Colourful bark sets the stage for spring show
THE beauty of colourful bark is very effective in winter when there is not much other colour in the garden, and it is even more effective in early spring when the first bulbs and early flowers appear.
The silver birch is probably the most popular of bark trees and looks great with some daffodils tossing in the wind nearby. The variety Betula 'Jacquemontii' is grown for its outstanding white bark although the general tree shape is not as attractive as the ordinary silver birch.
Some maples show very good bark colour, notably the coral bark maple, in the photograph. Its brilliant red colour develops fully when the last of the leaves fall in autumn, and it offers a dramatic show on sunny winter days. There are other maples, such as the snakebark maple, that show good colour with white striations along the branches.
Paperbark maple has peeling reddish-brown bark, a very pretty small tree, grown for its autumn foliage colour too. The mahogany bark cherry has mahogany-red bark with a sheen like a polished table. Many kinds of eucalyptus have beautifully patterned bark, including the cider gum and the outstanding snow gum, which has white bark, streaked with grey and brown.
Chilean myrtle or luma has a remarkable range of colour from white-silver to bright orange, sometimes on the same tree, revealed by the peeling patches. The Persian ironwood or parrotia also features peeling patches and good colour in shades of brown, pink and grey.
White willow has good orange-yellow bark colour, especially the variety 'Britzensis', and the weeping willow has good pale yellow colour in winter and early spring. Dogwood or cornus is very good with brilliant colour on young growth. There are several different species of dogwood and many good forms have been selected. For example, Cornus 'Sibirica' has bright red stems and 'Kesselringii' has dark red-black bark. There is a lovely kind with red-orange bark called 'Winter Beauty' and 'Flavirimea' has greenish-yellow stems, which makes a lovely contrast to the red kind. Related to raspberry, Rubus cockburnianus has brilliant white stems in winter.
These trees and shrubs are normally planted as single specimens in a prominent position. Try to have early flowers of spring bulbs or early flowering perennials, such as hellebores or pulmonaria, near the bark shrubs, as the association between bark and flowers greatly enhances both. When the foliage comes on the trees and shrubs, it hides away the withering foliage of the spring bulbs.