Topiary Gardens Tour

Topiary Gardens Tour

We don’t just sell amazing Japanese maples, exotic conifers and rare plants, we’re also landscapers. We’ve built some beautiful gardens on our own property, and for our customers. Here’s a tour of our gardens…

topiary gardens waterfall pond
Japanese maples at Topiary Gardens
Rock beneath an old Japanese maple
Sawa Chidori Japanese Maple

Sawa Chidori Japanese Maple

Sawa Chidori Japanese maple is another one of the sought after variegated varieties. It’s unfortunately less popular among Acer Palmatum collectors, often overshadowed by the more marketable “Ghost” cultivars. While it may not be as colorful as Amber Ghost, Sawa Chidori still puts on on a glorious show throughout the spring and briefly in the fall.

acer palmatum sawa chidori leaves in june

Cultivar Origin

The Sawa Chidori cultivar was first introduced in 1988. The name means “Marsh Plover,” most likely chosen for the resemblance to the bird’s speckled feathers.

Sawa Chidori Leaves

The show begins in April and May as the large burgundy buds begin to swell. When they finally burst, you’re greeted by pale, cream colored foliage surrounded by the tattered, deep maroon remnants of the buds. The colors are almost vintage-inspired: aged doilies and burgundy felt.

Sawa Chidori maple leaves in May

Acer Palmatum Sawa Chidori’s leaves emerge creamy white with rose and peach frosted edges and vibrant green veins. The soft amber shading of the leaves gives them a 3D appearance even when they’re completely flat.

Before long, the warm amber colors fade, leaving behind a mix of pale cream and glowing yellow-green tones with bronzed tips.

japanese maple sawa chidori foliage

As June progresses, the yellows shift to vibrant greens, with shaded leaves retaining a milky white reticulation.

sawa chidori leaves in july

Finally, in the fall, the tree puts on a last fiery show of glorious red with a slight pinkish tone. The red leaves are absolutely spectacular against the green bark.

Bark Coloration

As you can see in the photos above, new growth is deep maroon and reddish brown, and older wood is a beautifully saturated pea green. It’s a stunning shift from to see the colors change from warm tones in spring to these cooler green tones in later summer.

Size, Habit, Hardiness

The Sawa Chidori Japanese maple is an upright tree that grows to about 15 feet tall and 8-10 feet wide at maturity. It generally grows about twelve inches per year.

This cultivar is quite full and bushy when healthy. Therefore, you may wish to prune it lightly to expose the green bark and the pale leaves within.

Acer Palmatum Sawa Chidori prefers mostly shade to retain more reticulated coloring. However, it will tolerate some sun without burning too badly. The tree is hearty within zones 5a – 8b.

Other Reticulated Japanese Maples

If you really love Sawa Chidori, you should explore some other reticulated trees. Here’s a short list of some of our favorites:

Buy Sawa Chidori

If we are sold out of this tree, or you’d like to purchase a larger specimen than what we have listed, just send us an email. We frequently have, or can get, trees that aren’t listed in our website store.

Geisha Gone Wild Japanese Maple

Geisha Gone Wild Japanese Maple

Geisha Gone Wild Japanese maple is a gorgeous pink and green variegated tree with brilliant magenta leaves emerging in the spring. As summer approaches, the intensity of the foliage begins fading to a soft pink before shifting to pale greens with hints of jade, cream, gray and purple. Bright yellow green bark adds even more eye-popping interest to this already stunning maple.
geisha gone wild japanese maple bark

Geisha Gone Wild Japanese Maple Leaves

The Geisha Gone Wild Japanese maple is a seedling from ‘Geisha’ which was selected and named by Buchholz and Buchholz Nursery. The leaves are similar, but the plant is more vigorous. Instead of spotted variegation, it will have pink and cream margins like ‘Shirazz’. The leaves of the original Geisha cultivar tend towards the bubble gum shade of pink rather than the deep raspberry of Geisha Gone Wild.

Geisha Gone Wild Japanese maple

Leaves growing on old branches of Acer Palmatum Geisha Gone Wild are smaller, more symmetrical and often colored pink with faint flecks of green. New growth foliage tends to be large and slightly deformed—but in a beautiful way. New leaves often have a long, sickle-shaped central lobe with a purple, gray or maroon coloration. Fall color is purple with orange tones.

geisha gone wild japanese maple leaves

This trait of larger leaves with less characteristic coloration is not unique to the Geisha cultivars. Another favorite tree of mine is the Ukigumo Japanese maple, also called floating clouds. It displays larger, less colorful leaves on first year branches and smaller white dappled leaves on older growth.

acer palmatum geisha gone wild foliage

Size, Habit and Hardiness

The Geisha Gone Wild Japanese maple is a medium-sized tree, reaching about 6-7 feet tall and perhaps 4 feet wide in ten years. It tends to be slightly bushy with a few long lower branches and several leaders that eventually form a multi trunk canopy.

Geisha Gone Wild is a fairly hardy tree that’s able to withstand temperatures down to about -10º F, or USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 5a (although we’ve seen this cultivar thrive at lower temperatures than that.

geisha gone wild japanese maple size

Other Pink Japanese Maples

Looking for more pink Japanese maples? Acer Palmatum Shirazz is nearly identical to Geisha Gone Wild in every way. Another fantastic pink variety is Correlinium, who’s brilliant fuschia and salmon pink leaves will electrify your garden.

When to buy Japanese Maples

When to buy Japanese Maples

Most nurseries and plant specialists will begin selling an assortment of Acer Palmatums as early as May, but that’s not the best time to buy Japanese maples. If you’re not the first customer in the door when the trees are taken off the truck, you’ll very likely miss the best trees. In fact, the super rare Japanese maples are usually spoken for long before they even ship.

Japanese maples growing in a nursery greenhouse

Best Time of Year to Buy Japanese Maples

If you’re looking for a larger specimen (over 5 gallons) it’s a good idea to preorder these from a grower like Topiary Gardens in August. Preordered Japanese maples will ship in May of the following year. While you’ll very likely find rows of Bloodgood and Crimson Queen at the big box stores, more unique maples like Amagi Shigure, Acer Palmatum Ukigumo, or Mikazuki will rarely flash their foliage in any size, let alone in larger containers.

Why preorder Japanese maples?

These trees aren’t grown in huge quantities, and if you wait to see what arrives, you may miss an opportunity to add a truly unique tree to your garden. When you preorder your trees, you’ll not only be guaranteed to get the exact cultivar you’re seeking, but you’ll be able to get a larger specimen so you won’t have to wait decades to enjoy it. Knowing when to buy Japanese maples also helps you plan out your garden for the following year. Beautiful gardens don’t happen by accident, they’re the result of careful planning, and seeking out just the right plants for each part of the garden, and understanding how the colors, shapes, and textures will work together.

autumn moon japanese maple

Don’t limit yourself to plants either. Think about rocks, pines and other shrubs, and how these will help to frame up that unique Japanese maple that you’ve set aside. When you buy a small tree, you need to place material around it that won’t overwhelm the composition. Then, as the tree grows, you’ll need to replace the rocks and plants around it to keep things in scale. When you start out with a larger tree, you’ll be able to plan out the garden more easily, without replacing things as the tree matures.

japanese garden with pines

Often, you can make a small space into an elegant garden with just a simple specimen Japanese maple, a rock, and some ground cover. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a collection of maples to enjoy their beauty.

japanese rock garden with pines

Ukigumo Japanese Maple

Ukigumo Japanese Maple

Ukigumo Japanese maple is a striking specimen to behold in a garden. The name, which fittingly translates to “floating clouds,” reminds me of a Japanese ink landscape painting.

Early Summer Mountains in the Rain

This hanging ink scroll depicts weightless mountains and trees floating among the clouds. The picture reminds me of two separate worlds colliding in a dream.

Ukigumo Japanese maple

When I see the Ukigumo Japanese maple it seems like nature is attempting to copy these beautiful paintings. The small leaves are a mix of light and dark green with a fine mist of white blown over them like ash from a volcano. The clustering leaves flow like drifting clouds around green-gray bark that peeks through the “mist” of branches like distant trees on mountains.

acer palmatum japanese maple

Ukigumo Japanese Maple Leaves

I find it very easy to get lost in poetics with Ukigumo. The tree is quite unusual. In the first year, leaves tend to be larger, and less white. Each year of age brings whiter, and daintier leaves with some puckering and curling. Some growers will find pale tones of pink, and others crisp white, sometimes there’s a hint of soft yellow among the maple’s leaves.

acer palmatum ukigumo

The Ukigumo Japanese maple will grow to about 10–12 feet at maturity, adding about 6 inches each year. It tends to grow vertically and widens at the top. Ukigumo won’t develop a broad spreading canopy, instead, it seems to send out shoots, and then fills in the branches as it ages.

Japanese Maple Ukigumo

While most Acer Palmatums prefer shade, this is one that absolutely must have it to perform. Many growers complain about its lack of white when planting the tree in full sun. I find the older my Ukigumo Japanese maple gets, the whiter the leaves become. So be patient with this tree, and you will be rewarded.

Amagi Shigure Japanese Maple

Amagi Shigure Japanese Maple

Amagi Shigure Japanese MapleAmagi Shigure Japanese Maple Leaves & Bark

Amagi Shigure Japanese maple has some of the most intense brick red colors I’ve seen in a tree. The spring colors have been described as eye-popping fuchsia, shifting to deep brick red with dark greenish black veins. Leaves that are more shaded take on a pale whitish-pink tone with vibrant green reticulation.

The chilly air of autumn brings flushes of red, orange and purple to the foliage.

acer palmatum amagi shigure

Even the bark is amazing on this tree, older branches are a soft dusty gray-brown, while growth from a few years ago will be a pale grayish jade, and new growth will be a deep cherry-brown.  Amagi Shigure Japanese maple is full, but not dense, and slightly leggy in places (which is wonderful, because it gives you plenty of views of that bark)

Amagi Shigure Japanese Maple Leaf

History, Habit & Hardiness

Amagi Shigure Japanese maple was discovered in Japan, and while it resembles ‘Kasagi yama’, it holds it’s color much longer.  It also bears similarity to Purple Ghost from the Buchholz series, but is slightly smaller, and perhaps a bit less vigorous. While the tree is rated by most to be hardy down to -20°F, I find it a bit more delicate, and would recommend sheltering it if your winters dip below -10°F with windchill.

Acer Palmatum Amagi Shigure will grow to about 6 feet high and 3 feet wide in 10 years.

Acer Palmatum Amagi Shigure leaves

If there is only room for a few trees in your yard, I can’t say enough that you must save a spot for this spectacular Japanese Maple!


Mikazuki Japanese Maple

Mikazuki Japanese Maple

acer palmatum mikazuki leavesMikazuki Japanese maple is a beautiful addition to any Acer Palmatum collection. An upright tree reaching about 8–10 feet in 10 years, Mikazuki won’t overwhelm a smaller garden. As with most Japanese maples, Mikazuki puts on an extraordinary show in the spring. Like a pot of simmering strawberry and rhubarb, saturated hues of bright watermelon, fuchsia and candy apple red are threaded with olive and grass toned veins.  As the leaves unfurl, shaded areas appear frosted and reticulated with a pale pink raspberry blush.

Mikazuki 1

Mikazuki 2Mikazuki has some similarities to Olsen’s Frosted Strawberry, but I find the color much more vibrant, and the leaves slightly larger. The habit of Olsen’s is also more squat, and horizontal, while Mikazuki reaches upward. It’s a rather fun growth habit in fact. Leaves tend to cluster in denser bunches and occasionally produce longer shoots which cluster again. In maturity this should offer some great views of the green bark through the richly colored leaves.

Mikazuki 4The name, Mikazuki, means “crescent moon.” It was chosen for the thinly-lobed leaves, but it’s not really the most descriptive name for this tree. I think something that captures the fantastic reticulated talon-like leaves, resembling hooked and scaly dragon claws, would have been more appropriate for the cultivar’s name.

Mikazuki is a fast growing Japanese maple that is quite hardy—at least to zone 5. It prefers more sun to get the best color, and even though reticulated maples usually do well with protection from mid day heat, Mikazuki can tolerate full sun.

Mikazuki 7

Mikazuki 6

Mikazuki 5

New Japanese Maple Arrivals

New Japanese Maple Arrivals

Japanese maples in the hoop house

Spring has been in full swing here at Topiary Gardens for over a month.  After an unusually warm winter, we had one final freeze that reminded us why we keep our trees safe inside the tents and building until May.  That nasty freeze shook some buds off a few trees growing in our gardens, but they’re coming along nicely now—even if they are a little sparse at the moment. The above photo is of one of our hoop houses with the newly leafing out Japanese maples (taken in early May)

Below are some photos of the larger trees that have already started shipping out to their new homes.  Remember, we don’t list everything on our site, so make sure to ask us if you don’t see what your are looking for, or would like a larger Japanese Maple specimen than what we have listed for sale. We can always get just about anything in any size.  If you are looking for a larger sized tree, make sure to ask us early on before they sell out, or so we can put you on a list for next year!

large japanese maple 1

large japanese maple 2

We’ve also begun cleaning out our waterfall garden and Koi pond as seen in the photo below.  You can get a better glimpse of that garden in this video.

Japanese Maple waterfall garden

What Ate My Japanese Maple Trees?

What Ate My Japanese Maple Trees?


damaged Acer Palmatum Sawa Chidori Japanese maple trees

Throughout the cold winter months, critters will be on the hunt for food. With snow making foraging difficult, they may resort to nibbling things other than fallen seeds and nuts- namely the bark on your Japanese maple trees. On top of that, squirrels have a nasty habit of snapping off small branches to mark their territory—which can be quite devastating to young maples under 5 years old.

Once critters have munched on your Japanese maple’s bark—or ripped off branches—nothing can be done cosmetically to hide the scar.  As time goes on, the tree will heal itself if the damage isn’t too severe, and once your maple reaches maturity, it will hardly be noticeable.

If you don’t want your newly planted Japanese maple trees to get a serious pruning by your furry neighbors, remember to use a combination of granular animal repellents and sprays. I like using Bobbex which lasts about 3 months (even through heavy rains), or Ortho® Animal B Gon® every 30 days from October thru December, and then again from March thru May. It’s a good idea to change up brands once in a while so animals don’t get used to the same ones.

Most people mistakenly blame critter damage on mice, but they aren’t the culprits. The real offenders are voles.  They are a stronger critter than a mouse and very destructive. Voles have a shorter body, shorter tail, coarse hair, and small eyes.  Rather cute!  Bait for mice or rats won’t work on voles. You need a bait that is specific for voles or includes them on the list.   I use Kaput mouse and vole bait.

Also, try to keep leaves and weeds away from the base of your Japanese maples so animals can’t tunnel or hide while eating your trees.  Use tree guards to keep woodchucks, squirrels or other bark-eating critters from doing damage. You can even wrap burlap around the trunk of your Japanese maples to keep critters away.

Broken Branches on Japanese Maples

Broken Branches on Japanese Maples

It’s an unfortunate fact of nature that Japanese maples are made of wood, and therefore it’s possible that your prized specimen could break a branch at some point. This may happen under the weight of a heavy snow—especially if the tree still has most of its leaves. A branch could also be snapped during a storm with high winds, so neither the North nor the South is immune to such damage. Even when Japanese maples are young and supple (only a few years old), you might wake to discover several thin branches inexplicably torn off and the bark stripped away from the trunk by critters- but that’s another post…

To Prune or Repair a Broken Japanese Maple Branch

Its a good idea to check your Japanese maples after a storm with high winds or heavy snow. Mending broken branches is fine if they are not too far gone, so getting to them quickly is essential when trying to save a damaged branch. As long as the cambium layer is intact, it can mend itself with a little help.  But as the tree ages and the branch becomes larger and heavier, there is still a chance it could completely break off since it’s not as strong as it once was. If the tree is young, there is plenty of time for it to grow out and still have a nice shape, so I would recommend cutting the branch off now rather than risk another break when the tree is mature. If the tree looks misshapen with the branch gone, you will have to prune it and reshape it, and it may take a few years before it looks nice again. New branches will begin to grow from the broken area, and you’ll have to pick one that will give the tree the best sense of balance. This would be the same technique for squirrel damage on young Japanese maples.

If your branch is split, but still attached and freshly broken, there’s a chance you could save it by bolting, tying, or taping it back in place. While having to prune off a major branch can be heartbreaking at the time, it could result in a uniquely shaped Japanese maple that one day is prized for it’s individuality.


The photo on the left is of Acer Palmatum Bloodgood that lost one of it’s two major limbs (literally cutting the tree in half).  It was devastating, but the tree is thriving at 30 years old, and with the careful addition of other specimens, rocks and water features, this tree has become a centerpiece of the garden. The odd shape and leaning habit makes it look much older than it actually is, and brings a lot of movement into the garden.

The photo on the right is of Acer Palmatum Dissectum Baldsmith that split, but was able to be repaired. It lives in a pot, and is thriving as well. While it’s healthy now, the break may one day invite disease, insects, or simply split again as the tree ages and endures another nasty battle with inclement weather. But, then again, it could do fine. It’s a gamble worth taking. If I did prune the branch off, half the tree would be gone. With weeping Japanese Maples, it’s more of a challenge to find a balanced shape after a major break. Therefore, something that is one sided would be used beside a rock, arching over a stream, or tucked in with some other bushes hiding the bad part. So, there would always be a place for a damaged Japanese maples somewhere in the garden. No need to throw them away. Just be creative, and use their new shape to your advantage.