Since 1913 Princeton Nurseries has been associated with premium plant material. Their success is due, in large part, to their desire and dedication to not only produce but properly groom and finish their plants. “Research and development is a Princeton Nursery legacy and is a vital part of their future.” William Flemer III has selected outstanding shade trees from their seedling program. Such selections include Greenspire American ash, Green Mountain sugar maple, and this author’s favorite tree Princeton Sentry Ginkgo. They have a futuristic approach to producing and finishing plants, having a Cravo structure topping out at 25 feet tall, the highest in North America. This structure responds to unpredictable weather patterns and produces and houses everything from perennials to large caliper shade trees. Whether it’s producing over one million seedlings a year or lining out 175 acres to produce 110,000 units of plant material, there is still room to inspect and identify new candidates. The newest candidate to be added to their portfolio of introductions is Acer ginnala ‘Ruby Slippers.’
Acer ginnala (Amur Maple) has for too long been underused and underappreciated. Truly a “Hardy” tree, Amur maple is listed academically as a zone 3 (-40 degrees) tree. Typical attributes of Acer ginnala are opposite leaves, samaras that hang on until late fall, and an overall smaller habit lending itself well to smaller landscapes. Tolerant of drought, compacted soils and air pollution, Acer ginnala seems as tough as Ginkgo which has been around since the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. In other words dinosaurs remember their habit.
Acer ginnala ‘Ruby Slippers’ was selected at Princeton Nursery from a seedling block in Allentown, New Jersey in 1990. Typically associated with multistems, ‘Ruby Slippers’ was chosen for its straight single stem. This small deciduous tree offers what any great tree can be remembered for. It has multi-seasonal interest. A dense canopy forms with the emergence of spring leaves and from here it only gets better. June, for me, is its best month. Samaras, those little whirly-gigs we put on our noses as kids, hang suspended like Dorothy’s slippers, giving us a false perception that this tree is flowering red. The intense color of the samaras (a dry fruit bearing a wing) is a precursor of what is to come in the fall. Outstanding hues of red and orange in the cooler autumn months are not to be outdone by the samaras in June and July. Let’s not forget that this is a multi-seasonal tree and that means that there must be winter interest as well. Smooth, gray bark and a dense canopy provide an outstanding winter silhouette rounding out this almost perfect bantam weight champion. Acer ginnala ‘Ruby Slipper’s versatility also includes a resistance to verticillium (a soil borne fungi) adaptability to soil and environmental stress and a usefulness amongst urban and suburban plantings. ‘Ruby Slippers’ is just as happy underneath power lines as it is as a focal point in your next suburban planting. Acer ginnala performs best in moist, well-drained soils, can be heavily pruned and is just as easily planted in the ground or in a container. Remember this little guy only matures to 15-20 feet tall and wide.
We have much to thank Princeton Nursery for. Their commitment to excellence over the years has led to some exciting botanical offerings. Building on William Flemer III successes, with his exciting introductions, we would be remiss not to mention the efforts of others involved with the cultivating and marketing of today’s plants. Kudos goes out to Andrea Bonville, who evaluates today’s promising plants and cooperates with researchers throughout the United States. Doug Webber, Vice President of sales and marketing and Fran Chismar, sales manager for Princeton Nursery who tirelessly help bring Princeton’s products to fruition and whose botanical coaching is nothing short of encyclopedic. We thank you as well.