Millstone Japanese Maple Nursery is a family-run operation that took roots in the ’70s and has blossomed into a thriving Dadeville location complete with more than 200 cultivars.
Paul Lowe graduated from Auburn University with a horticulture degree. After teaching high school science for 11 years, he started a nursery in the 1970s. Here, he and his family grew Japanese maples, along with other plants. When he retired, he re-located a few of his Japanese maples out to the countryside on state Route 50, just south of Dadeville. It wasn’t but a short time that it became a full-blown nursery keeping his wife, Glenda, and their children all busy.
“We love the nursery, along with meeting new customers from all over the country,” said Lowe.
Maintaining the nursery is a seven-day-per-week job, and growth and harvesting is done year round. The Lowes grow all trees on site to ensure they are healthy and don’t undergo the shock of transportation.
“From seed to graft stage takes about three years; then, the trees are grafted for about a year before they hit the market,” said Lowe.
The Lowes begin by gathering select seeds in September; planting them in a heated greenhouse; and when they germinate, they are transplanted to cell pack trays. These grow quickly and can be sold for less than grafted trees, plus customers like to admire the large inventory for any new plants.
“We do have several unusual trees we’ve discovered from these seedlings, but the most popular is Sherwood Elfin,” said Lowe. “The seed came from Sherwood Flame, and it is a very short grower with vibrant red color and a beautiful shape.”
In January and February, the majority of grafting is done at Millstone. During this time, the trees are dormant, with no leaves or sap flowing.
“Good rootstock is chosen and cleared of any additional growth. Scion wood is chosen from the mother tree. The sprouts are removed from the understock body and scion wood is inserted to fit; taped in place; and covered with plastic bags, which act as mini greenhouses. This ensures moisture is kept in and bacteria stays out,” said Lowe. “Once it swells, we cut it open.”
While business is operational year round, Lowe said, they sell most of their plants during the spring and fall.
“People love the fall colors,” he said. “With more than 200 cultivars, collectors come from far and wide to pick out their favorites to add to their collections.”
Millstone Nursery now has a wide selection of older, larger Japanese maples for landscaping, and some customers choose plants to add a pop of color, shape or size to enhance their gardens.
The Japanese maples are resilient, tough plants, and if planted properly, could live longer than 200 years, said Lowe.
“They cannot be potted too deeply, and roots cannot be kept too wet,” he said. “These are two of the things that could kill them.”
The soil mix Millstone Nursery uses for growing maples in pots is a mixture of ground bark, mini nuggets, sand and soil conditioner – all of which will create good drainage. For those planting them in their yards, Lowe recommends a bag of good garden soil mixed equally with the original soil.
“We’ve been impressed with the ability to grow these in the Alabama weather,” said Lowe. “It’s a wonderful business to be in.”
Millstone Japanese Maple Nursery is located at 11265 state Route 50 in Dadeville. For more information, visit the Millstone Japanese Maple Nursery Facebook page or call 256-896-0105.