Four months ago I purchased a Japanese Maple: Acer palmatum Dissectum--a green, lace-leaf canopied maple. It wasn't my first choice; neither are the laceleaf Dissectums nor the green leafs my favorite. I wanted a red maple, an Acer sieboldianum or, preferably, A. palmatum sango kaku. But the UD Botanical Garden sale was sold out of most cultivars and varietals, and only had a few uprights which I did not at the time want. But there was one fine looking specimen with a lovely mushroom top canopy and full foliage; it looked to be a robust grower (as robust as the slow-growing Acers can be), and so out came the checkbook.
At the time I knew exactly where to plant it: near the tip of my own little garden promontory. The space receives ample sunshine and shade (of all the spaces in my predominantly shade garden, save for one little patch that receives abundant sunshine and in which I planted deep blue/indigo bearded irises), and deserved more attention that it otherwise commands. When installing our stone patio (not of neat manicured cuts but rather of organic, unexpected natural shapes that lent the entire enterprise a puzzle-like game of assembly) and outlining three beds with short stone walls, I decided to give the patio a tear-drop shape. I extended the stone wall outwards, giving it, the patio, and the bed a gradual curvature, and thus creating a point where two walls meet, and where the walkway and patio converge. Given my rock fetish, I capped the point at which they meet with a lovely piece of red Pennsylvania shale.
But once I arrived home, I hesitated (as I always seem to do) and began to question my decision. This is a perpetual psychological game I play, as if the act of questioning will engender a command, a veritable mark of certitude like the aural snap produced by the judge's gavel when it meets the desk. No such luck. My game is my game, and I must subconsciously like paralyzing myself.
Now, though Viet and I bought over 600 pounds of stone, and though I “liberated” a few large flat stones from misuse and disuse, and though my friend Will gave me a few fine flat stones, I still lacked enough to round off the patio into the tear-dropped shape I desired.
So I decided after purchasing the Japanese maple to employ a bit of French subterfuge: trompe l'oeil. I would round off the patio space not with more (expensive or stolen) stone, but with a slightly curved garden bed. How ingenious! (And we silly Americans had the childish, scolding audacity to dispose of anything French, even going so far as to replace the signifier of “fries” with that importunate word “Freedom” as if that was going to change anything.)
Time got the better of me: end of the semester grading, a publication-related deadline, and then Europe. Fast-forward to 7 August 2010: I scraped the soil surface of the envisioned bed and situated the maple where I thought it should be. I launched my hunt for dwarf boxwoods to create the border I desired, but found none—thankfully so, because the more I looked at the bed, the more I disliked the idea, or at least the idea of situating the maple in that space.
And so, four months later, on 14 August 2010, my Japanese maple received its home: at the tip of my little garden promontory. It is rather unassuming there, and rather looks nice (as my initial instincts foretold) under-planted with Sedum ellacombanium and a bit of Lysimachia Creeping Jenny. Gardeners so often want to create a dazzling display, a memorable aesthetic feast (to satisfy our inner drama queens?!). But sometimes the gardener does desire subtlety, to create a natural visual-scape that belies its ideational origins.
For the record, I also purchased another Japanese maple at the Rockford Park Plant sale, though I do not know what cultivar it is (I suspect it is Omure yama Matsumurae, as its young leaves begin life a vibrant red, “fade” to a crimson and then gradually to a deep green; and, moreover, its upright branches have become pendulous, the mark of the Matsumurae, though I have resorted to securing them to stakes). This one I situated in a chartreuse pot which I thought a very handsome contrast to its vibrant red foliage, and it shall remain there until I can decide where to plant it.
But Matsumurae likes its location very much (it grew rapidly during my time in Europe), and I rather think the juxtaposition of plant and pot is quite smart.
I should learn to trust my instincts.