Home GardeningGarden Diary Cindy Bolz’s Asian-style garden of Japanese maples

Cindy Bolz’s Asian-style garden of Japanese maples


June 06, 2024

I have exactly one Japanese maple in my garden, inherited with the house. But I’ve enjoyed the graceful beauty of its foliage and form for many years. So imagine my delight when I visited collector Cindy Bolz‘s garden in Farmers Branch, an inner suburb of Dallas, where she’s growing sixty Japanese maples on an average-sized lot. Sixty! And that doesn’t include her canopy trees that provide the shade Japanese maples need in a Texas summer.

Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’

Many of Cindy’s trees are small and slow growing, and some she grows in containers. Others are big enough to shade a garden bench. And despite the increasing number — 60, remember — Cindy can instantly rattle off the name of each one when asked.

Cindy purchased her first tree in 2000 and brought it with her when she moved to her current home in 2001. It was the beginning of a Japanese maple obsession.

Acer palmatum ‘Garnet’ (front) and ‘Bloodgood’ (back left)

Her collection eventually gave rise to her entire garden. As she brought home each new maple, she created a little garden around it with complementary plants. Every time she acquired another one, she carved out more lawn and built out the garden. And so on and so on, until she had a serene Asian-style garden with multiple seating areas and paths to explore.

Acer palmatum ‘Butterfly’ (foreground)

Often, a collector’s garden can look like, well, a collection, with little thought given to design. But Cindy has a discerning eye for contrasting shapes and textures, showing off the unique forms of her maples, drawing visitors through the garden, and creating vignettes to enjoy along the way. She’s also handy with tools and isn’t afraid to try making whatever she needs, as I’ll show you.

And now let’s stroll.

I’d hardly stepped into the garden when a small, potted Japanese maple, displayed on a pedestal and illuminated in a shaft of sunlight, caught my eye. I headed straight for it but got sidetracked by a Cousin Itt of a plant: a weeping Japanese maple, Acer palmatum ‘Ryusen’.

Here’s that ‘Ryusen’ with Cindy for scale.

Just beyond is a flagstone-and-gravel patio with the little maple on a stacked-paver pedestal. (Cindy built her pedestal after I posted about making one; click for instructions.) The pride-of-place maple is a new variety, as yet unnamed, purchased from Scott Hubble, the owner of specialty nursery Metro Maples in Fort Worth, which I visited last spring. Cindy says it’s “one of only six in the world.” Along the fence grows variegated privet, which Cindy has pruned up like small trees.

A pedestal is a great way to display a treasured potted plant.

A large ‘Bloodgood’ Japanese maple shelters this small patio. Beyond, another patio with a shoji-style backdrop beckons.

Cindy added Asian style to her garden with this DIY project on a blank shed wall. “I wanted to turn my shed wall into a shoji wall of sorts,” she told me. “I bought 1×2 lumber, measured, sawed, painted, and nailed it to the wall.” She found the brass Asian characters at an estate sale and fixed them to the wall too.

An 18-year-old ‘Tama Hime’ dwarf Japanese maple is displayed in a pot at the end of a ribbon of clipped boxwood. ‘Viridis’ (green) and ‘Dragon Tears’ (red) maples add more leafy texture.

On one side of the patio, coralberry cascades from a container — a smart idea for containing this pretty runner of a plant.

On the other side, a copper-tube fountain drips steadily into a bowl of water. This is another of Cindy’s creations. She let copper tubing warm in the sun so it would bend easily without crimping. Then she gently shaped a piece like a candy cane and hooked it up to a small pump. To create more interest, though, she added a second copper tube with a spiraling shape. This one doesn’t actually funnel water at all. It just looks like it does.

View to the ‘Bloodgood’ maple

A glass-mosaic birdbath adds color that harmonizes, I imagine, with the maples’ fall hues.

Another containerized water feature, this one with a bamboo fountain, accents a swath of liriope.

‘Butterfly’ Japanese maple displays bright variegation. A slow grower, this one is 12 to 15 years old and not even 3 feet tall.

A closer look at those cream-and-mint leaves

A gracefully pruned ‘Garnet’ Japanese maple screens the dining patio.

Rusty red leaves overhead

Oakleaf hydrangea, giant liriope, and loropetalum make a pretty shade combo.

In a fence corner, Cindy made a solo seating area with a stone bench, Asian lantern, and bowl fountain. Gray river rock beside the fountain offers the idea of a small pond.

Long view across the garden, under the ‘Bloodgood’ maple

A simple and sweet vignette skirts the textured trunk of a tree: river cobbles, pink-flowering oxalis, and chartreuse ‘Everillo’ sedge.

Nearby, another nice combo: Oregon grape holly, ‘Sparkler’ sedge (one of my favorite shade plants, but so hard to find nowadays), and purple oxalis

White-veined hardy Dutchman’s pipevine (Aristolochia fimbriata), a perennial vine groundcover, adds contrast with rambling, rounded leaves. Cindy loves that it attracts black pipevine swallowtail butterflies, which lay their eggs on it. The caterpillars nibble it down, but that’s OK because it results in more butterflies.

I walked through Cindy’s garden multiple times, taking in all the views she’s created to display her maples.

On the way out, I admired a big ‘Feather Falls’ carex in a tall pot on a pedestal that Cindy constructed herself. She bought 2×12 lumber at Home Depot and had them cut it according to the measurements she needed. She screwed the boards together to make two boxes and painted them black. Then she stacked them with three large Saltillo tiles for a tiered effect. It looks great with her red brick house and the black pot.

Outside of the gate, a textured gray pot contains boxwood, ‘Angelina’ sedum, and a few other small plants.

Cindy continues her Japanese maple collection in the front foundation bed, which is edged with a ribbon of pink and gray river rock. Acer palmatum ‘Fireglow’ adds a splash of wine-red foliage. Beneath it, flanking a lantern, are two smaller maples, ‘Golden Falls’ and ‘Sister Ghost’. Don’t you love the names?

Red-veined sorrel, ‘Red Dragon’ persicaria, and smoke bush continue the red theme in the understory layer.

My thanks to Cindy for reaching out and welcoming me and my friend Cat for a delightful garden visit!

To learn more about Cindy’s garden, check out this article and video:

Up next from my Dallas trip: A visit to North Haven Gardens nursery in Dallas. For a look back at the Plano prairie garden of Michael McDowell, click here.

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