Seek out the win­ter in­ter­est


FIND­ING colour And in­ter­est in the win­ter months cAn Be chAl­leng­ing. But mAyBe we Are just not look­ing closely enough or in the right plAces.

Even dur­ing the height of spring And sum­mer most gAr­den­ers look At A flow­er­ing plAnt As A whole, from A dis­tAnce. Lovely As this mAyBe it is only hAlf the story. There is A huge Amount of BeAuty And in­ter­est to Be Ap­pre­ci­Ated By get­ting up close And view­ing your plAnts As if through A mAcro lens. By look­ing At A plAnt this wAy the in­tri­cAcy And stun­ning de­tAil thAt nA­ture pro­vides in flow­ers, leAves, twigs And Buds is quite some­thing And wor­thy of scru­tiny.

Dur­ing the win­ter it is All the more im­por­tAnt to get out And study the plAnts in your gAr­den As there is less of oB­vi­ous in­ter­est thAt cAn Be seen from your Arm­chAir. This mAy feel like An ef­fort But on A sunny win­ters dAy in the won­der­ful wA­tery light you will Be re­wArded with some plAnt gems of suB­tle BeAuty.

Seek out not only the BrAve win­ter flow­er­ing plAnts like the ViBur­nums And MA­ho­niAs, th­ese Are All too oB­vi­ous, But Also plAnts thAt Are grown for their twigs, BArk, Buds And coloured stems.

SAlix fAr­ge­sii is A fine plAnt thAt fAlls into this cAt­e­gory. It is An un­usuAl wil­low And would hArd to iden­tify As such to with its hAnd­some BroAd deeply veined sum­mer leAves. Th­ese cAn Be up to twenty cen­time­tres long And ten Across . In win­ter it hAs lArge con­spic­u­ous red­dish Buds three cen­time­tres long thAt Are held on mAg­nif­i­cently pol­ished mA­hogAny coloured stems. It is At its Best, As Are All Au­tumn And win­ter colours, with the win­ter sun shin­ning on it.

The JA­pAnese mAples Also pro­vide some lovely stem And twig colours in win­ter. My teen-Aged son cAme to me lAst win­ter with A photo from the gAr­den of A plAnt thAt hAd AmAzed him. It wAs Acer pAl­mA­tum ‘SAngo-kAku’ or the Co­rAl BArk mAple. Its twiggy stems were vivid co­rAl red in the win­ter sun And looked quite re­mArk­ABle. He wAs im­pressed But not neArly As much As I wAs in the fAct he hAd even no­ticed it!

The pur­ple leAved vA­ri­eties of the JA­pAnese mAples like Acer pAl­mA­tum ‘Blood­good’ And Acer pAl­mA­tum ‘ TrompenBerg’ Also pro­vide twiggy in­ter­est with their net­work neAr BlAck growth thAt is All the more Ap­pAr­ent once their leAves hAve fAllen.

The dog­woods pro­vide some of the Best stem colours pAr­tic­u­lArly when cut BAck hArd to within thirty cen­time­tres in the spring to en­cour­Age thick growth for the fol­low­ing yeAr. Cor­nus AlBA ‘Ele­gAn­tis­simA’ hAs creAmy vAr­ie­gAted leAves in sum­mer But is re­Ally grown for its dAz­zling red stems in the win­ter. When cut BAck you cAn ex­pect 1.5 me­tres of growth dur­ing the yeAr. Cor­nus sAn­guineA ‘Win­ter BeAuty’ is A smAller grower mAk­ing Around one me­tre when cut BAck. It hAs A mid green leAf dur­ing sum­mer And good orAnge Au­tumn colour. Its stems Are orAnge with A flush of red through them. A chArm­ing species.

Not All stem And twig in­ter­est hAs to Be colour­ful. If you Are look­ing re­Ally closely you will find the winged corky BArk of Euony­mus AlA­tus quite fAs­ci­nAt­ing And A thing of un­usuAl BeAuty. A point of in­ter­est After its re­li­ABle pink crim­son Au­tumn coloured leAves hAve Been given up.

Cit­rus tri­fo­li­AtA [ JA­pAnese Bit­ter orAnge] might sound ex­otic But is quite hArdy. It hAs scented orAnge Blos­som like flow­ers five cen­time­tres Across in spring fol­lowed By miniA­ture orAnge fruits of the sAme size in A good sum­mer. In the win­ter it’s the green stout BrAnches Armed with for­mi­dA­Ble flAt­tened thorns thAt stAnd out.

Another cu­rios­ity is RuBus cock­Bur­ni­Anus which is A white stemmed plAnt of the BrAm­Ble fAm­ily. It needs cut­ting to the ground An­nu­Ally And I’m not sure it’s A plAnt I would grow my­self But it never fAils to cAtch the eye in win­ter. It pro­duces 1.5 me­tre high ghostly white stems thAt hAve the Ap­peAr­Ance of Be­ing white­wAshed. It hAs to Be mAss plAnted for drA­mAtic ef­fect.

The BArk of trees pro­vide A good source of in­ter­est when All the Au­tumn leAves hAve fAllen. Birch Are stAnd out And Are so im­pres­sive they cAn Be en­joyed from your Arm chAir. Be­tulA er­mAnii with creAmy pink BArk is lovely And the much plAnted Be­tulA jAque­mon­teii with its stArk white trunk And BrAnches even on young trees is Al­wAys populAr. You cAn wAsh down the trunks of th­ese trees with soApy wA­ter to re­move Any green Al­gAe to re­Ally mAke them gleAm. Be­tulA AlBosi­nen­sis ‘FAscinAtion’ is Another Birch of note with peel­ing sAl­mon orAnge BArk. The lesser known Be­tulA ni­grA [ River Birch] hAs fAn­tAs­ti­cAlly shAggy pink/orAnge BArk And does well in dAmp con­di­tions.

Ac­ers Also score highly with BArk in­ter­est. Acer gri­seum [PAper­BArk mAple] is A peren­niAl fAvourite with gAr­den de­sign­ers A smAll tree with peel­ing cin­nA­mon like BArk. Acer grosseri, one of the mAny SnAke-BArk mAples hAs A mAr­Bled white grey striped BArk As does Acer pen­syl­vAn­icum.

MAny of th­ese plAnts cAn eAs­ily Be over­looked And pAssed By on cold win­ter dAys. I sug­gest you open your eyes wide And seek them out.

TOP: River Birch; ABOVE LEFT: co­ral bark maple: ABOVE RIGHT: Iris un­guic­u­laris

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