Japanese Maples

The Complete Guide to Selection and Cultivation, Fourth Edition


By J. D. Vertrees

By Peter Gregory

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$70.00 CAD




Hardcover $55.00 $70.00 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around February 24, 2010. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Among the first titles published in 1978, with more than 150,000 copies in print in three editions, Japanese Maples is a Timber Press classic. Japanese maples are unlike any other tree. They boast a remarkable diversity of color, form, and texture. As a result of hundreds of years of careful breeding, they take the center stage in any garden they are found. In the last decade, the number of Japanese maple cultivars available to gardeners has doubled and there is a pressing need for an up-to-date reference. This new fourth edition offers detailed descriptions of over 150 new introductions, updates to plant nomenclature, and new insights into established favorites. Gardeners will relish the practical advice that puts successful cultivation within everyone’s grasp. Accurate identification is made simple with over 600 easy-to-follow descriptions and 500 color photographs.


Preface to the Fourth Edition
When J. D. Vertrees published Japanese Maples in 1978, he wanted to provide a comprehensive source of information on the culture, identification, and nomenclature of Japanese maple cultivars. He also intended to reduce confusion and bring stability to the naming of these cultivars. That his volume has become an invaluable reference book, the bible for maple growers and enthusiasts worldwide, is a measure of its success in achieving these objectives.
Since the last revision of this work in 2001, communications and the exchange of plants and materials between maple growers worldwide has mushroomed, resulting in almost a doubling of the Japanese maple cultivars now grown and collected by enthusiasts. Hence the time is appropriate for a larger, expanded 4th edition incorporating many of the newer cultivars and any changes in the growing techniques, taxonomy and nomenclature which have occurred in recent years—thus making it a more comprehensive up-to-date reference or encyclopedia of Japanese maples. And, as in the previous edition, to avoid endless repetition, cultivars of Acer palmatum are cited without a species name (for example, ‘Red Pygmy’), while cultivars of other species are always cited with the appropriate species name (for example, A. japonicum ‘Green Cascade’).
The introductory chapters remain essentially unchanged, although some topics are given more or less attention to reflect current trends. Chapter 2 places more emphasis on how to avoid and correct illegitimate cultivar names, chapter 3 has an expanded section on growing maples in containers, and chapter 4 moves away from commercial propagation methods toward those for garden and amateur enthusiasts.
Clearly, the main revision occurs in the plant description chapters with the inclusion of more than 100 additional cultivars which have proven their worth or become readily available since 2001. A total of some 420 A. palmatum cultivars are described in chapter 5, while 80 cultivars of other Japanese maple species, including those of A. japonicum, are described in chapter 6. Between them, chapters 5 and 6 cover the majority of the Japanese maples in cultivation. The remaining cultivars are briefly described or listed in appendices C and D. The descriptions of cultivars known in the late 1970s are primarily derived from specimens growing in the Maplewood collections, augmented by written material from early literature. The descriptions of the newer cultivars are based on specimens seen in various collections and nurseries, material received, and information provided by the originators or other knowledgeable collectors and growers. It has been difficult to describe adequately all the subtle differences occurring between cultivars.
The plant descriptions indicate the likely mature size of a plant grown under normal garden conditions and care. The detailed leaf measurements have been replaced with general terms for size—small, medium, large—which are more useful to most gardeners. Where it has been possible to accurately determine the meaning of Japanese cultivar names, that information has been added. Since most Japanese maples can grow in normal garden conditions in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 9, that information is omitted from the individual plant descriptions. Plants noted as being “tender” are only cold-hardy to zone 6. The color illustrations of the foliage were planned to assist in identification and not to present landscape situations. Where practical, an attempt has been made to include photographs which show the plant’s main attractive feature, whether spring or autumn color, winter stems, unusual foliage, or so forth.
The appendices have been updated. An additional appendix includes a list of plant suppliers who stock a good range of Japanese maples. The index, with nearly 2300 plant names, serves as the definitive list of all published Japanese cultivar names. Included in the index are all the Japanese maple cultivar names published in books, journals, and major catalogs of growers, including synonyms, and the names of cultivars no longer in cultivation—so that Japanese Maples will continue to be the foremost reference book for this wonderfully versatile collection of ornamental plants.
This revision could not have been accomplished without the cooperation, help, advice, and encouragement of numerous friends, colleagues, and correspondents. Conscientious attempts have been made to check the correctness of the cultivar names, origins, and descriptions acquired from my own knowledge and experience or from information and material received, to maintain the standards set by J. D. Vertrees. Whenever possible, samples from two or more different sources were compared. Hence, any errors or weaknesses that may have crept in are mine and mine alone.
It is hoped that these additions and changes will help to foster and strengthen J. D. Vertrees’ principal aim of introducing stability in the naming of Japanese maple cultivars while, at the same time, preserving his ideas, research, and unique style of writing.


  • “Whether you are already a Japanese maple aficionado or looking to dip your toe into this colorful diverse world Japanese Maples is far and away the best-written and most comprehensive guide.” —American Gardener

    “The comprehensive information on the growing of Japanese maples is extremely valuable and well done. . . . Their care, preservation, and propagation are fully and expertly documented herein.” —American Reference Books Annual

On Sale
Feb 24, 2010
Page Count
404 pages
Timber Press

J. D. Vertrees

About the Author

J. D. Vertrees (1915–1993) was an entomologist, nurseryman, and educator who collected rare and unusual maples in southern Oregon. He was probably the most knowledgeable grower of Japanese maples in his time, amassing an impressive list of awards. His 1.5-acre arboretum at Maplewood Nursery had the largest collection of Japanese maples in the United States. In 1997, Japanese Maples was selected by the American Horticultural Society as one of the 75 Great American Garden Books.

Peter Gregory, retired manager at Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire, England, is the chairman and co-founder of the Maple Society and the editor of its journal. He has been involved with tree research, including maples, for more than five decades. He lives in the UK.

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