Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine
Bark with bite
Cherry trees don’t just have to be about short-lived confetti in spring, writes David Overend.
Some cherry trees have been in flower for several weeks, although you will have had to look closely to spot them because these cherries are not the gaudy spring-blooming varieties, but the more restrained autumn/winter flowerers.
They bloom – quietly and efficiently, providing tiny breaths of life – at a time when a lot of nature has got its head down until the temperature takes a turn for the better.
But say the words “cherry tree” and most people will think only of the in-youreye Japanese ornamentals which burst forth in March and April, peppering the landscape with outrageous explosions of colour. Such is their popularity that, seemingly, no street (or garden) is complete without one.
We learn with experience – while many of these trees are masterpieces of colour, their roots can have a nasty habit of creeping along just below the soil surface, wreaking havoc to paths and lawns.
And their inability to withstand spring weather means that the blooms are short-lived – whipped away to clog up drains and gutters, falling from grace to become nothing more than piles of dirty horticultural confetti.
However, you don’t have to grow a cherry tree for its short-lived flowers; you can grow one for its long-lived, year-round colourful bark. Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce you to the Tibetan cherry, P serrula.
It’s usually described as a round-headed small deciduous tree, whose trunk is clothed with the most amazing shining coppery-brown young bark. Forget about the small, insignificant spring flowers and even the foliage which turn yellow in autumn, it is the bark that makes the tree.
P serrula is a thing of beauty which grows well in a sunny spot where its roots can enjoy a moderately fertile soil. Those roots, unfortunately, are like many in the Prunus family – they are shallow, so this is a tree best grown away from a prized lawn or drains etc.
Other than that, it’s a low-maintenance type of tree which can, if necessary, be pruned in mid-summer. Like many cherries, there are a few potential problems to watch for – silver leaf, bacterial canker and blossom wilt to name but three.
But if you want a smallish garden tree (this one may top 35 feet and stretch out 25 feet or so) with amazing bark, this may be one worth considering.