Vertical Texture and Colour

We have just had Foliage Day where we can appreciate all the different colours and textures of the leaves in our gardens. But there is more, now is the time to look up and see the beauty that is around us in the tree trunks and stems in our gardens. Some of mine have been planted purely and simply because of their colour, so that we will have colour in the garden through the dull grey winter days, one was discovered a lot later when it grew and developed adult bark on its trunk. The most obvious grouping that we have is up the drive where we have our various silver birches and Cornus alba sibirica Westonbirt.

Cornus and Betula

Betula Jaquemontii

The bark of Betula Jaquemontii is so smooth and tactile, my trees are still relatively young, only about 10 yrs old, but seeing the white bark emerging when the brown layer peels off is so satisfying!

Betula papyrifera

A single specimen is next of Betula papyrifera, the paper bark birch, again with Cornus Westonbirt planted around it for contrast. We were surrounded by a woodland of these trees when we stayed in the mountains in Canada one year, this one was planted to remind us of that holiday.

Betula ermanii

The last of my birches in the front are a group of three Betula ermanii. This group are only just  starting to shed their juvenile brown bark, just the bottom 12 inches are looking the creamy white which they will all be in a few years time.

Silver birch seedling

We also have a silver birch near the back door where all the birds line up for their breakfast near the bird feeder. This was a seedling that just arrived in the garden and must be at least 15 yrs old now, if not more. The bark is starting to split and get fissures in it, these must be where the insects hide because the tree is always full of birds pecking at the bark.

Prunus serrula

Prunus serrula is growing near to the greenhouse at the back of the garage, so easy to give it a quick stroke when going to open the greenhouse in the morning! Another tree with really smooth tactile bark, almost like silk.

Myrtle communis

In the centre of the garden, under the dead oak is a small tree of the common myrtle, Myrtus communis. Sometimes the trunks have white patches where the brown flakes away, the brown substance makes them feel like felt. I suppose it may be the same as the underside of Rhododendron leaves where they have a brown indumentum. We pruned the lower branches away so that we could see the stems when sitting on the swinging seat next to it. I think maybe I ought to plant under it with spring bulbs.

Salix alba

As well as the red stems of the Cornus by the silver birches, more coloured stems, this time yellow/orange, are up by the pond, on the willow, Salix alba Britzensis. The cornus and the willow get cut back in March as it is the young stems that have the most colour.

Soon all the coloured stems will be coppiced or pollarded,  it seems a shame when they are cut down, but at least we have had colour in the garden since Oct/Nov. when the leaves dropped and we know that this will all be repeated in 8 months time.

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40 Responses to Vertical Texture and Colour

  1. Beautiful images but the one with the red twig dogwood in foreground and silver birch in background is stunning. Imagining in my mind a huge print with a white matte on my wall. Now that would be a sight to see. Thanks for that inspiring experience.

    • Pauline says:

      Thank you Patrick, glad you like them, I pass the silver birch and cornus each day as I go in and out, I think I like them best when coming in at night and the car headlights pick out the silver and red in the dark. Maybe one day, someone will paint your wall!

  2. Wendy says:

    The cornus and silver birches are perfect for giving some colour and interest to a winter garden. I love stark beauty of a cornus. And I love the textures of the different tree barks, too – I’d also be fascinated by the peeling.

    • Pauline says:

      When we had a holiday in Northumberland Wendy, we went to the remains of a Roman village. In the museum there they had some silver birch bark with a shopping list on it and orders for more supplies for the soldiers. Maybe I ought to save my peeling bark and try sending messages, maybe not, e.mails are quicker! The colour has brightened up the driveway since November, but all good things have to come to an end when they get cut down.

  3. Cathy says:

    Aren’t they all lovely? I really meant to have 3 Jaquemontii in a group in the woodland edge border but had ordinary silver birch instead – they still have their own appeal though. Will you pollard all your cornus in March? I have only had mine a year and I read that you should cut back one third of the stems (the number, not the length) each year – what do you do?

    • Pauline says:

      The native silver birch are just as lovely Cathy, and they are the 2nd best trees after the oak for wildlife, so many insects live on them.
      I normally cut my Cornus right down as there is so much that grows in front of them (the front half of the border is the Bee and Butterfly border) and hides them until the autumn when we see them is their autumn finery. If yours are only one year old, I would leave it another year before you start cutting them, let them get a really good root system first.

  4. Liz says:

    Hi Pauline,

    How lovely to have so many trees… I really want lots; preferably my own little woodland however that’s really far too unlikely to ever happen. I can dream, and look at your photos instead :)

    • Pauline says:

      Most of our trees were already here Liz, big ancient ones, but I had to add a few more! Our woodland is only small, more of a strip, but it is the biggest bit of woodland we will ever own.

  5. Anna says:

    I would want to stroke that prunus again and again Pauline – in fact I might wear the bark out. How old was your Betula jaquemontii when the white bark became prominent?

    • Pauline says:

      Anna, by stroking it on my way to the greenhouse it stops the algae growing and keeps it nice and shiny. I’ve seen others in various gardens which look as if they have never been polished and they look rather sad! I think I had B. jaquemontii about 3 yrs when the white bark appeared, not sure how old the tree was when I bought it, maybe another 3 yrs.

  6. rusty duck says:

    The birches are beautiful Pauline, but the planting with the Cornus is brilliant. I don’t know what it is about smooth bark, but it really screams out at you to stroke it. My other favourite is Acer griseum, if I can overcome the urge to peel..

    • Pauline says:

      It would be fatal Jessica, for me to have an Acer griseum, I would be peeling it all the time! Usually I wash the birches before I photograph them but I forgot this time, must do them soon as it does make a difference when the algae is washed off.

  7. Wonderful collection of trees Pauline, I too love the combination of birch and dogwood, perfect winter drama. Underplanting the myrtle with bulbs would be beautiful, I am looking at some of the larger shrubs in my garden and wondering about baring the legs, so to speak, so that I can plant more bulbs. Good to celebrate these stars of the winter garden before we get all caught up in spring proper. Aren’t we lucky to have four such distinct seasons, each with its own joys.

    • Pauline says:

      We certainly are lucky Janet, to have four definite seasons to enjoy. There is so much to enjoy in the winter as well as the other seasons so I like to celebrate them all.
      I have “limbed up” or “lifted the skirts” of a few shrubs here and underplanting with bulbs gives a lot more planting space, and looks very pretty.

  8. Julie says:

    What wonderful photos of winter colour – I love the way the winter season gives us time to appreciate its beauty – for the rest of the year things move so quickly I miss my favourites if I am not careful. I really like your idea of having a Bee & Butterfly border in front of the pollarded corns – I might have to copy that!

    • Pauline says:

      There is so much to enjoy Julie, in the winter months, weather permitting! Each flower that shows its face is so precious, unlike in the summer when there are so many flowers all vying for our attention.
      The border by the drive is quite a deep border, about 10ft deep, so I was lucky to have the space to make the back half for winter with the cornus and birches and there are also snowdrops, cyclamen and primroses. All this then forms a backdrop for all the flowers for the bees and butterflies in spring, summer and autumn.

  9. Mark and Gaz says:

    To echo some of the other comments, fantastic colour, particularly love the red dogwood and silver birch combination.

    • Pauline says:

      Lovely to hear from you both, thanks for stopping by! Glad you like the combination of the dogwood and birch, it certainly brightens up a dull day in the winter and we have certainly had plenty of those this winter!

  10. Christina says:

    I love the combination of birches and Cornus. Only my Melia has good bark, it is too dry for birches and Cornus here.

    • Pauline says:

      I would have thought Christina that birches would be ok for you, here they are trees of heathland which usually has well drained soil. I’m amazed they grow so well in the garden here, maybe it’s your heat they don’t like, in the drought last summer, all the leaves dropped very early.

  11. catmint says:

    this is showing nature as artist … lovely photos, I can almost feel the textures, very sensuous, especially the Prunus serrula.

    • Pauline says:

      Catmint, the Prunus has the feel of taffeta, so very smooth. I don’t think I’m the only person who strokes her trees, or I hope I’m not!

  12. pbmgarden says:

    Colorful ideas abound in your garden.

  13. Alain says:

    You have a beautiful collection of cornus Pauline. When you were on holidays in Canada, you must also have seen cornus sericea the red osier dogwood which is also very red in winter.

    • Pauline says:

      That’s very interesting Alain, can’t say I noticed them, but then we were there in June, so probably they were covered with leaves, with the stems hiding from us!

  14. It is amazing how beautiful a simple thing like bark can be. The bareness of winter certainly draws you attention to the best and most exotic examples of bark. I have a red dogwood, but nothing much else that is anywhere near as interesting as the examples you have in your garden Pauline.

    • Pauline says:

      The different bark Jennifer, does stand out in the winter when there are no other distractions. We have so many big old trees, so it was a question of where to squeeze in a few more. There are still a few more I would like but I’m having to face the fact that there isn’t any room for any more trees!

  15. Annette says:

    Hi Pauline, you read my mind – I’m also thinking of doing a post on bark which is so often not considered the way it deserves to be. Very enjoyable post. I like the way you crown-lifted your myrtle, the way the birch trees contrast with cornus. Do you wash the bark of your prunus?

    • Pauline says:

      I shall look forward to your post Annette, bark shows up so much better in the winter when there aren’t so many flowers to distract us! Having lifted the crown of the myrtle, I really ought to plant some bulbs underneath and maybe hostas for the summer. Yes, Annette, I do wash the prunus once a year, the same with the silver birch, but the prunus stays shiny with a little stroke now and then on the way to the greenhouse!

  16. Frank says:

    The bark looks great! Don’t worry Pauline you’re not the only bark-stroker out there :) I love to give them a polish or pull a few peels off, I just try not to get carried away.
    Fortunately I’ve never had to wash the trunks of the birches, I can only imagine the looks my neighbors would give as I’m scrubbing the bark while the car sits unwaxed and grimy!

    • Pauline says:

      No one can see me Frank, unless they’re passing over in a plane, thank goodness! It is so tempting, as you say, to pull a few strips, but I try not to in case I peel too much. Glad to hear that I am not alone in stroking my trees. Now that you mention it, my car is very dirty at the moment,maybe that ought to be next in line for a wash!

  17. wellywoman says:

    Glorious colour, structure and texture. I love stroking Prunus serrula and peeling off the bark of silver birch to reveal the pristine bark underneath. Have a lovely weekend, Pauline.

    • Pauline says:

      Thanks WW, I like having something nice to look at over the winter and they do brighten up a dull day!
      Your book arrived today, can’t wait to sit down and read it, congratulations!

  18. Chloris says:

    The birch and the red dogwood make a dazzling combination. I love Prunus serrula too. Bark and coloured stems make such a wonderful contribution to the winter garden.
    Have you tried Cornus sanguinea ‘ Midwinter Fire’?
    I always stroke my trees and I have to admit I sometimes can’t resist peeling my birches. The larger ones which get a bit green sometimes with algae get scrubbed and then they gleam persil- white again.

    • Pauline says:

      The bark certainly shine out in the garden, you can’t miss them! Yes I did try Cornus sanguinea Midwinter Fire and it promptly died on me ! I think the birches look a lot better once they have had the algae washed off, I beieve some people use a pressure washer to do this, but we just use a scrubbing brush with soap and water!

  19. Anna says:

    Thanks for the feedback about the betula jaquemontii Pauline – maybe I’ve another year or two to wait to see white bark.

  20. Caro says:

    Lovely, Pauline! There’s an avenue of Prunus serrula at Capel which looks stunning and lots of Betula dotted throughout the grounds. The cornus stems are planted en masse there as well which looks breathtaking in the winter. You must have been to Cambridge Botanical Garden’s winter border? The combos there are reminiscent of yours and very inspirational!

    • Pauline says:

      An avenue of Prunus serrula Caro, that must be fantastic, do you stroke them to make them shiny! Unfortunately we have never made it over to Cambridge Botanical Gardens, I’ve seen photos and it’s on my wish list!

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