I agonized about this for a while, but then finally, last fall, I offered up my little Red Dragon maple to my friend Jason. He has way more garden space than I do, and is almost always a grateful yet discerning recipient of my discards. This little maple was one of the first things I ever planted after building what I call my “container wall” – a stretch of backfilled rock wall that turned my sloping, north-facing front yard into a nice level surface – AND gave me a nearly foot and a half head start on the street-side privacy screen I was shooting for.
Red Dragon is a very slow growing red little lace leaf maple that tops out at about 8-10′. I had it for about 12 years, and it helped hold together my front garden quite nicely while it was there. The color scheme in the front originated with the red brick entrance, and the dark, glossy green foliage of the giant magnolia and its white flowers. Red Dragons moppy red goodness was quite instrumental in keeping it all together. It was also a testament to the fact that I’m just like everyone else who moves to the Pacific NW. Newbie Oregonians tend to just LOVE Japanese maples! I did too. In fact, I still love them in the right place. This was the right place, and the little tree had served me well all these years – its only fault was that I wanted the space it was in for other things. I have some idea of what those “things” might be, but it’s mostly still TBD. The biggest conundrum was to find something that would give me that same red presence and keep a relatively compact size.
Being a self-described plant whore, there is never a shortage of ideas – and often plants – to play with, but somehow, I hadn’t quite found the right thing yet. I had ideas, but there was always something that didn’t pan out; not enough light, wrong shape, too big, boring leaves… whatever… Then today, I felt I had spent far too much time in front of the computer, so I snuck out to my favorite little neighborhood nursery – Garden Fever. I needed some retail therapy, and they always have great things there. Go figure – they had this one shrub I had kept my eyes peeled for, for a while – a Leucothoe ‘Scarletta’. I have a few other Leucothoes with various attributes, but this one is spesh… It has these marvelously glossy red leaves that are positively scrumptious. And, it’s evergreen, and only grows to about 4′ across. Perfect! I brought it home. I set it with a few other lovelies I’ve been considering for the front. Some of these I know would work great in the front, for others I know I would be taking chances. But, half the fun of gardening is pushing your luck and your boundaries, so why not? I just might give it a shot and see how it goes. All I know is that that big hole the Red Dragon left – both in my yard and in my heart – will need to be filled – and quick. It has taken far too long already!