As the winter season changes the look of your landscape, beauty can still be found with trees. Though often hidden during the growing season, a tree’s beautiful bark finally comes to center stage in the winter.
To keep your garden as attractive in the “down season” as in the growing season, try incorporating a tree with unique bark patterns into your landscape. Try planting a tree near a path so you can appreciate the grain up close, or create a beautiful focal point in an underused area of your yard. Either can add a new dimension of interest to your winter landscape.
The American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), shown below, has smooth gray bark with vertical ripples twisting the length of the trunk. Also called musclewood, is usually a small shade tree but can be planted in full sun if given enough moisture. This tree’s wide range—from Quebec south through Mexico—makes it a promising addition for many American gardens.
Cinnamon clethra’s (Clethra acuminata) name comes from its beautiful tan and cinnamon-colored, peeling bark, shown below. Though summersweet (Clethra alnifolia)—cinnamon clethra’s spreading cousin—is the more popular of the two species, it is cinnamon clethra that has the distinct advantage of forming a single clump or small tree. As an added bonus, it has the same fragrant mid-summer white flowers as summersweet. Unfortunately, it is only available to those gardeners who live in USDA Hardiness Zones 6-8.
For the southeastern U.S., river birch (Betula nigra),—found naturally from the Great Lakes south to Florida and Texas—is better adapted to survive in their gardens. Birch species prefer full sun and moist soils, but could tolerate some shade.
Also great for the southeastern U.S is the Natchez crape myrtle – As with many of the widely-grown crape myrtle trees used in landscaping, this plant is a hybrid derived from crossing Lagerstroemia indica with Lagerstroemia fauriei. Although originally from Asia, Lagerstroemia is naturalized in the southeastern U.S. The bark peels off attractively, much like that of birches, adding winter interest.
Species which have wide growing ranges also have immense variability between regions. When researching the possibilities, go one step further to ensure your new tree is as cold hardy or heat tolerant as you need it to be. Make sure to consult with a certified arborist to ensure that you are making the right choice for your landscape.
Keep in mind, local genetic material which is already more adapted to your region will be less stressed and, therefore, more disease resistant. Buying locally, you will also be helping to preserve and maintain the biodiversity of your local population.
Check out the Embark Services Tree and Landscape video below on planting trees!