, the temperature of the pot will drop until it reaches the ambient temperature. One has more time for the same maple in the ground depending on size, age, etc.
    A maple in dry potting medium or dry conditions will not be as resistant to freezing as the water, and subsequently the presence of snow on the ground, will further insulate the roots.
    If we assume that allowing our pots to freeze means some degree of bottom-kill, then the question is how much of the bottom can we lose before we lose the top and then the plant. The other side of the coin is the top of the plant, and how much cold or freezing the wood can survive and still be viable.
    Along the majority of the west cost, there seems to be little risk of overwintering maples out of doors and allowing some freezing of the pots to occur. Sometimes the stress on the plant will allow it to succumb to other diseases and conditions, but rarely, if ever, will we lose a maple to temperature alone---that is until the "big" freeze comes, and then we learn the hard lesson of being at the mercy of mother nature.
  17. maf

    maf Generous Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    Northamptonshire, England
    Yes, as Galt says there is a big difference between frozen ground and a frozen container. -10°C (14°F in USA) is generally considered the magic number for root death in containerised Japanese maples. Exposure to temperatures below this for any length of time will surely kill a container tree (the larger the container, the longer it might hold out) while the in-ground trees have their roots nicely insulated by mother Earth, only the top few inches exposed to the killing zone.

    In the west coast of North America, UK, and Northern France we are lucky enough not to face these temperatures normally, and so our container maples generally survive the winter. Those maple people in zones 5, 6 and 7 are not so lucky; hopefully we won't join them in that "big freeze" any time soon.

    My container maples often freeze solid in the winter and seem to suffer no ill effects, with no apparent difference between mild (say -3C) and harsh (-10C) winters. Obviously the white feeder roots are destroyed by these temperatures but it seems to me that their destruction is a natural part of winter, and the storage roots always seem to be sufficiently lignified to survive. Almost like a reflection of the top growth, where woody branches survive the winter but soft, fleshy, (over-fertilized) growth generally fails.
  18. amazingmaples

    amazingmaples Well-Known Member

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    can I ask then, if the temp than goes down to around 0°F for a period of time then a in the ground would start to suffer similar to the tree in a pot at the higher temperature?

    My understanding of soil is it is a very poor insulator add to that japanese maple trees tend to have shallow roots so this is why I ask.

    As noted, I live in a warm zone so I have little chance of seeing these low temps, but i do get people wh come from the neighboring hills and they do see temps this low and lower so it is nice to have knowledge about cold.
  19. maf

    maf Generous Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    Northamptonshire, England
    0°F doesn't seem to be a problem for Japanese maples in the ground. The lower limit seems to be somewhere near -20°F (−28.9 °C ). (From experience of people who live in colder climates than myself).
  20. Fabrice

    Fabrice Active Member Maple Society

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    Northern France
    We normally never have -10° C temps here in Northern France, very cold winters happen but don't last long. I am just one mile from the sea, so it helps.
    However I did protect the maples I have in containers this past winter in bubble wrap.
    Better safe than sorry.

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