Sunday 26 February 2017

Baring all in your garden

Marie Staunton

These colourful trees won't go into hiding over winter, writes Marie Staunton

As we wrap up for winter, some trees and shrubs are only too happy to reveal their wonderful naked selves, and what could be more beautiful than a brightly coloured Cornus alba 'Sibrica' to get the pulse racing at this time of year?

The red stems glow in the winter sunshine and, provided they are pruned properly from the off, they will continue to be a very valuable winter garden plant.

Always prune in spring and take them down to the butt – you have to be ruthless to guarantee a glorious display of those vibrant stems come November.

The lime-green stems of Cornus sericea 'Flaviramea' are just as impressive and can be treated in the same way, with a hard prune come spring; early March is about the right time to prune them.

These plants tend to fade into the background during the summer season, preferring to take centre stage as the winter draws in.

The most impressive of all deciduous conifers to my mind has to be the Metasequoia glyptostroboides. As it takes on the dusky pink and burnt-orange tones of winter, it becomes the main focus of attention in our garden.

If space is limited, then I would recommend the very beautiful Acer 'Sango kaku' as the perfect small tree. The coral-coloured stems come into their own at this time of year, as the last of those beautiful golden leaves fall, and it is a perfect tree for all seasons.

All gardens should make a bit of space for a tree that has something to offer all year round, and this is one such tree.

The most widely used tree in landscape design over the past 20 years or so has to be Betula utilis var jacquemontii, but unless you have the Latin name you will end up with an ordinary silver-barked birch.

The colour of the bark is stark white and, planted as a little group of three and lit from below, they are an impressive sight in any garden in mid- winter.

When it comes to choosing a tree, consider that for half the year it may be without leaves, so a decent shape or interesting bark – or the possibility of winter flowers – may be a consideration before you part with your money.

Trees will give a new garden a nice bit of maturity. If you have a blank canvas to work with, don't rush in with hedging plants to give you privacy.

Instead, consider using a mixture of trees that will provide colour at different times of the year.

We have a golden elm planted close to the kitchen and, even now, it is slow to lose its leaves, making it a particularly handsome tree when everything else around it is heading for hibernation.

If funds are limited when setting out a new garden, buy small trees – don't worry about buying the biggest ones because, once they hit the ground, they are only too delighted to get out of those pots.

For the most part, they will take off like little rockets.

I met a lady at a talk the other night who planted a pyracantha and found that it both flowered and berried miserably over the past few years.

Sometimes the plant itself can be a weak old seedling with not a lot going for it. Instead of battling on, perhaps it's time to plant up a more vigorous one in its place.

So, buy one that is in berry and then you will know for sure what the plant is capable of.

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