Q: I live in North Tacoma and have just removed some very sickly hawthorne trees from my parking strip. I would like to replace them with...

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Q: I live in North Tacoma and have just removed some very sickly hawthorne trees from my parking strip. I would like to replace them with Japanese maples.

Ours is much wider than the typical Seattle parking strip — about 12-15 feet. I have hanging power lines over the parking strip, so I need a tree that won’t grow too tall. I was hoping you could suggest some Japanese maples that are less than 15 feet high, have a wide growth habit and offer dramatic autumn foliage. I’m thinking scarlet or one of the orangey-red maples. I don’t want one of the ones in the more burgundy-red family.

A: The smallest and most orange of the Japanese maples is probably Acer palmatum ‘Orangeola,’ with coppery spring foliage and another orange flush in midsummer.

Other possibilities include the diminutive Acer palmatum ‘Seiryu,’ the most upright Japanese maple that has finely dissected, feathery foliage. It grows into a wide vase shape with age, topping out at about 15 feet.

The fernleaf full-moon maple (Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’) has green foliage, but its leaves are exceptionally handsome. It tolerates full sun and only grows about 10 feet high.

For detailed recommendations and photos of Japanese maples that do well in our climate, check out the Great Plant Picks Web page at www.greatplantpicks.org, or the definitive book on these lovely trees, “Japanese Maples” by J.D. Vertrees (third edition, revised and expanded, Timber Press, 2001).

Your first step should be to check with your local municipality for street tree recommendations, and to find out whether you need a permit to plant new trees on your parking strip.

Tacoma Public Utilities’ Web page (www.ci.tacoma.wa.us/power) has a list of allowable street trees, and it appears that Japanese maples are OK on tree lawns that are 10 feet or wider. But please confirm this with Tacoma city arborist Jennifer Shui (253-591-5511).

Be sure to select not only compact Japanese maples, but those that can thrive in full sun exposure. Please remember that any Japanese maple needs supplemental watering during dry summer weather. If you don’t intend to irrigate your parking strip, you’ll need to select a more drought-tolerant kind of tree.

Q: Do you know of any software program that you can use to develop a layout of your yard and annotate the plants you have placed throughout it?

I currently put the tag that comes with the plant in the ground near it or in a file, but many of these do not have pictures on them, and it’s hard to tell which plant they belong to. They also tend to get lost over time, and I would like to have some type of record of which plants are where.

A: Because gardens are always changing, through the seasons and through the years, keeping track of plants and their locations is a continual challenge. Since my own plant records consist of long, outdated lists and drawers stuffed with plant tags, I’m not up on current technology. I checked in with the staff of the Elisabeth C. Miller Library, University of Washington Botanic Gardens, and they had these software suggestions:

• The Garden Management System 4.0 (www.hmk.on.ca) organizes plant inventories and records and keeps track of what is planted where. It also lets you store horticultural care information on your plants, such as water, sun and fertilizer requirements. Price is $30 Canadian; see the Web site for ordering information.

• Ideas Genie Gardening Software (www.ideasgenie.co.uk) was developed by a keen gardener. (Can you tell it’s British just by that description?) It allows you to build your own database of plant names and data, garden locations and photos. It’s billed as flexible and powerful. There are several versions; see the Web site for prices and ordering from England.

• Premier Gardens (www.pleasantlakesoftware.com) was developed with the advice of garden clubs and master gardeners, so you’d expect it to be practical for home gardeners. It appears to be the easiest of the three to learn and use. It allows for shopping lists, plant inventories and creation of grids to track plants and garden areas. Cost is $39.95, with a 30-day free trial offer.

Valerie Easton also writes about Plant Life in Sunday’s Pacific Northwest Magazine. Write to her at P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111 or e-mail planttalk@seattletimes.com with your questions. Sorry, no personal replies.