Gar­den­ing: Add win­ter colour with vi­brant stems and barks

Add a splash of colour to your win­ter gar­den with vi­brant stems and or­na­men­tal bark, says Adri­enne Wild

Woman's Weekly (UK) - - News -

In win­ter de­cid­u­ous trees and shrubs are stripped naked and of­ten re­veal their drab and life­less skele­ton. There are many gar­den wor­thy plants how­ever, that shine at this time of year show­ing off their fiery stems or touchy feely bark, which with clever plan­ning could turn your gar­den into a win­ter won­der­land – even with­out the help of snow!

Daz­zling white stems, peel­ing bark along with a grace­ful habit makes sil­ver birch one of the most sought af­ter plants for a small gar­den. It is par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tive when best grown as a multi-stemmed tree in a wild cor­ner of the gar­den to give the im­pres­sion of a copse. To cre­ate the ef­fect sim­ply cut back the young stem to cre­ate three sep­a­rate stems. Al­ter­na­tively plant sev­eral young trees, plac­ing them a few cen­time­tres apart.

If space is limited, con­sider plant­ing a sin­gle spec­i­men of the shapely, weep­ing va­ri­ety Be­tula pen­dula ‘Youngii’ in a sunny or lightly shaded bor­der through a carpet of white-var­ie­gated plants such as Eu­ony­mus ‘Sil­ver Queen’. Its ma­ture height is 4.5m and the light canopy of birch means that most ground­cover plants and spring bulbs will thrive in its dap­pled shad­ows.

Per­fect for cre­at­ing a focal point in a medium to large-size for­mal lawn is the star­tling white-barked Be­tula jacque­mon­tii. Look out for the ‘Jermyns’ or ‘In­ver­leith’ va­ri­eties that pro­duce ex­tra long catkins in spring. It will take about eight years for these 3m tall trees to pro­duce the whitest

coloured bark but the wait is worth it.

Another white-stemmed plant that’s suit­able for a large gar­den is the Ghost bram­ble or Rubus ‘Sil­ver Fern’. It’s a good choice for a bound­ary bor­der where its tan­gled icy-blue mass of canes will make a good de­fence against in­trud­ers. You will need to keep this vig­or­ous plant un­der con­trol by prun­ing it hard to the ground each spring. In a reg­u­lar-size bor­der, you might con­sider plant­ing the va­ri­ety ‘Gold­en­vale’, which as well as its white win­ter stems it also pro­duces yel­low sum­mer fo­liage on a plant just 1m tall.

Known as the snake bark maple, Acer da­vidii has green­ish-yel­low bark with eye-catch­ing ver­ti­cal stri­a­tions, which with a lit­tle imag­i­na­tion can be likened to a snake’s skin. The stri­a­tions usu­ally be­gin to ap­pear on trees that are at least two years old and are more pro­nounced on more ma­ture trees. It prefers a shel­tered lo­ca­tion and grows best in full sun, although it will tol­er­ate light shade and prefers moist but well-drained ground. With a height of around 10-15m it’s a per­fect spec­i­men plant in a small gar­den as ei­ther a stan­dard or multi-stem.

At just 6m, the pa­per­bark maple, Acer gri­seum is one of the most beau­ti­ful of all small trees. The bark, which is its main at­trac­tion, is a rich shade of ma­hogany and peels in lay­ers to re­veal new pris­tine cin­na­mon-coloured bark un­der­neath. You will have to wait a few years for the max­i­mum ef­fect, as the bark does not nor­mally flake off un­til the tree is three or four years old. A rich, mois­tur­ere­ten­tive, well-drained soil will keep this un­de­mand­ing tree happy but for best re­sults, find it a shel­tered spot where the trunk is high­lighted in win­ter sun­shine.

Prunus ser­rula looks so ap­peal­ing at this time of year that you’ll al­ways want to keep touch­ing it! The new bark is es­pe­cially strik­ing and on an old tree it’s worth tak­ing the trou­ble to peel away the flak­ing old bark to re­veal the smooth, shiny new wood. It looks su­perb in win­ter sun­shine so plant it where it catches the light. It will grow well on most soils and will reach a height of 3m. It’s a good idea to re­move lower branches as the tree grows to pro­duce a tall, glossy trunk.

If you’ve no space for a tree, then use dog­woods to in­ject some colour into your win­ter gar­den. You can cre­ate a bon­fire in your bor­der with Cor­nus ‘Mid­win­ter Fire’, which pro­duces bright yel­low-or­ange stems un­til mid-spring when the colour fades. To the plant in peak con­di­tion each win­ter, cut the old stems hard back in late Fe­bru­ary to make way for a new crop of fresh colour­ful growth.

The award-win­ning Cor­nus alba ‘Sibir­ica’ pro­duces bright coral-red stems and looks stun­ning when planted in groups where the im­pact is dou­bled by the re­flec­tion in a still pond. It’s also a good choice for the edge of a wild gar­den if mixed with Cor­nus sericea ‘Flavi­ramea’, which pro­duces lime green win­ter stems up to 1m tall and Cor­nus ‘Kes­sel­ringii’, which pro­duces a dense thicket of dark pur­ple-black stems with the po­ten­tial of grow­ing up to

2.5m tall.

Pa­per­back maple proves small is beau­ti­ful

Cor­nus sericea flavi­ramea is per­fect in a wild bor­der

A row of sil­very Be­tula pen­dula are off­set by flam­ing dog­woods

Strik­ing Be­tula Jacque­mon­tii

The ‘snake­skin’ stri­a­tions of Acer da­vidii

Cor­nus ‘Mid­win­ter Fire’ brings the heat in bleak­est win­ter

Prunus ser­rula of­fers shiny ma­hogany splen­dour

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