Tag Archive: bark


Trees and shrubs stand up well for viewing from a distance through seasons and year after year. Many reward you with flower, foliage, hips and bark interest…here are a few to think about.

Cornus controversa 'Variegata'

Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’

Wedding Cake Tree (Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’)- tiered growth, flat heads of white summer flowers and vivid autumn leaves.

 

Acer_rubrum_'Scanlon' - autumn leaves

Acer_rubrum_’Scanlon’ – autumn leaves

Red Maple (Acer rubrum ‘Scanlon’) – slow growing tree with dense, conical crown and glowing autumn colour.

 

Prunus serrula - bark

Prunus serrula – bark

Birchbark Cherry (Prunus serrula) – peeling trunk and branches show gleaming red-brown new bark, which is particularly good in winter.

 

Rosa moyesii- flowers

Rosa moyesii- flowers

Shrub Rose (Rosa moyesii) – tall shrub with red single flowers all summer and shiny scarlet flask-shaped hips to follow.

 

Fuchsia magellanica- flower

Fuchsia magellanica- flower

Fuchsia magellanica – bushy shrub with a profuse show of dangling crimson and purple flowers from midsummer to October.

 

Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'

Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’

Smoke Bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’) – feathery plumes of pink flowers in July and deep purple leaves lightening to red in autumn.

 

Cercis siliquastrum - flowers

Cercis siliquastrum – flowers

Judas Tree (Cercis siliquastrum) – pink spring flowers followed by heart-shaped leaves flushed red at first, then yellow in autumn. I also have Cercis s. ‘Forest Pansy’ here in Old School Garden– the leaves turn lovely shades of crimson and magenta in the autumn.

Source: ‘Good Ideas for your Garden’- Reader’s Digest (1995)

Old School Gardener

 

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mature betula pendula bartram treesThis is the second in my new series on garden trees. I’ll shortly be doing one or two articles about trees and garden design, in my series ‘Design my garden’, so keep an eye out.

Common name: Silver Birch

Native areas: Europe, though in southern Europe it is only found at higher altitudes

Historical notes: Also known as the ‘Lady of the woods’ because of its slender and graceful appearance. Especially popular in the UK. Grown as an ornamental plant and also for its timber. It is used for a range of purposes, from broom-making and steeple-chase fencing to medicines.

Features: A medium tree (15- 20 metres tall), with a conical, semi weeping habit, with white bark and horizontal lines and large diamond -shaped cracks which form as the tree matures. Leaves ovate, yellow in autumn. Flowers in catkins. Can be grown either as a single or multi-stemmed tree.

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Uses: Very good as a multi-stemmed tree for exposed or elevated positions as they have a low centre of gravity. These look good in small groups in informal settings. I have a few that contribute to a mixed ‘woodland edge’  here at Old School Garden, providing a natural boundary to the garden. It can also be used as a specimen, though some of the cultivars available perhaps provide more interesting features than the species plant:

‘Dalecarlica’ (Swedish Birch, syn. ‘Laciniata’ or ‘Crispa’)- deeply cut leaves which weep gracefully, white peeling bark

‘Fastigiata’- stiffly ascending branches give it a columnar shape, resembling Lombardy Poplar

‘Purpurea’ slow growing and rare, with new, dark purple leaves,softening t o dark green/purple by summer.

‘Tristis’- tall (15-20 metres), weeping birch, with beautiful winter structure.

‘Youngii’- similar habit to ‘Tristis’ but shorter (5-10 metres) and so more suitable for smaller gardens, especially good as a specimen  in lawns.

‘Zwisters Glory’- from Switzerland, this new variety has gleaming white bark, so makes a good avenue tree and a good choice for urban areas and is quick growing.

Two other species of birch are also worth mentioning:

Betula pubescens- ‘Common White Birch’, prefers damper conditions than B. pendula, also it’s more hardy. It’s ascending branches give it a more solid appearance than B. pendula.

Betula utilis ‘Jacquemontii’/ ‘Doorenbos’-a medium tree with ascending branches, most admired for its almost pure white bark, looking very effective against a dark background.

Growing conditions: grows well in most soils and is good for parks and woodland, but is not suitable for areas which have soil that becomes compacted. Difficult to transfer as a bare rooted specimen, but containerised plants are more successful.

Further information:

Wikipedia

RHS

Barcham trees directory

Silver Birch among others in the snow at Old School Garden, January 2013
Silver Birch among others in the snow at Old School Garden, January 2013

Old School Gardener

PicPost: Woodman

Free Heat

broad beans germinate in warm bag if bark

broad beans germinate in warm bag of bark

‘The bags of freshly chipped bark that are waiting to be spread on the paths in the garden have provided an unexpected benefit. When I noticed how quickly the bark was heating up, it occurred to me that I could use them as giant propagators. The broad beans that had shown no sign of germinating in the greenhouse started to shoot after 3 days in their cosy new quarters. Very satisfying. There is an extraordinary amount of bacterial and fungal activity in the chippings, so much so that I’m taking the precaution of wearing a face mask when spreading it to avoid inhaling the smoke-like clouds of dust. For the photo I moved one of the seedboxes to one side to reveal the network of fungus that has formed.’

from The Enduring Gardener

Trunk colour Batsford Arboretum

Old School Gardener

Simple natural elements can make a garden special for younger children

Simple natural elements can make a garden special for younger children

Surveys show how playing in parks or their own garden come out tops for children when asked what their favourite activities are. And an expert warns that children are no longer ‘free range’.

Providing simple play pleasures won’t cost parents an arm and a leg either! Thinking about how to make your garden child-play friendly and then spending a little money on creating the right space will repay dividends over  many years.

Start with the idea that the garden for children (and for adults too for that matter) should be a multi-sensory space, with:

  • different surfaces and textures to touch – stones/ gravel/ bark/ brick and plants with interesting leaves such as Stachys byzantina  (‘Lambs’ Ears’),
  • varied smells – from different flowers and leaves,
  • tastes – growing and picking your own strawberries or fresh vegetables,
  • sounds – wind through grasses, chimes, water dripping into a child-proof pool
  • sights– break up the garden into different zones with their own character.
A children's food garden

A children’s food garden

Then talk about the ways you might create this in your garden with your children, focusing on the sorts of play activities they would like…and work up your ideas using these…

Seven tips for garden play:

  1. Natural resources– treat the outdoors differently to the indoors- its special, so create spaces and provide playthings which children can’t get inside; e.g a tree house or a tree for climbing if you have one big enough,  a pit or pile of sand, or if you’re feeling very brave- a mudpool…
  2. Growing children– give children a separate, personal garden where they can ‘grow their own’ food…
  3. Futureproof- think ahead and provide things which will engage children for several years or which can be easily adapted as they grow older – convert a sand pit to a growing area, a swing frame into a hammock frame…
  4. Small and simple– a few odd bits and pieces of wood, boxes, bricks, cloth, plastic pipe etc. can fuel children’s imaginations and creative play, though purchased play equipment does have a place too, if you have the space and cash…
  5. Doubling up– make the most of space – think about garden structures which can play a role in the ‘adult garden’ as well as  providing something for children; e.g wooden arches that can support a swing, sand pits concealed below trap doors in wooden decked terraces, a climbing frame that’s one side of a pergola, varied path surfaces with some in-built pattern (you can even get some with fossils imprinted on them)…
  6. Move the earth– don’t be afraid of creating (even small) hills and hollows in your otherwise flat garden (unless you have these already of course)- children love running up and down slopes and use these for all sorts of creative games. If you like, add in a few rocks and logs (fixed down) for them to clamber over…
  7. Get social– encourage your children to play with other children – invite their friends round and take them to friend’s gardens, play areas and other places where there’s a good chance of meeting other children…

    Play garden using simple materials
    Play garden using simple materials

    Even if your garden is small, you can use your imagination and create a unique and special place for your children.

Further information:

Growing food with children

A children’s food garden

Garden games

Old School Gardener

IMG_5170As I sit and look out of my window this cold January day, the snow has started to fall once more- looks like the heaviest fall will be later today. So the firewood has been stacked and fortunately the week’s shopping was done yesterday…

At this time of year you could be forgiven for thinking there’s not much of interest in the garden. We tend to focus on the other seasons when we think about (or impulse-buy) plants. The weather itself isn’t exactly encouraging us to visit the nursery or garden centre. And anyway, they seem to be rather  forlorn places at this time of year, especially the bigger ones that have ‘diversified’ into Christmas tat- the shelves are either emptying to make way for spring gardening stock or they’re full of half price Christmas cards and tinsel…

Well, we should perhaps think about how our garden looks in every part of the year, especially the important views into it from the house, road etc. In the winter, it’s these views that count, as it’ s less likely you’ll want to venture into the wet or cold garden itself.

The choices are significant – yes you can have:

  • beautiful flowers
  • powerful fragrance
  • colourful fruit
  • vibrant stems
  • interesting bark
  • strong  form
  • fascinating  foliage

Here are seven examples of the sorts of plants that can be a winter wonder in your garden.

Dogwoods provide wonderful winter stem colour

Dogwoods provide wonderful winter stem colour

1. Dogwoods (Cornus species)- vibrant stem colours make this a winner especially where you can group several plants together and maybe combine them for subtle effects (try C. alba ‘Sibirica’ (red) surrounded with C. sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’– amber- orangey red). Prune the stems back to the base of the plants in spring or leave one or two stems to grow taller and then pollard it for extra height (prune ‘Midwinter Fire’ less)- you will also get some lovely autumn leaf colour.

Witch Hazels- magical spidery flowers

Witch Hazels- magical spidery flowers

2. Witch Hazel (Hamamelis in many different varieties)- beautiful spidery-like flowers are magical in woodland edges. Grow as specimens or focal points under trees or in open ground – will grow about 2 metres high and wide over time.

Crab apple 'Red Sentinel'- plum-sized fruits that birds seem to avoid

Crab apple ‘Red Sentinel’- plum-sized fruits that birds seem to avoid

3. Crab apple (Malus species and cultivars – but not the ‘orchard’ apple Malus x domestica)- some of these smallish trees are suitable for smaller gardens with their columnar growth – e.g. M. tschnoskii (which can grow to 12 metres high but only 7 metres across). The main reason for growing them, in my view, is their fruit. Plum – sized apples which seem to be just the right size to not interest birds, so you’ll hopefully be left with a great show throughout winter. I particularly like M. x robusta ‘Red Sentinel’ (can grow to 7 metres high and wide). And Crab apples give great spring flowers and autumn colour too.

Mahonia x media- black fruits follow the flowers

Mahonia x media- black fruits follow the flowers

4. Oregon Grape (Mahonia species and some cultivars)- this is a winner on several counts, but mainly through its winter flowers and foliage. It’s evergreen  leaves (some spiky) will burnish orangey-red if exposed to the sun. My favourite is the hybrid M. x media ‘Charity’ which is an erect evergreen shrub with sharply toothed leaves and dense yellow flowers that cascade from the stems. One ideally for part shade, so a woodland edge is perfect.

Viburnum x bodnantense- wonderful scented flowers

Viburnum x bodnantense- wonderful scented flowers

5. Viburnum x  bodnantense ‘Dawn’ there are many different Viburnums, and they make a wonderful addition to the garden for their flowers, fragrance and foliage at different times of the year. This one is a hybrid and is chiefly grown for its wonderful scented flowers which grace the medium-sized deciduous shrub through winter on bare stems.

Box- small leaves make it ideal for strong  topiary shapes

Box- small leaves make it ideal for strong topiary shapes

6. Box (Buxus sempervirens or if you want a slower growing, more compact form go for the variety ‘Suffruticosa’)- one of the great plants for shaping into strong forms that help to carry your garden’s structure through the winter months. Also, don’t forget that some perennials will add form and structure to your garden through their dead stems and shapes. For Box start growing small and gradually develop your desired form, or buy (at some expense) some of the ‘ready- to – rock’  topiary at nurseries and garden centres. There are some wonderful examples of historic topiary in Britain such as Levens Hall, Cumbria.

320px-Paperbark_Maple_Acer_griseum_Bark_3008px

Paper-bark Maple- bark peels into subtle tones

7. Paper bark Maple  (Acer griseum)- a fantastic, slow growing tree which can reach 10 metres high and broad. Like most Acers it gives great autumn leaf colour, but it’s main attraction is the peeling bark which looks especially magical with low winter sun shining through it.

Further information;

Guardian online

Winter containers

Winter vegetables

Quizzicals:

answers to the last two-

  • Our monarch continues to work hard – Busy Lizzie
  • Nasty spot causing urination problems – Bladderwort

A couple of gardening ditties:

‘Whose sorrel now?’

‘Don’t leaf me this way’

(thanks again to buddie Les for these)

Old School Gardener

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