Northern & Central Midwest
Favorite or New Plant
I'm wary of Japanese maples since they tend to have problems in our climate, but I've found a wonderful substitute that is perfectly hardy. Acer japonicum 'Aconitifolium' is an irregularly shaped multi-stemmed small tree that typically grows slowly to 8 to 10 feet tall. The medium green leaves are palmate and fern-like, deeply divided into 9 to 11 lobes. Small reddish flowers appear in spring before the leaves and give way to red samaras that ripen in late summer to early fall. Finally, the foliage turns lovely crimson in fall. It grows best in average, medium-wet, well-drained soil in dappled shade with a bit of protection from the wind.
Clever Gardening Technique
Use Your Garden Paths
I've stopped digging up my garden paths and now use them for storage. I pile them with weeds as well as garden debris. It may not look neat, but the dried weeds work like a mulch to keep other weeds from growing. If other weeds do pop up, I simply use the string trimmer to scalp them. It works quite well for the three years I've tried it so far!