Betula and Acer griseum
If you’re looking to add an exciting plant dimension to your garden this autumn, trees with ornamental bark could be the answer. Providing the perfect contrast to autumn leaf colour or bare winter branches, bark also brings added value in the form of fascinating textures.
The right trees can transform a garden into something very special. They provide focal points in lawns or borders, frame gateways and entrances into other areas and their shape and size influence the tone of the garden – formal, graceful, naturalistic. And remember that with soil still warm and plant growth almost at a standstill, autumn is a great time for planting trees.
Just as with other features like leaf colour or form, there is a wonderful choice of decorative barks. Of course, all trees have bark – it provides a protective layer for the growing tissues of the trees. Certain trees, however, produce bark with particularly attractive colours, or unusual textures. Choose from the following selection to achieve a wonderful variety of effects:
Birches (Betula) generally display wonderful bark. Attractive colour, fine, almost papery texture, and some compact garden cultivars make them a great choice. Look out for these varieties of Silver birch: ‘Purpurea’ which has purple-tinged bark, dark purple leaves and achieves a height and spread at maturity of 10m and 3m respectively. ‘Tristis’, with its white bark, is great where space is limited, with slender branches growing outwards from the central stem.
Maples (Acer) are justly popular for their foliage, but some are equally interesting for their bark. Find a place in your garden for the Paper-bark maple (Acer griseum). Its wonderful bark is orangey-brown in colour which peels attractively. Added to fabulous autumn colour, this tree is a great choice as a specimen tree for small gardens. It’s also slow growing, with a spreading growth habit. Ideal as a centre-piece in a lawn, it achieves a height and spread of 10m.
Pere David’s maple (Acer Davidii) is a bigger tree – achieving a height and spread at maturity of 15m - so needs more space. The bark is streaked green and white. The Snake-bark maple (Acer rufinerve) is another good option, the bark of its young shoots has a bluish tinge, its branches are green and white striped. This tree has an elegant, arching growth habit and achieves a height and spread of 10m. These trees are all hardy and have no special soil or site requirements.