Winter trees and shrubs have a lot to offer

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Stephanie Hudak

Stephanie Hudak

By Stephanie Hudack

The leaves are off the trees and hopefully being composted somewhere. Well, the leaves are gone from most trees, except those oaks and beech trees which hang on to them until spring. Not a bad thing though. That beige color is kind of nice.

But that isn’t the point of this story. It is about the bark and structure. As I drove down my driveway I took the time to look at the trees that I planted last year and was so pleased with their winter look. At the edge of the drive is a trident maple (Acer buergerianum ).

The word trident is a clue that the leaves have three points. This is a compact tree that can get up to 20 feet tall and wide, maybe more.

The birds really liked the structure on this one because it gives them lots of nest making space and leaves that provide protection. This year though the bark is doing its thing. It has become a pretty gray-brown-orange that is exfoliating and showing off its stuff.

The tree has to have about a 2-3” diameter before this happens but it is worth the wait. But even better than the trident maple is the paperbark maple (Acer griseum). Talk about beautiful bark. It starts exfoliating at a younger stage, revealing a rich cinnamon color.

It has beautiful leaves, a fine structure and stays relatively small – 20 feet – so it can be placed closer to a house than the big boys. Speaking of big boys, I have a big ole elm in the front (Ulmus Americana). Wanted instant shade so I went for one that was already 20 feet tall.

Have to thank Jack’s Creek for this great tree and installing it. I’m quoting from Michael Dirr’s wonderful book to describe the bark: dark gray with broad, deep intersecting ridges; outer bark in cross section shows layers of whitish-buff color alternating with thicker dark layers.

And yes, it really is that awesome. BTW, for any serious gardeners Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants is a must have. Back to maples. Every yard should have a coral bark maple. The young branches are always – yes – coral. Put a garden light under it and you will have a special view in winter.

It’s pretty in summer too but more so in winter when everything else is drab. And last but not least is the Natchez crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica).

The white flowers are not that exciting I agree. But they are only there for a short time. It was the bark thing again. As a Natchez ages it only gets more beautiful.

The outer bark defoliates showing its deep rich cinnamon color. So, take some time and look at all the trees and shrubs this winter. They have a lot to offer to your garden. Wishing you all a happy holiday season. Hugs to all.

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