Friday, November 16, 2012
Mesmerized by maples (Japanese, that is)
Somewhere on a shelf in an upstairs study (now crowded with boxes brought from my parents' house), there is a copy of Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles magazine. For years, I was their garden editor and wrote feature stories for the well. I can't remember how I first knew about Bill Hudgins - maybe I saw his former garden on a tour. I also loved his shop, Lush Life, then located in Decatur. The store is now in Buckhead, and it is always a treat to go there and see all the specialty plants in back and check out the gorgeous arrangements his staff creates up at the front counter.
At any rate, if I remember correctly, the feature story on Bill's garden ran in the October 1994 issue. I was so pleased at the outcome. Bill already had over a hundred Japanese maples. He had managed to integrate them into a small woodland in back of his brick, tudor style house in a Decatur neighborhood. The photographs were beautiful.
Fast Forward to 2012. Bill has thousands of Japanese maples on his three-acre property in northwest Atlanta. You can pretty much go there any time of year and find scenes to photograph. Of course, the Japanese maples are at their showiest in the spring when the leaves unfurl into a multitude of colors - the deepest burgundy to the lightest apricot. In fall, it's a spectacle of bright orange, golden and lemon yellow, the reddest red and dark, dark claret. Some trees have several colors at once. The maples are everywhere in the woodland - alongside paths, in the distance on hillsides and cascading over the stream that runs through the property. Many grow in large urns.
In Atlanta, Japanese maples reach their peak fall color beginning in late October and extending all the through mid-December. It depends on the cultivar and on the weather. Last week, some of Bill's trees were still green. A few had already lost their leaves.
But not to worry. In his garden, you have at least a month to appreciate the astounding beauty these trees can produce. I've got to get back over there, this time with a freshly loaded battery in my camera. I was rushing around last week. The garden has so many paths, it's hard to know which way to go. This time, I'm going to slow down. I'll never see everything; that's impossible, but it's a great pick-me-up experience to walk through such beauty, especially on a sunny day with light pouring into the garden.