Now that the summer flowers are coming to an end at last and the beautiful autumn tints have finally blown away, there is still colour to be had in the garden, along with all the evergreens. Coloured stems and verticals of tree trunks provide winter colour for the next four months and brighten up any gloomy winter’s day.
These Cornus alba sibirica Westonbirt and Betula Jaquemontii form the backdrop to the bee and butterfly border during the summer. Once the leaves have fallen in autumn (purple on the Cornus and beautiful yellow on the birch) they become the star performers of the border until all the spring bulbs take over.
We have planted a few different varieties of Birch in this border, but only Jaquemontii have developed their wonderful shining white bark.
Three Betula ermanii have been planted further up the border, eventually they will turn a rich creamy colour with a hint of pink, gardening certainly teaches you patience doesn’t it!
Half way up the border I have put Betula papyrifera or the Paper bark birch. When we stayed with a friend for a holiday in the Laurentian Mountains near Montreal, her house was surrounded by these trees and I thought they were so stunning, just had to have one when I got home! The silver bark hasn’t developed yet, but I’m waiting patiently, hope it won’t take many more years.
Among the birches are lots of Cornus alba sibirica bushes which form a green hedge for the spring and summer, there are white flowers in the spring and then super purple autumn tints before the leaves fall to reveal these wonderful red stems. The whole plant gets coppiced at the end of March because the best colour forms on young wood. After coppicing, they get rewarded with a handful of fertiliser to encourage them to produce lots more stems, ready for next time they take pride of place.
This is the bark of the seedling Silver Birch near the back door, a lot more grey on this one, lots of fissures where tiny insects can hide, the birds are always working over this tree, they obviously find a lot to eat. Lovely when we see groups of goldfinches and long tailed tits hanging on here, after the oak, the birch is the best tree as a habitat for wildlife in the UK.
I think I bought Prunus serrula just for me ! Look at that bark, can’t resist giving it a polish each time I go down to the greenhouse. The bark is just like polished mahogany, so many people have given me bits of mahogany to carve and when finished and polished, they look just like this!
All these coloured stems and verticals keep me going over the winter, until the snowdrops and hellebores are on parade once more, not long to wait now!