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Choose A Tree For Its Bark, 'Stick Season' Is Here!

A leafless tree in cold weather, backed by a soft sunset sky.
The texture of the shagbark hickory stands out in wintertime.

With 'stick season' upon us, we won’t be seeing green leaves on trees for another six months. Why not plant some trees and shrubs in your lawn and landscape that boast beautiful-looking bark?

There are great native plants to choose that have interesting bark colors, patterns and textures in the winter time. Here are a few:

Trees: White birch and Himalayan white birch are great, hardy choices for this region though these are susceptible to a pest called the bronze borer. Instead, choose the river birch tree variety. It has tan-colored bark and is very attractive in the landscape. Ornamental cherry trees are a great choice with copper-colored bark, and though sycamores are usually found in warmer climates, some can grow in the Champlain Valley and warmer zones here in Vermont.

Shrubs: The classic red-and yellow-twig dogwoods make great choices to add color to your winter landscape. The key is to cut the shrubs back every two or three years, as it’s the new growth that has the most color on its bark.

Exfoliating bark trees: Of this variety, look for river birch or the copper-colored and frilly paperbark maple. Shagbark hickory is another favorite, with its pronounced, almost camouflage bark. A unique one to try is the ‘Seven Sons’ tree or heptacodium. This grows 15-to-20 feet tall in your landscape and in winter, has tan, exfoliating bark. Plant them close to your house so you can enjoy them in winter.

Q: I just bought a new little property in Londonderry. There are so many sumac trees. What is the best way to get rid of these trees? — Ali, in Londonderry

Don’t remove all the sumac trees, as they add color in the winter and they are a bird food source plus they are a good pollinator. Remove some by starting now with a chainsaw or handsaw all the way down to the ground. In spring, begin mowing them every two to three weeks. Over the period of a year or so, you’ll exhaust the sumac and they won't grow back.

A thin grey line.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

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