They are among the most spectacular sights of autumn, as their leaves turn sizzling shades of red, burnt orange and yellow.
Japanese maples, or acers, may be expensive but they are still as popular as ever, possibly because there are varieties for almost every situation, even if you have the smallest urban garden.
With slow-growing types that are suitable for pots, larger varieties which can create stunning backdrops and those which will drape above smaller rock plants, in woodland settings or as a framework to ponds, there's really no excuse not to have a Japanese maple in your garden.
They will grow happily on acid or alkaline soils, need sun for good foliage colour but should be kept clear of biting winds, which will burn their delicate foliage, or drought, which will cause their leaves to go brown at the tips.
However, they're not keen on chalk, so the soil needs to be lime free and preferably slightly acidic. I've had Acer palmatum var. dissectum 'Garnet' in ericaceous compost in a pot for five years and it has thrived, being kept well watered and sheltered from harsh winds. Replacing the surface compost of the pot with new compost every year will also help keep the nutrients flowing in a permanent planting.
Alternatively, plant them in large pots of John Innes loam-based compost for the best results, or a compost comprising equal parts John Innes No 2 and a soil-less multipurpose compost, which will hang on to water and nutrients more effectively.
Among the best for autumn leaves is the Acer griseum, whose foliage turns orange and brilliant red in autumn, and which has the added interest of craggy, peeling bark in shades of orange-brown and cinnamon, which is most noticeable in winter when the tree is bear. It grows to a height of around 10m (30ft).
Others will grow happily in containers, providing architectural structure and colour in areas which need them. Varieties ideal for pots include A. palmatum 'Garnet' and 'Corallinum', which are slow-growing and will stay a manageable size in a pot, producing deep rich red foliage before leaf fall.
Other good choices for autumn include the snake bark maples including Acer davidii 'George Forrest', with its red-stalked leaves, and the native field maple A. campestre, which has a broad, bushy habit and small green leaves which turn butter-yellow in autumn.
The coral bark maple, A. palmatum 'Sango-kaku', is renowned for its orange-red young stems which glow in winter light after the butter yellow autumn leaves have fallen. It's a good choice for a smaller garden because it has upwardly sweeping branches as a young tree.
For those growing acers in containers, repot the plant every three to five years, either back into the same container with fresh compost, or into a slightly larger one.
Remove the plant from its pot, then gently tease out the roots and cut back any large, coarse ones. Put the tree in the new container then fill in with fresh compost so the root ball sits at the same level as before. Water well and mulch to suppress weeds.
If the leaves turn brown during summer, chances are your plant's drying out. The leaves may also drop and the plant may appear dead, but if you water thoroughly and fork in well-rotted organic matter, it should recover.
Generally, Japanese maples don't need pruning, but if you do want to keep it in check, just thin out overcrowded branches leaving the rest evenly spaced, or just shorten the branches which have grown out too far by cutting them back to a side-shoot. And only prune when the plant is dormant, from November to March.
Best of the bunch - Callicarpa bodinieri 'Profusion'
This medium-sized deciduous shrub which grows to around 3m (10ft) is highly valued for its stunning bright violet berries which appear in autumn and are often used in flower displays. Also known as the beauty berry, it has eye-catching bronze young foliage in spring and clusters of pinky-purple flowers throughout summer. Callicarpa can be evergreen or deciduous with simple, opposite leaves and tiny white pink or purple flowers in clusters, followed by small, usually colourful fruits. Several shrubs grown together ensures pollination for successful fruiting. For best results, grow them in fertile well-drained soil in sun or partial shade.
Good enough to eat - Pruning blackberries
We've had bumper crops of blackberries this year, to accompany fantastic harvests of apples to make delicious pies, crumbles and jams, but you'll need to give your blackberry bushes a good prune after harvesting to ensure a healthy start to next season.
Fruit is produced on two-year-old canes - the canes that grow this year fruit next year and are then cut right back. So, to make things easy, keep this year's fruiting canes separate from young new canes as the season progresses. When first planting blackberries keep the two years' canes separate, training all the canes out vertically along a fence or row of posts and wires, to one side of the plant. Those canes will carry next year's fruit. Tie the current year's canes in the other direction on the row of posts and wires. The new batch of canes that grow next year won't fruit until the year after that.
In autumn, the fruited canes can easily be pruned out by cutting them off to around 15cm (6in) from the ground after harvesting.
Top buy - Leaf grabber
As autumn leaves start to fall, if you don't want to go down the leaf-blowing route, take a helping hand from a pair of new leaf grabbers from House of Bath, which will help you pick up leaves raked from borders and the lawn to either put on the compost heap or store to make leaf mould, which makes a great mulch on beds and borders. Simply slide on the durable polypropylene, oversized scoops to move piles of leaves, grass, twigs, soil or compost. Priced £10, they're available from www.houseofbath.co.uk (0871 984 2000).
What to do this week
Plant new climbers, shrubs and trees while the soil is still warm.
Take cuttings or save tender plants when you clear out summer containers if you have space to overwinter them.
Check the greenhouse heating and insulate to save heat.
Make sure bowls of bulbs being forced for indoor flowering don't dry out.
As land becomes vacant in the vegetable plot, start digging when ground conditions are good, leaving the ground rough to allow the frost to penetrate.
Protect strawberries potted for forcing early next year against frost by putting them in a cold frame.
Continue to plant biennials such as foxglove, Canterbury bells and honesty.
Check over brassicas for caterpillars of the cabbage white butterfly and pick off any you find.
Cut back asparagus foliage and weed the bed and any self-set plants before applying a layer of organic matter.
Once leaves have fallen, prune gooseberries.
Mow your lawn less frequently as growth slows down, and raise the height of the cutting blades.
Reduce the feeding of fish in ponds as any food not eaten will just decompose in the water.
Trim conifers if necessary for the last time, but don't cut into old wood.
Prune tall shrubs such as lavateras and Buddleia davidii, cutting them back by about half their height to tidy them up and prevent wind rock during winter. They can then be pruned hard in the spring.
Plant herbaceous perennials while the soil is still warm. They look best planted in groups of three or more plants.