Young Freeman Maple not filling out

dogule(z10 So Calif)November 17, 2005


Last fall, I planted an acer freemanii (Armstrong Maple). It was a sapling when I planted it.

It's growing just fine--even after my gardener cut some of the lower branches off from it in May (and yes, I was furious!!). It also survived its first Southern California summer in its full sun location.

Anyway, I realize that this tree grows in a narrow columnar form, but the fact that it's about 10 feet tall and very narrow (maybe a foot wide) makes it look very awkward. It seems that it grows up faster than it grows out.

How long until it looks more like a "tree"?

The central leader bends a slight bit as well, but I imagine that will correct itself over time.



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I think you may be mistaken about what you have.
Indeed, it sounds like you have a Columnar maple, if it's an 'Armstrong', that's a red maple. Acer x Freemanii on the other hand is called Autumn Blaze maple or Freeman's maple and that's a large tree with a larger but mostly upright canopy. So if you were expecting it to look like pictures of the autumn blaze maple, it won't look like that. Armstrongs reportedly only get to 15-20' wide at maturity.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2005 at 12:32PM
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dogule(z10 So Calif)

I was certain the "Armstrong" maple is a cultivar of acer freemanii (red maple/silver maple hybrid) just as is the "Autumn Blaze", "Celebration", etc. To complicate things: After doing a quick web search, I found the "Armstrong" listed under both acer rubrum (red maple) as you mention, and as acer freemanii. Go figure.

In any case, my maple (sold to me as an acer freemanii "Armstrong" fastigiate maple--so I'll assume it's columnar) is looking a bit lanky, even for a columnar tree. I guess I'll just give it another growing season or two and see what happens. Right now the few leaves it has have turned to a yellow-orange and it won't have any chance of growing further until spring.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2005 at 4:57PM
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Armstrong (and Armstrong II) are indeed cultivars of Acer x freemanii, although they are often incorrectly referred to as red maples. As to lankiness, that is a common description of these columnar species in their juvenile form.....they very much resemble adolescents undergoing growth spurts, in that their body mass has not caught up to their height :-) Give it another season or two to fill in and out. It typically takes up to three years for a tree to become settled and established in the landscape and devote energy to developing a good canopy rather than its current focus on developing a solid root system.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2005 at 8:41PM
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I apologize, I stand corrected. I just stumbled upon it even before I read your reply and said "whoops". 'Armstrong' is a cultivar of Acer x Freemanii. And there are apparently others. It baffles my mind why this maple is gaining in popularity when a straight red maple is more desirable but that's another matter.

The same cultivar names are used for different species and sometimes they have the same attributes. This is one of those cases, it's a columnar maple, just like the red maple. I just assumed there was one cultivar of this tree (Autumn blaze).

Anyway, it's got silver maple in it so I'm sure it will probably grow faster than a red maple. I've seen some nice mature columnar red maples around. It may take some time but if my source says it gets up to 15-20' wide by 50-60' tall. Definitely a columnar in every sense of the word. Based on the results of some of the street tree evaluation projects, you may notice those trees really start to take shape after only 3 or 4 years.

I apologize for the confusion. I learned something new too!

    Bookmark   November 18, 2005 at 8:46PM
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Gardengirl, we posted at the same time...
I find a lot of web documents specifically noting the acer rubrum 'armstrong'.
How do you know that's incorrect because I'm pretty sure there's a cultivar of both.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2005 at 8:49PM
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HGSB, don't believe everything you read on the 'net ;-) This is not two separate cultivars we are referring to, but the same tree. I'll admit there has been taxonomic confusion in the past, but 'Armstrong' is currently recognized (by sources I trust and value) as a cultivar of xfreemanii. What you are seeing are simply old habits/conventions that are hard to let go.

And I'm not sure why you find this hybrid of less value than A. rubrum. It blends the best characteristics of both parents. It is generally considered to be faster growing, more tolerant of urban conditions and with greater drought and heat tolerance and reputed to be more adaptable to other difficult site conditions. 'Armstrong' in particular is especially tolerant of high soil pH.

And while this is no guarantee of my accuracy, I do buy and sell trees for a living.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2005 at 12:05AM
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dogule(z10 So Calif)

Thanks for your replies. I will just have to wait its growth out and ignore the passersby who often point at my tree and ask, "OK, I'll bite, what is it?" I have to admit, however, that my personal favorite was this one lady walking by my house. She had to forcibly control her dog who was staring and barking at the maple "stick".

Alright, I am off to plant some viburnum shrubs.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2005 at 11:13AM
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Please keep in mind I'm not trying to argue but here's some very reputable references I see regading A. rubrum 'armstrong'. I'd like to compare notes if we can. I'm still learning and I'd like to get to the bottom of this.
link 2
Link 3
link 4
This is a PDF version of link #1 if that didn't show up

AND!! Here's a link that says it "might be a hybrid"
(Scroll to the bottom
Now it's true, I've never actually seen an A. Rubrum 'Armstrong' in person but come on... all of these papers are incorrect?

Although I do like silver maples in the right setting, the problem that I have with this hybrid is when it's marketed as a fall color tree with a pretty sounding name because I don't think it's representative of the performance in both fall color quality and longevity/ urban tolerance etc that a regular old acer rubrum couldn't do better. I'm not just taking a guess at that, I actually have both trees and would trade in my hybrid for either species, even a plain silver maple! It's just my belief Acer x. Freemanii 'Autumn Blaze' which is what I have is better than no tree at all but not as good as acer rubrum for the features it boasts on the tree tag. In pretty much every catagory. If you can't grow a red maple in your soil, then there's a problem. And the opinion of the branch structure on the autumn blaze overall, is not favorable.

So how do we find out who the parents are?

    Bookmark   November 19, 2005 at 11:33AM
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I just went to the USPTO website and did a search for autumn blaze and acer freemanii. A lot of information comes up on this that I'm going to sift through.
If you do a search, leave out the "x".
It says armstrong is a cultivar but not patented so there isn't a lot of details on it. And it lists a lot of other cultivars that I assumed were all red maples too. I'm sorta starting to think you're right.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2005 at 11:43AM
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The parents of xfreemanii are Acer rubrum and A. saccharinum. There has been a great deal of cross breeding over the years and so some cultivars are 50-50, others 30-70, even reports of some as one-sided as 90-10, so it is not surprising that accurate assignment to species or hybrid has been confused. 'Armstrong' is a selection that was made by Newton Armstrong of Windsor, OH in 1947 and introduced into the trade by Scanlon Nurseries in the mid 50's.

Michael Dirr, ITIS and most recognized university plant data bases list 'Armstrong' as a xfreemanii hybrid.

And regarding fall color: it is not uniform or necessarily consistent, but dependent on a wide range of variables, many of which are climate related. Age also has a lot to do with developing good fall color - more mature, well-established trees generally provide better color than those which are relatively young or newly planted. If your 'Autumn Blaze' is still a youngster both in terms of maturity and time in the ground, it is not unusual or surprising that fall color has been mediocre so far. Be patient. We tend to expect instant gratification from trees that may not fully develop their best characteristic for decades.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2005 at 10:16AM
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"Be patient. We tend to expect instant gratification from trees that may not fully develop their best characteristic for decades.

That's precisely the point. There's other maples that are more reliable in the fall color department, even when newly transplanted. And they are the same price. That's why I say that unless you want a reportedly seedless tree that in theory grows places an ordinary red maple won't with faster growth, weaker wood, and more upright branching, it doesn't make sense to go with a hybrid 'autumn blaze'. When it comes to fall color and other ornamental attributes, I believe whatever this hybrid can do, an acer rubrum can do better. But my experience is limited, I'll give you that.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2005 at 10:48AM
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My Freeman maple is skinny also, but it's a baby. I decided on impulse to buy an Acer Freemanii as Home Depot in Escondido, north of San Diego, had dozens of healthy looking trees after a mild summer. I planted it in the coldest, lowest part of the yard, semi shaded in late afternoon by a big pine, and mixed 50% acidic soil into the hole. I water it weekly and so far it is very healthy and green in late September. However, browsing online I find, not surprisingly, that this tree isn't supposed to survive our hot summers nor color in our mild winters (about 50 nights under 40 degrees and about 20 summer days over 90 degrees). Has anyone tried this tree in San Diego county?

    Bookmark   September 19, 2010 at 11:07PM
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