Winter gardening: Salix (willow), Cornus (dogwood) and Acer (maple)
Winter gardening used to be something of a contradiction in terms. Many people simply used to ‘put the garden to bed’ during the colder months, tidy things up at the end of autumn and wait for spring with a mug of a hot chocolate and a seed catalogue for company. Now this has all changed and planning the garden for winter beauty and enjoyment is a priority for many. It’s easy to see why.
Just look at some of the benefits that a beautiful winter garden can deliver:
- the feel-good effect of looking out on attractive plants
- the chance to get out among them on those wonderful bright, crisp days, so good for the soul
- shelter, shade and habitat (both for humans and our wild cousins the birds, insects and mammals that bring the glories of nature right to our doorsteps)
Salix, Cornus and Acer
The palette of plants available now with which to create beauty in winter is very exciting. Three tree species that can bring immense value are Salix (willow), Cornus (dogwood) and Acer (maple). All drop their leaves in autumn and, depending on species and variety, may put on a great colour display as they do so. Come winter proper they are stripped to their bones and that is when some of their most appealing features are on display.
Take, for example, the amazing peeling, orange-brown bark of Acer griseum, the paper bark maple). Tactile, fascinating, lovely to look at, the bark is a decorative feature that brings a wild yet stylish feel to the winter garden. This maple is a slow growing tree that can reach up to 10m in height, so does need space to grow. As it gets bigger it will provide dappled shade in summer, helping to keep home and garden cool. In winter, when the branches are bare, it will let any sun there is through to warm where you live.
Willow and dogwood
Two species that are justifiably well known for their fabulously coloured stems are willow and dogwood. Salix alba (White willow) is a fast growing tree that if allowed to develop unchecked will reach a large size. However, some species, if pruned regularly (say every one to three years) will produce wonderful bright shoots that will bring a visual feast to the winter garden. Salix alba vitellina (Golden willow) is just wonderful.
‘Brizensis’ produces yellow to orange-red shoots following hard pruning and ‘Chermesina’ develops carmine-red shoots. The dogwoods Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ and ‘Kesselringii’ are well known for delivering eye-catching winter shoots too, bright red in the case of ‘Sibirica’ and blackish-purple for ‘Kesselringii’.
Bring enjoyment to your life
Planting garden trees like these will bring great enjoyment to your life, from the steady journey to maturity of the maple to the regular injections of colour and fun from the willow and dogwood. And trees of all kinds are also proven to improve our own living environments, as well as helping to absorb carbon as they grow.