Papery, Peeling, Striped & Shaggy: Textural Bark Brings Warmth & Beauty To Stark, Wintery Landscapes…

December 15th, 2010 § 1

From peach and cream to reddish brown, the peeling bark of our native, paper birch (Betula papyrifera) is one of my favorite textures in the winter landscape…

Brr… It sure is cold outside. With temperatures hovering around 15 degrees fahrenheit here in Vermont, it takes an awful lot to stop me in my tracks for more than a minute or two. And yet this afternoon, as I walked up the garden path from the driveway, I couldn’t resist lingering outside to enjoy the light and snap a few quick photos to share. Winter is an incredible time for appreciating the subtler forms of botanical beauty -particularly the colors and textures of twigs and bark. Although most of the trees and shrubs in my garden were chosen for the quality of their form, foliage, flowers and berries, bark always plays a part in my plant selection as well.

Living in a remote forest-clearing, I’m lucky to be surrounded by woodlands filled with beautiful, native trees –including one of my favorites, the dramatic, white-barked paper birch (Betula papyrifera). Paper birch trees are gorgeous any time of the year, but in winter, the peachy-cream and cinnamon hues of their peeling bark really stand out against dark hillsides and brown tones in the landscape. The trunks of other native trees, including the common striped maple (Acer pensylvanicum) with its snake-like bark, and dramatic shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), also add tremendous beauty to winter’s fine tapestry of hues and textures. Naked though they may be —stripped of their foliage for nearly six months out of the year— the deciduous trees and shrubs of New England remain a constant source of fascination to my eyes.

A dusting of snow enhances the cinnamon-colored bark of this oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) like a sprinkling of sweet sugar

Taking my cue from nature, I’ve added a wide variety of trees and shrubs with peeling, papery, striped and shaggy bark to my garden; adding visual interest throughout the quiet season. In winter, the surfaces of these textural plants enhance the beauty of outdoor spaces —including beds and borders, paths and walkways— as well as the views from the doors and windows of my house. Come December —as snow and ice begin to settle into the nooks an crannies on tree bark, woody stems and twigs— the colors and textures of these plants are intensified; adding to the winter-wonderland surrounding my home.

Now is great time to bundle up and make note of the subtle details in your home landscape. Conifers, as well as the brightly colored twigs and berries of deciduous trees and shrubs add an immense amount of beauty to the winter garden –of course. But also, keep the texture of shrub and tree bark in mind as well. In addition to the specimens pictured here, you may wish to consider Striped Maple cultivars (Acer pensylvanicum cvs.), Japanese maple (Acer palmatum), River birch (Betula nigra), Katsuratree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), Cinnamon Clethra (Clethra acuminata), Dogwood species and cultivars (Cornus), Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), Black Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica), Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), and one of my all-time-favorite trees (and recent garden addition) Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica), among other texturally dramatic choices for the garden.

Come and take a peek at some of the beautiful colors and textures I enjoyed outside in the garden today; snapping photos until my fingers grew numb…

The peeling, cinnamon colored bark of Hydrangea quercifolia stands out beautifully against a backdrop of Juniperus squamata ‘Holger’ and Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’

The reptillian-looking bark of this Mountain Silverbell (Halesia tetraptera) is beautiful year-round, but when the leaves drop, it really stands out against a back-drop of snow…

The textural branches of native ninebark and cultivars (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diablo’) adds color and movement to the winter landscape. Here, a tiny strip of peeling, patterned bark catches the wind on a December day…

Although the trunk of this Stewartia pseudocamilla will develop far more texture and color as it matures, the bark is still beautiful and interesting in youth…

Both the luminous cinnamon-red color —particularly when backlit as here— and curling texture of beautiful paperbark maple (Acer griseum) make it one of my favorite trees…

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Article and Photographs are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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