On the hunt for a Shantung maple at Metro Maples Leave a comment

April 18, 2023

One thing that may surprise you about North Texas gardens is they frequently indulge a passion for Japanese maples. In the leafy, older neighborhoods of Dallas–Fort Worth, Japanese maples fill the understory with wine-red leaves and a ballerina’s grace. Although they need deep soakings during droughty Texas summers (and are suitable only to the eastern third of the state, with Dallas–Fort Worth just on the edge of that region), Japanese maples grow well given shade and deep soil.

Some of my North Texas gardening friends are also growing the sun-loving Shantung maple (Acer truncatum). I was unfamiliar with this tree until fairly recently. Turns out, Shantung maple is a Texas Superstar: “Reminiscent of Japanese maple but with much greater toughness. This beautiful maple has spreading canopy with attractive foliage that turns spectacular red, red-orange in late fall. Tolerates heat and alkaline soils. Makes wonderful shade tree for smaller yards.”

I decided I had to try a Shantung maple in my own garden, especially now that my garden is a little sunnier. But I couldn’t find any in Austin over the winter. So when I was in Fort Worth a few weeks ago, I paid a visit to Metro Maples, a tree nursery several local gardeners recommended. Metro Maples is open by appointment, which I didn’t realize, but they graciously made time for me when I showed up.

On that cool, cloudy day in late March, I wandered the grounds, enjoying the colorful leaves and delicate, dangling flowers of Japanese maples planted in the ground and for sale in pots. A few azaleas were flowering too.

Who says a shade garden is only green?

While admiring the trees I met owner Scott Hubble, who worked at the nursery for a decade or so before purchasing it from the previous owner in 2016. Soft spoken but welcoming, Scott told me about the nursery and his passion for bonsai. The whole place felt almost like a nature park, quiet and woodsy.

‘Orangeola’ Japanese maple

‘Orange Dream’ Japanese maple

Frilly pink-and-white azaleas made a pretty complement to the burgundy trees.

There were beautiful pines too.

I’d never seen a weeping Japanese maple, but Metro Maples had one: ‘Ryusen’.

A big maple, balled and burlapped

Look at the claw-like leaves, pretty flowers, and tiny moths sipping nectar on this Japanese maple. I didn’t get the cultivar name.

‘Osakazuki’ Japanese maple

Fall-like color

A large koi pond enclosed by a Japanese-style fence adds more orange.

The koi swarmed a hello.

Behind the fence, I spotted a tall Shantung maple with a rounded canopy of fresh green leaves.

Metro Maples carries several cultivars of the Shantung with richer coloring and a smaller mature size, like ‘Super Dragon’.

I settled on a 5-gallon ‘Fire Dragon’ Shantung maple and planted it in the back garden near the deck, which I hope it will eventually shade. It’s one of my sunniest spaces, and I planted it high as I was advised. Shantungs do not like to have their crown sitting in moist soil, I was told. I hope it grows fast and has good fall color. It’ll be nice to have some diversity amid all the live oaks.

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