'These trees are really prolific in the Northwest'

By KELSEY THALHOFER

Capital Press

From street trees to backyard bushes, maples can be found in just about every landscape. This year's Farwest Show will spotlight the genus acer -- commonly known as the maple -- not only for its versatility, but for its variety.

"People think, 'you've got a couple laceleaf maples, whatever.' No, there are hundreds of laceleaf maples alone," Sid Miles, head of the Oregon Association of Nurseries marketing committee, said. "There are a lot of choices out there, of every size, shape and color that you could basically want."

Miles, who grows over 20 varieties of maples at Miles Nursery in Canby, Ore., hopes visitors will realize the unique diversity of maples at the show, and perhaps even branch off from traditional varieties during their next landscape project.

Many varieties, such as the red sunset maple, change colors throughout the year, and paperbark maples peel artfully around their trunk. Others sprout colorful stems, and leaves range from the thick star shapes of the sugar maple to the dainty fingers of the laceleaf.

"These trees are really prolific in the Northwest, and they can become the most magnificent focal point in a yard," said Marti Willis, founder of Manicured Maples. Willis has specialized in grooming laceleaf Japanese maples for the past 12 years and said that most gardeners don't know "what these trees can look like."

She compared overgrown laceleaf Japanese maples to the bushy-haired "Cousin It" or an umbrella, and said that some garden centers don't groom the intricate plants. But because these maples grow slowly, she said a careless grooming could leave a tree stunted for years.

Though she only works with one type of maple, Willis enjoys using bonsai art to bring out the unique color, shape and size of each plant.

"I stand back from a tree and get an idea of what it will look like once it's pruned," she said. "I want to really bring out the fact that these trees can be beautiful."

The show, which will run Aug. 23-25 at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, will feature 75 to 100 acer varieties.

The display will also show the plants at differing growth stages between years 1 and 12, which organizers hope will foster an appreciation for the growth process and the care the plants receive along the way.

Ann Murphy, OAN director of marketing, said the plants could take twice as long to grow in other areas with different soils and climates.

Murphy echoed Miles' desire to open visitors' eyes, and she also pointed out that the display is just another way to showcase the Oregon nursery industry.

"I don't know if there's anywhere else in the country that grows Japanese maples as well as we do," Murphy said. "But we want people to think beyond Japanese maples."

Next year's display will spotlight "Plants with Purpose," including flowering and fragrant plants.

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