Plant of the Month February 2017

Colourful bark makes any garden come to life

If you’re longing for some colour in winter, trees with colourful bark are just the right thing.

There’s no time for the winter blues even in February. Trees with coloured bark are a lovely addition to wintry gardens. Nature has really dipped its brush into the paint pot and created striking bold colours and fashion trends with looks in orange, yellow and red. Much more subdued colours have also been mixed, ranging from green to cream. In particular, specimens from the Cornus species such as the Gelbrindige dogwood (Cornus stolonifera ‘Flaviramea’) and the famous Siberian dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’) make their grand appearance in winter. The bright, red shoots of Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ stand in winter like flames in the garden, especially when the low-hanging winter sun shuns on it. Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire' also lives up to its namesake, and is an excellent newer variety from the Cornus family with bright orange branches.  The annual shoots display the richest colouring. This is true of many shrubs with coloured bark. To accentuate this effect, plant the trees in a block or group, namely closer than you would do otherwise and cut them back heavily each year. This produces hearty shrubs with many, stable, annual shoots with an impressive colour effect. The twisted shoots and the yellow-orange bark are also of particular ornamental value of Salix 'Erythroflexuosa’, commonly known as twisted willow. This variety is a hybrid of Salix matsudana Tortuosa (corkscrew willow) and Salix alba Tristis (weeping willow) and grows upright, wide and bizarre and usually reaches a height of 3–5 m and is up to 1–3 m wide. For those who prefer base forms, the pollard willow is just the right tree. The young, yellow to red-brown branches of a pollard willow cultivated as Salix alba, ‘Liempte’ add some colour to a background covered with fresh snow, during the grey wintry days. What's more, their strong roots protect embankments from erosion.   

Trees with textured bark such as Acer griseum (paperbark maple) or rare specimens that are scarce such as Acer tegmentosum (snakebark maples) make the hearts of any lover of trees beat faster.   The dark-grey bark of Acer tegmentosum or the new, still very rare tegmentosum variety ‘White Tigress' puts on a display of striking, chalk-white stripes through their lenticels, hence the name "snakebark". At dusk, the white stripes shine silver. The young branches have a smooth, bluish-white bark during winter.