wig maple - Illustration by Helen KrayenhoffThe Wig Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Katsura’) is among the first Japanese Maples to wake up as winter ends (some call it a hairbinger of spring). In April, when Gardening Suggestions went to print, Wig Maple was fully leafed out, its blonde foliage tossing gently on twiggy “necks”. Its sister tree, ‘Ueno yama’, a “strawberry blonde” variety, debuted around the same time, its orange-gold leaves trumpeting a sassy fanfare to spring.

When choosing a Japanese Maple it’s important to consider height, growth habit, leaf shape, leaf color, and sun tolerance, but it can be fun to choose a variety simply for its name. Besides Wig Maple, for example, you might consider making room for Confused Lion (‘Kurui jishi’), Lion’s Mane (‘Shishi gashira’), Floating Cloud (‘Ukigumo’), or Harp Strings (‘Koto no Ito’).

Berkeley Hort’s fifty or so varieties of Japanese Maples will be in full leaf and looking their fresh best in May and June. Many are available in one-gallon size pots, and sell for $20-$60, depending on the variety.