Bark in the Garden: Details are Important in the Off-Season Garden

Despite our lack of a hard frost this autumn, the garden is slowly revealing itself.  It’s shedding away the foliage of the growing season with leaves strewn around to insulate the garden beds & provide habitat for overwintering creatures.  And with the fluffy outer layers gone from many plants, it’s easier to focus on their structure & form.  One of my favorite details to include in the winter garden is gorgeous bark — it’s there all year, of course, but now is its time to shine.

Our garden is relatively young, and while we have lots of plants, including lots of trees & shrubs, they’re all still coming into their own size-wise.  But even as young plants, it’s easy to see the richness that their bark brings to the textures in the garden.

Lagerstroemia "Natchez'

Lagerstroemia “Natchez’

Our crepe myrtle only just started revealing its exfoliating bark & I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Pieris Japonica

Pieris Japonica (NOID – here when we moved in)

This Pieris is one of very few plants that were here when we moved in, and still remain. With the help of my mom, who is a wonderful gardener (and pruner in particular), we lifted it to expose the branching.

Acer rubrum 'October Glory'

Acer rubrum ‘October Glory’

This is one of our street trees, which has a long-standing injury, but just keeps plugging along.

Arctostaphylos 'Austin Griffiths'

Arctostaphylos ‘Austin Griffiths’

A relatively recent acquisition from the wonderful Xera Plants, I’m still training this Manzanita to clear the neighbor’s garage roof, but its bark is one of the most beautiful in the garden.

Arbutus 'Marina'

Arbutus ‘Marina’

One of my favorite things about the Strawberry Tree is the pink cast to its bark.

Ceanothus

Ceanothus (NOID – here when we moved in)

Each year bits of this large shrub die back, and I understand they’re not particularly long-lived, but we keep trimming it and it keeps returning, much to our delight.

Tetrapanax papyrifer 'Steroidal Giant'

Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Steroidal Giant’

Rhododendron 'Ebony Pearl'

Rhododendron ‘Ebony Pearl’

Honestly, I cannot stand the flowers on this Rhodie, but they’re so fleeting that I put up with them so I can enjoy this plant the rest of the year.

Betula utilis var. jacquemontii.

Betula utilis var. jacquemontii.

Acer palmatum 'Shishigashira'

Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’

Azara microphylla

Azara microphylla

Rhamnus frangula 'Ron Williams'

Rhamnus frangula ‘Ron Williams’

Ginkgo biloba 'Autumn Gold'

Ginkgo biloba ‘Autumn Gold’

Cryptomeria japonica 'Sekkan-sugi'

Cryptomeria japonica ‘Sekkan-sugi’

Something nice to look forward to is that as these trees & shrubs mature, their bark will only continue to improve. I expect more lichen & moss to appear in addition to the enhanced characteristics of each plant’s bark. What a wonderful thing.