Since we’re all about foliage it may seem rather strange to be featuring bare branches but we want it all! Yes we positively swoon when we come across a tree or shrub that looks as good fully clothed as it does in the nude. So here are a few of our bare-bottomed favorites
1. Paperbark maple (Acer griseum)
I suspect as soon as I mentioned colorful bark you thought about the coral bark maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango kaku’) as a great example but I want you to consider two very different maples. The first is this paperbark maple, named for its cinnamon colored bark which peels away in fine strips; visible in all seasons but especially striking in winter. The foliage opens a soft green and fall color ranges from gold to salmon. This slow growing maple needs to be in your garden!
2. Lions Mane maple (Acer shishigashira)
The lions mane maple is grown for its twisted clusters of dissected leaves that have the appearance of a shaggy mane. This is a slow growing tree well suited to container culture when young. The spring and summer foliage is green but in fall the leaves turn yellow, gold or orange (mine seems to be different every year!). Yet the story doesn’t end there – notice the smooth green bark that is revealed when the last leaf has fallen silently to the ground. Beautiful
3. Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius varieties)
While the shrub twig dogwoods are an obvious choice for a colorful winter display with bare branches in fiery shades of red, orange and gold there are other options such as the ninebarks. Depending on the variety the foliage may be gold (Dart’s Gold), bronze (Coppertina) or almost black (Diablo) and all have clusters of white flowers followed by decoratives seed heads. They also have coarsely peeling bark on the older branches giving a marked striped effect.
4. River birch (Betula nigra)
While I will always love the pristine white bark of the Himalayan white birch (Betula utilis var, jacquemontii) and have three multi-trunked specimens in my own garden, I have to concede that the river birch (Betula nigra) is often the better choice. River birch is resistant to the birch borer and those pesky sapsuckers and other woodpeckers seem to leave this species alone. We planted a cluster of three multi-trunked river birch ( the named variety Heritage) in an area that is exceptionally wet, often with standing water in winter and they are thriving. With soft green leaves that rustle in the breeze, butter-yellow fall foliage and bark that peels away to reveal the smooth inner trunk that is….well as soft (pink) as a babies bottom – you know you’re going to like it.
Of course we have lots of other favorites and we’ll introduce you to some in our next book (Foliage First, Timber Press, 2016) but we’d love to know what your favorites are. Leave us a comment below or tell us on our Facebook page. Even better – post a photo to share. (Just make sure only the plants are naked please!!)
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