While the fall leaves on our trees dazzle us in autumn, they do not last very long into the winter months. We must find other interesting, dramatic features on our trees to keep us visually engaged during the cold months.
Choosing trees with beautiful, decorative bark for landscapes is one way to enhance winter scenery in a garden or yard. The emptiness and sparseness of the landscape can unveil the splendor of an assortment of trees with many types of striking bark.
Beautiful bark is not just for decoration in the winter months. It also provides vital protection for the tree’s sensitive growth tissue underneath. These trees are attractive all year long, but only when the leaves are not present can you see the beauty and character revealed.
In the cooler months ahead, bundle up and take some walks. Notice how the bark on some trees peel, curl or flake. Observe the colors of the bark in their wide array of textures and colors.
There are many types of trees with attractive bark that will grow well in our area. Here are some of my favorites:
• Japanese stewartia. This tree enchants all year, but winter reveals its mottled bark in an array of colors from green, gray, red and brown.
• Kousa dogwood. A gardener’s favorite in this area, this dogwood sports a patchwork of grays and browns on the bark and flowers profusely in the spring, summer and fall.
• Redtwig dogwood. There is nothing more beautiful than to see these striking red stems contrasting against a blanket of snow or an evergreen tree or shrub.
• Paperback maple. This small, slow-growing ornamental tree is beautiful in a winter landscape because of its gorgeous, reddish brown bark that curls like paper. In autumn, the leaves turn from brilliant orange to scarlet which gives way to a beautiful, stunning bark.
• River birch. This highly adaptable, fast growing tree is disease resistant. Plant them where their roots have lots of room to spread and watch as this beautiful tree’s bark exfoliates in dramatic fashion.
• Crape myrtle. There are many cultivars, but the Natchez is a favorite with white flowers and exceptional exfoliating bark. The Tuskegee has beautiful horizontal branches and striking bark. The bark on most crape myrtles has attractive exfoliating bark that peels away to expose a trunk which ranges in colors from a handsome shade of browns to grays.
Byers White crape myrtles have showy white flowers in the summer. In the fall, they display a beautiful golden yellow foliage that finally gives way to a stunning display of twisting, white gray bark.
When planting a new tree, always research the type of tree you would like to plant. Check the growing requirements (will it grow in our zone 7?) and buy from a reputable source. Scout the location for sun and watering conditions.
Is the condition of the soil where it needs to be? Is the site protected from wind? Remember it takes about a year or more to get a newly planted tree established with a good root system. Now is a great time to plant trees.
Wanda Cannon is a Master Gardener trained through the Hall County program and also serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the Hall County Extension office. Phone: 770-535-8293. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.