Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
February, 2002
Regional Report

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My river birch as it's beginning to unfold its beautiful underbark.

Plants with Beautiful Bark

I took advantage of a warm day recently to give my redtwig dogwoods their annual renewal pruning to keep them producing bright crimson stems. While I was out I perused our landscape, which I hadn't done in a couple of months, and realized that almost every woody plant in the yard has beautiful bark. I didn't plan it that way, but perhaps it's one of those unconscious ways of getting me through the dreary days of winter while waiting for spring planting season to rear its head.

My landscape started with a pleasant collection of white oaks with gray checkered bark, old crabapples with thin multi-hued plated bark, and shagbark hickories with gray-brown shaggy bark peeling off in long, thin, curly plates. Then I started adding plants to this landscape.

Beautiful Bark

The first new resident was a Silver King hawthorn. It was about a two-inch diameter tree when it was planted, with smooth dove-gray bark. Then, after about two years, it began its star-studded show. That gray bark, beautiful in itself, began to crackle and peel giving way to reveal cinnamon-soft underbark. The tree is stunning, especially when the bark is wet.

I had an old star magnolia with steely gray bark that broke my heart by suddenly dying. It was a focal point right at the corner of my sunroom, so I needed a quick replacement. Almost before I'd given it any thought, there was a paperbark maple in the back of the truck. It now holds the position of honor with its cellophane thin coppery bark peeling back to show off all shades and hues of cinnamon and russet.

Next, I added a Japanese tree lilac with raisin-purple bark and the sparkling red dogwoods to accompany a white birch adjacent to the vegetable garden. I was on a roll, now. In went a purple-hued pagoda dogwood and a black-twigged willow. I filled the yard with platinum serviceberries and a river birch which just this winter has begun to shed its youthful translucent mahogany bark to show off all shades of peach, copper and sterling white.

New Additions

I can't get enough of this beautiful bark. It makes me happy to glance out at the landscape and see it filled with color even on the most leaden days. So, I've made out my list for this year's additions: an amur chokecherry with amber polished bark, Japanese kerria with chartreuse twigs, and best of all, a lacebark pine with mottled bark in hues of olive, apricot and silver!

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