Sweet Shade

Amur Maple (Acer ginnala)
Fragrant flowers of Amur Maple are attractive to bees and butterflies

This is an Amur maple (Acer ginnala) from a seedling I planted by my front porch five years ago. It is now about 12 feet tall with a spread of about 5 feet. After many years it will grow to about 15 feet with a similar spread and a trunk almost a foot in diameter. It came into bloom earlier this week perfuming the air and is filled with hundreds of bumblebees and other bees, hover flies, butterflies, and wasps. It’s quite noisy during the day.

I wanted a small tree by the front porch that would not become massive yet shade the porch from about noon onward, had fragrant bee and butterfly attracting flowers, and nice fall color. The Amur maple met all those requirements. It fits in well with springtime fragrance theme I have for the gardens on the south and west sides of the house. The fragrant blooms of Amur maple follow right after the flowers of crab apples, plum, and clove currant are done and before the Canadian lilac. Blooming at the same time as the Amur maple are azaleas some of which are also very fragrant. In the fall the leaves of the Amur maple turn yellow, orange, and bright red.

Amur maple is not without its problems. For one thing it seeds prolifically and that can make it a weedy plant. In this area, however, it is not much different from crab apples, green ash, red maple, and silver maple all of which make many seeds that sprout anywhere there is some exposed soil. Apart from not planting it (or any prolific seed producer) the only solution is to pull up seedlings before they take over, something that is usually done in most gardens anyway.

Amur maple grows best in full sun on moist well-drained slightly acidic soils of moderate fertility. The lower branches can be trimmed off in the late fall to create an open space under the tree where other plants can be grown. Under an old Amur maple (which had to be cut down this year after it split three ways) there are crested iris, woodland anemone, downy phlox, and snow trillium. Under the maple by the porch are sedum, columbine, creeping phlox, and dwarf iris.

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