Winter Interest – Bark

In fall, after the leaves fall, some trees and shrubs stand out in the garden with their unique bark. Some plants have bark with interesting texture while others provide striking colors. An often overlooked feature in the garden, a plant’s bark is most important in the winter.

The Heritage Birch Tree (Betula nigra ‘Heritage’) is a great tree for any garden and can grow to 60′ tall and 40-60′ wide. The texture of its grey and tan bark is striking with the outer bark peeling back in large patches. The river birch has wonderful fall foliage as well.

The Shag Bark Hickory (Carya ovata), as the name suggests, also has bark which peels away from the trunk giving the tree a shaggy look.

Sugar MapleThe Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) is a large shade tree growing 60-75′ tall and 50-60′ wide. Its bark, a dark gray-brown, contrasts nicely with the snow and adds texture with its long, deep ridges. Bright golden leaves in the fall make this a year round treasure.

Tree and shrub bark can also add interest to gardens by providing color. The Coral Bark Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sangokaku’), for instance, has brilliant red bark that adds a wonderful quality to the garden in the fall and winter.

White Birch (Betula papyrifera) is a wonderful ornamental tree with a distinct white bark.

Red Twig Dogwood, a great shrub for naturalizing, the border garden, or as a specimen, provide the garden with striking red stems. Easy to grow and maintain the red twig dogwood become on of the most prominent shrubs during the winter months as they stand in contrast against garden walls or evergreen shrubs. They’re particularly beautiful when there is snow on the ground. Dogwood shrubs are also available with yellow bark.

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