Maples are usually the first thing people ask for when they step inside our gate, especially in autumn when the spotlight shines brightest on them. We see why they are so popular. Depending on the exact species, Maples can be fast growing, provide dense shade, display fabulous fall color and perform well in a variety of soils and landscapes. There’s one problem though, Maples are on the verge of being overplanted. What problems could arise from overplanting? Does Dutch Elm Disease or Emerald Ash Borer ring a bell? It’s not that overplanting causes diseases, but when aggressive diseases occur, they can target and wipe out a single species, or at least severely reduce populations. So by logic, it is wise to plant a wide variety of species to minimize loss. While having a sugar maple, red maple and black maple sounds like diversity, they are all in the same genus. You will have much better insurance the further apart they are on the family tree.
There are instances where it makes sense design-wise to do mass plantings. Uniform rows of the same plant are beautiful. Going back to the history lesson, remember, Elm trees were commonly planted densely along streets to create that beloved covered archway feeling. After Dutch Elm disease swept through, those streets were left completely bare. Yes, it is good to have consistency and order, especially in shrubs and perennials, but when it comes to trees, mixing it up has benefits. You will end up with a more natural, park-like setting. Plus 'branching out' into multiple tree types, you get a wider range of features like spring blooms, form, fall color, bark color, evergreens, etc. You can really get the most out of your space.
What are other fall color options at Bentley Ridge?
Northern Red Oak
Canada Red Chokecherry
Shrubs: Nannyberry Viburnum, American Cranberrybush Viburnum, Blackhaw Viburnum, Arrowwood Viburnum, Burning Bush.
Don’t get us wrong, we’re not telling you to not plant maples. We think they are good trees, but consider choosing alternatives. For those of you who don’t have any maples, the next time you look over at your neighbor’s yard in envy, embrace your uniqueness, you may just have a leg-up in the diversity department. The photos below are some of our best fall color selections- none are maples!
Horticulturist, Bentley Ridge Tree Farm