It's been a great fall, but the leaves have dropped and it's “stick” season according to my neighbor. But those “sticks” don't have to be uninspiring. There are many trees that have attractive bark making them focal points in your winter landscape. Choosing a new tree based on the bark color or texture certainly should be a considered since we look at many leaf-less trees for a good six months in Vermont. Here are some choices.
Birches are beautiful trees. Certainly white and paper birch have interesting bark, but the best is the River birch. It has tan to pink peeling bark and is a hardy tree in our area. Another tough small tree is the Peking or Chinese tree lilac. This Zone 4 tree features the creamy white summer flowers of the Japanese tree lilac, but has bronze-colored, peeling bark in winter.
If you live in Zone 5 parts of the state, the options expand. One of my favorite trees is the Dawn Redwood. It looks like a redwood, but is deciduous, dropping its needles in fall like a larch tree. As it ages it has the classic red and brown-streaked bark reminiscent of the California redwoods. A small, attractive tree is the Seven Sons tree. It features clusters of fragrant white flowers in late summer and exfoliating brown bark with some green-colored inner bark in winter. The Paperbark Maple is a solid Zone 5 tree with cinnamon-colored, peeling bark that truly stands out in winter.
When selecting any tree, check the ultimate size and growth rates to be sure they'll fit in the location you want. Marginally hardy trees should be planted in a microclimate location where they're protected from the cold North and West winds and snow in winter.
Now for this week's tip: cut back on watering most foliage houseplants now. With the short days and cloudy skies, these subtropical plants only need soil that's barely moist. Too much water can cause leaf drop and root rot.