At Home in the Garden
In the winter, a garden transforms from the green of summer to all the subtle shades of brown and gray. One of the most interesting parts of a garden to observe is winter bark.
Favorite bark choices
Two of the most easily identifiable trees by their bark are the sycamore, Platanus occidentalis, and the river birch, Betula nigra. The sycamore has smooth grayish-brown bark that exfoliates to expose beautiful creamy white bark underneath. The river birch has coarse or furrowed exterior bark that exfoliates, exposing reddish to orange-brown bark underneath. Both of these trees grow to become large shade trees, 50 to 75 feet or more.
The most commonly planted tree for its beautiful bark is the Chinese or lace-bark elm, Ulmus parvifolia. Its average gray-brown exterior bark exfoliates in very small pieces, exposing orange-brown to light brown or green bark below. This tall and wide tree needs room to grow, because it can grow 50 feet tall and just as wide when mature. The cultivar ‘Alleé’ has become very popular. It has a more upright habit, but when mature is equally tall as wide.
My personal favorite bark has to be the crape myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica. Very common in the South and in recent years more popular in our area, the crape myrtle has bark that is smooth and gray on the exterior that gently exfoliates to expose many colors below: lighter gray or sometimes darker gray, reddish brown, and sometimes a light tan. This smaller tree, growing 15 to 20 feet tall, is more appropriate for urban settings and smaller spaces.
The gardener’s picks
Paperbark maple, Acer griseum, is unusual in comparison to other maples due to its exfoliating bark. A dark reddish-brown exterior bark exfoliates, exposing a brighter reddish-brown or cinnamon-brown underneath. This maple is also quite small in comparison to other maples, growing only 20 to 35 feet tall and not quite as wide as tall. It is a beautiful plant because even its 2- or 3-year-old stems begin to exfoliate. An excellent red color makes this plant spectacular to view in the fall as well as the winter.
One of my all-time favorite flowering shrubs, the oakleaf hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia, has beautiful exfoliating bark. Growing an average 6 feet tall and wide, this beautiful shrub has stems that have a warm brown bark that gently exfoliates to expose a rich brown underneath. It has a simply spectacular wintertime show when the plant reaches maturity. This plant also has the added advantage of beautiful white flowers in the summer and consistently beautiful red color in the fall.
Evergreen bark choice
All the plants I have discussed so far are deciduous. Certainly having all their leaves fall off each autumn is an advantage in exposing the beauty of the bark below, but what about evergreens with exfoliating bark? Lacebark pine, Pinus bungeana, is quite popular and is not terribly difficult to find. Smaller than many pines, the lacebark pine grows 30 to 40 feet tall and 20 to 25 feet wide. It has dark-green, glossy needles that are the perfect canvas for the bark underneath. The bark is green to brown and exfoliates to expose white to green to brown bark below. You often find this pine trimmed up into a slight tree-form shape to help in showing off the beautiful bark subtly hidden behind its beautiful evergreen foliage.
ASK THE GARDENER
by Angie McManus
When can I trim my Knock Out roses? They grew so big this summer.
Knock Out roses are a must-have in every garden these days. They are prolific bloomers when planted in the right space, and bloom throughout the growing season.
Knock Out roses should be pruned anytime between late winter and early spring. Pruning at other times of the year can make them more susceptible to winter injury and other potential problems.
When late March arrives, you can remove some size of your roses. They respond well to pruning, and although you will lose some initial buds, your plants will still be full of flowers. As a general rule, it is best not to remove more than one-third of the size of the shrubs. Do this year after year to maintain the size you want.
Always remove dead and crossing canes as well as any thin or weak canes. Use a clean, sharp, and rust-free pair of pruners. Make your cuts flush to the nearest intersecting branch so there are no stubs. If you need more specific pruning instructions, you can go to www.ca.uky.edu and search for “Pruning Landscape Shrubs,” or contact your County Cooperative Extension Service for a copy of this literature.
HAVE A GARDENING QUESTION?
Go to www.KentuckyLiving.com, click on Home & Garden, then “Ask The Gardener” link to ask a question.