The King of Autumn
One of the most widely known Canadian symbols is the red maple leaf. It’s in our nation’s flag after all. Maples are known for their ability to put on a spectacular colour show in fall. Reds, golds, oranges, yellows, even some deep purple. I cannot think of another family of tree with more foliage colour variety.
However, Manitoba can be a difficult place for maples to grow. With our zone 2 winters and heavy clay soil, there are many types of maples that simply cannot survive here.
The royal crown Amur Maple is one that has proven itself against the elements. It has become one of my top 5 favourite trees. There are so many excellent traits to this tree, where do I begin? Like all Amur maples it is extremely cold tolerant, tough as nails I like to say. It can be planted in the open north side without fear.
An Amur Maple’s natural form is a multi-stem clump growing 20’ tall and 15’ wide. They are often pruned as a single stem when they are young, and are beautiful trees in either form. They can also be planted as a hedge row, and, with regular trimming can be kept quite dense and short.
The most outstanding feature of the Amur Maple is of course the fantastic fall colour. Every tree grown from seed will have its own unique shade of red. However Royal Crown is a cultivar grown from cuttings, so you can guarantee the anticipated colour show. It begins with the foliage turning to a deep crimson purple. Afterwards it brightens into a stunning fire engine red. In the last days before the leaves are shed, the leaves turn an even brighter cherry red and become almost luminescent. The length of the colour show depends on what kind of fall we have. A cold, windy fall can end the show almost before it begins. A light frost followed by a few mild weeks will give you a very long, gradual display.
What really sets the Royal Crown apart from other Amur Maples is it’s soil tolerance. Maples have a love for acid-rich sandy soil, but we have quite the opposite. That heavy Manitoba gumbo, white to yellow clay, will retain moisture for a long time while boasting a low acid composition. This is the reason why our maples often have yellow foliage, even in early summer. The soil is lacking the elements maples thrive on, leaving them anemic. Royal Crown, while still preferring sandy soil, will grow in our clay soil with tolerance similar to the Boxelder Maple (or Manitoba maple as we call it around here). It will maintain its green foliage where the standard Amur Maple would have turned pale.
These collective reasons are why I have 5 Royal Crown Amur Maples planted in my yard, and I am excitedly waiting for this year’s autumn show to begin.