While the fall leaves on our trees dazzle us in autumn, they do not last very long into the winter months. So how can we find other interesting, dramatic features on our trees during the cold months?
Winter holds many magical moments in the garden because the sparseness of the landscape unveils the splendor of beautiful trees with many types of striking bark.
When planting a tree with captivating bark, first 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 (sun and watering conditions). Is the condition of the soil where it needs to be? Is the site protected from wind?
There are many types of trees with attractive bark that will grow well in our area. A small sample includes:
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.
Paperback maple: This small, slow-growing ornamental tree is beautiful in a winter landscape because of its reddish brown bark that curls like paper.
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; the bark on most crape myrtles is attractive exfoliating bark that peels away to expose a trunk that ranges in colors from handsome shade of browns to grays.
Beautiful bark is not just for decoration — it also provides protection for the tree’s sensitive growth tissue underneath. These trees are attractive all year, but only when the leaves are not present can you see the character revealed. This winter take some walks. Notice how the bark on some trees peels, curls or flakes. Observe the colors and take in all of winter’s show.
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.