This is a large genus of trees and shrubs which are mainly grown for their attractive foliage, although some species have the added attraction of colourful bark.
The group also includes sycamores which grow to be some of the largest. The range includes plenty of shrubs and small trees that are suitable for the small garden, while at the other extreme there are some huge trees that need plenty of space.
The Japanese maples are amongst the most suitable for the small garden. Not only are they relatively small but they are also attractive in all the seasons of the year so they really earn their keep.
In the spring and summer the foliage has good colour and shape, some very finely cut and dark purple in colour. In autumn the leaves take on a fiery hue and in winter the shrubs and trees look good in silhouette.
The flowers on some acers can be attractive, but in a more subtle way than many other trees, and they are not often grown solely for this characteristic.
The resulting seed hangs in clusters and is distributed by their helicopter-like wings. On the whole acers do well in either sun or shade, although the Japanese varieties prefer to be out of the hottest, midday sun.