Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Winter Garden; Bark and Berries

Designing a garden with year round interest encourages us to get outside no matter what the weather. The texture and color of bark and stems and the colors and shapes of berries and hips can inspire new ideas for the winter garden, adding an additional layer of interest to the backbone of conifers and evergreen shrubs. Here are a few of my favorites.

River birches look particularly stunning near water

River birch (Betula nigra), often a multi stemmed shrub, has the most incredible bark which peels off in papery curls, revealing inner layers of cinnamon and salmon. Although it does not need wet soil it copes well with it, making it a good choice for my garden!

Japanese stewartia

The vivid lightening bolt patterns in shades of grey, orange and red sets the exfoliating bark of Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia) apart. This special tree has many virtues – it is relatively pest and disease free, has exquisite white camellia-like blossoms in mid summer when few other trees are in flower, and greets autumn with shades of red and purple. Gorgeous.

Midwinter Fire dogwood seems to glow in the winter sun

Shown off to advantage in winter a favorite shrub of mine is ‘Midwinter fire’ twig dogwood (Cornus sericea), whose branches burn in shades of deep red to orange and yellow. These look amazing planted en masse against a dark green backdrop of conifers or Camellia ‘Yuletide’ whose red and yellow flowers would repeat the colors of the dogwood stems.

Glossy berries of the Red-leaf rose
The evergreen shrub Parney cotoneaster (Cotoneaster lacteus) is attractive in all seasons with its gentle fountain shape, heavily textured green leaves revealing a silvery underside and clusters of white summer flowers. It tolerates part shade even though it prefers full sun and is covered with hanging clusters of red berries all winter. Or at least it is until the birds find them!

Other berry and hip producing shrubs you might like include ‘Profusion’ beautyberry (Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii), firethorn (Pyracantha koidzumii), wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), prickly heath (Pernettya mucronata), rugosa rose and the red-leaf rose (Rosa glauca).

Additional trees and shrubs with colored stems include maple trees such as paperbark maple (Acer griseum), snake bark maple (Acer capillipes) and coral bark maple (Acer p. ‘Sango Kaku’) and yellow twig dogwood (Cornus species).

So think beyond boxwood and spruce trees; bring some fresh ideas into your winter garden.

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