Trees, Bark and Twigs.

I love trees, specially in winter when they are en deshabille and the wonderful tracery  of bare branches is outlined against  an evening sky.  I love watching the buds swell in early spring. I pick armfuls of  sticky buds from the horse chestnuts and watch them unfurl in water.

Aesculus hippocastanum


Magnolia buds  wrapped up in sage-green velvet grow plumper every day.

Magnolia ‘Star Wars’

I am lucky that there were mature trees when we came here but I wish I could have chosen them, because some of them are not suitable for smaller gardens. I  have a little copse at the bottom of the garden which I think planted itself. Field maples, oak and wild apple trees probably seeded themselves from the hedgerow.  Conkers for the two enormous horse chestnuts were probably brought from the churchyard by squirrels.  They are far too big for a garden but they are magnificent trees and each year I worry about the effects of horse chestnut leaf miner and  even worse, bleeding canker. There were only four cases of this in the UK in 2000 and now most of the trees in the country are affected to some extent. I don’t like the look of this one in particular.

Aesculus hippocastrum

Apples and pears were planted in the orchard many years ago, but the number of huge plum trees round the garden probably planted themselves. This one gave up the will to live in the storm we had recently.

Weeping willows with their invasive roots  are really only suitable for very large gardens. This one carelessly drops branches every winter and causes a great deal of work. I would never have planted it. Still, I do look forward to its first tinge of green buds in spring.

Salix babylonica

I love crab apple trees and the yellow Malus ‘Golden Hornet’ is pretty but if I had been consulted I would have said; ‘If you want yellow fruit, please plant the lovely Malus ‘Comtessa de Paris’ because her fruit hangs on until after Christmas instead of going brown on the tree. Or how about ‘Butterball’ which is always gorgeous and so heavily laden with fruit?’ But OK, ‘Golden Hornet’ has its moments.

Malus ‘Golden Hornet’

Readers of my blog will know that I dislike the huge cherry tree which dominates the view from the house and offends  me with its blowsy blossoms and its alarming habit of dropping branches even when it’s not windy. It’s probably picked up its bad habits from the weeping willow. I don’t know if the cherry is ‘Kansan’ or ‘Hokusai’, but whichever it is I don’t like it. I’m a cherry blossom snob. If only they had asked me I would have said: Try the dainty Prunus ‘Pandora’ or ‘Pink Perfection’ or if you want a bigger tree, plant the gorgeous white ‘Shirotae’ or the double  Gean, Prunus avium ‘Plena’.

Anyway, now thanks to the intrepid and acrobatic George, the Pink Knicker Blossom tree has been chopped back and the trunk remains as a climbing frame  for Rosa ‘Blush Rambler’.

The greengage has been cut back too. I know that there is a risk of Silver Leaf disease when plum trees are chopped in winter but I have to take the risk because it was swaying so alarmingly in the recent storms and giving me sleepless nights as I feared for my shiny new greenhouse. (More about my winter play pen in another a post.)

So which trees am I grateful for? Acer drummondii has pale lemon variegated leaves and sitting under it on a hot summer’s day is like sitting in a ball of sunshine. Now the cherry tree has been chopped down I have an uninterrupted view of it from the house.

Acer platanoides ‘Drummondii’ in summer.

The weeping verruca birch tree Betula verrucosa ‘Pendula’ with its warty trunk is full of character and the long tailed tits enjoy it too.

Betula verrucosa ‘Pendula’

The walnut tree has lovely  fissured bark, but squirrels eat all the walnuts, every one.

Juglans regia

The Winter Garden.

I have planted quite a few trees and shrubs in this garden but the ones I am enjoying at the moment are the ones I chose for their beautiful bark or colourful twigs in winter.

I created the winter garden three years ago and now it is maturing nicely. Prunus serrula looks as if it has been polished. Behind it is the red stemmed dogwood; Cornus alba ‘Siberica’.

Prunus serrula


Acer griseum is a beautiful cinammon colour and has lovely peeling bark too.

Acer griseum

Birches are a particular favourite of mine. Last year I planted a group of snowy white Betula jacquemontii to add to the mature group at the bottom of the garden. In the winter garden Betula albo-sinensis ‘Pink Champagne’is maturing nicely.

Betula albo-sinensis ‘Pink Champagne’

This bark is pinkish but for really red you can’t beat the red Acer pennsylvanicum ‘Erythrocladum’.This is one of the snakes bark maples and very slow growing.

Acer pennsylvaticum ‘Erythrocladum

Nearby the bushy Acer palmatum ‘Sango kaku’  looks more showy.

Acer palmatum’Sango kaku’

You can’t beat dogwoods for coloured twigs. As well as Cornus alba ‘Siberica’ I have Cornus alba ‘Baton Rouge’ which I think is the best red.

My favourite dogwood at the moment is the orange Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’. It looks good with Hamamelis ‘Jelena’ and the chalky stems of the ghost bramble  Rubus thibetanus.

Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea is a strong growing yellowish green. Here it is growing behind the evergreen Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’ which looks a bit holly- like’ only prettier.

Cornus sericea ‘kelseyi’ is much more compact and has finer branches.

Cornus sericea ‘Kelesyii’

Actually there is another dogwood on my wish list and I think it is the best yet. It is called ‘Anny’s Winter Orange’ and I shan’t rest until I have tracked it down.

I quite like eccentric twigs in winter. Bowles put the twisted hazel, Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ in a special bed for strange plants which he called the lunatic asylum.

Coorylus avellana ‘Contorta’

I can sort of see what he means. I like it in winter but I am not so keen in summer when I think it looks diseased. I wonder what Bowles would have made out of the crazy, tangled brown stems of Muehlenbeckia astoni.

Muelenbeckia astoni

I am not too keen on conifers but Abies koreana is very elegant and when it is mature has lovely upright violet-purple cones like candles.

Abies koreana

Cryptomeria  japonica goes a lovely bronze colour in winter.

Cryptomeria japonica

I am pleased with how quickly my winter garden has developed. This is what it looked like in 2015.

And now in 2018 it looks established.

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51 Responses to Trees, Bark and Twigs.

  1. Pauline says:

    Wow, your winter garden is amazing and it has grown so quickly! You certainly have some really beautiful contrasting bark making a really interesting part of your garden.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Pauline, I am very pleased how quickly it has developed. It is so much easier creating something on a blank canvas than working round existing planting.

  2. Lovely seeing your deciduous forest. Hard to pick a favorite tree. I think I would plant a Copper Beech!

    • Chloris says:

      I had a magnificent copper beech in a previous garden. They do take up a lot of room though. And as they are shallow rooted they can’t take drought.

  3. Define “smaller garden.” I expect we have very different frames of reference as your garden looks huge to me. That said, I understand your positions on tree selections. It probably comes as no surprise that I’d never have selected my mimosa (Albizia julibrissin) for my garden, much less for a pivotal position at the top of my slope; however, it’s there and established and, as replacing it raises the specter of challenges under our view conservation ordinance even if it were feasible to accomplish without destabilizing my back slope, I try to accept its positives while minimizing its negatives the best I can. That said, if I had a free reign to plant whatever I like as you do, I’d certainly uproot it and perhaps the toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) too, even if the latter is the designated “official” native plant of Los Angeles.

    • Chloris says:

      This garden is just over an acre but it seems small to me because I used to have 11 acres. Mind you I was younger then and I did have help. I understand that Albizia julibrissen can be a self seeding pest for you. Here it is an exotic rarity. I grew one from seed and it was my pride and joy when it started blooming. But it succumbed to its first hard winter.
      I just had to look up Heteromeles I’d never heard of it; what lovely red berries.

  4. tonytomeo says:

    That is a lot of Golden Hornet crabapples! I never see them that productive.

  5. smallsunnygarden says:

    Oh Chloris, I would definitely take your “Golden Hornet’! Decorative fruiting trees are hard to come by here… Thanks for the before and after pictures of your winter garden; it’s wonderful to see how quickly it’s growing up! Prunus serrula’s bark must be some of the most beautiful in the world of gardening, or perhaps the birches’. Here it is the green bark of our local Parkinsonia trees that makes me stop in delight.

    • Chloris says:

      I love crab apples, they are quite compact trees with blossom in spring and fabulous fruit in autumn. I am learning new trees today. I just found out about the toyon tree and I just looked up Parkinsonia and what a lovely tree it is.

  6. I love those twiggy colours! Very cheering!

  7. croftgarden says:

    Oh paroxysms of delight, such lovely trees. You have impeccable taste so I’m not surpised at some of your choices. As much as I love my island life I do miss the trees. Alas planting an arboretum will have to wait for my next re-incarnation.

  8. rusty duck says:

    The winter garden is looking fabulous! You should be well pleased. I love all the stem colour. How well it sits with the witch hazels and grasses. Lots of inspiration here Chloris!

  9. Christina says:

    A very inspiring post Liz; I love all the coloured stems and wish more of the plants that produce them would grow here. Cornus is completely out of the question but a Prunus serrula if I could find one would be wonderful. The trees I’d take out here would be the 2 walnuts as their roots and leaves poison the soil around them and I don’t get any walnuts either!!

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Kristina. No dogwoods wouldn’t do for you, they like quite a moist soil. But a Prunus serrula would be fabulous in your garden. I agree about walnuts, but mine is a mature tree with fabulous bark and it would be vandalism to chop it down. Still, I think it’s due for a haircut.

  10. Flighty says:

    A most enjoyable, and interesting, post and lovely pictures. xx

  11. You’ve done an amazing job with your winter garden. I’m quite impressed with ‘Golden Hornet’. I have a crab called ‘Golden Raindrops’. It’s still quite young. It has tiny fruits that birds are fond of. Its second year, though, it had no flowers or fruit. I’m waiting to see what happens this year.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Jason. I don’t know Golden Raindrops but I love Malus transitoria which has little fruit like golden beads. I have grown one from seed and I am anxiously waiting to see if it will come true.

  12. Cathy says:

    You have so much lovely colour in your winter garden, and so many lovely trees altogether. The crab apple is quite something, even if it isn’t the one you would have chosen yourself.

  13. Cathy says:

    Much as I like trees, I have learned that they gave a habit of GROWING

    • Chloris says:

      Don’t they just. An awful lot of my gardening time is taken up with forestry work. But it gives the Pianist a chance to play with matches. He does like a big bonfire.

  14. Cathy says:

    Oops- hadn’t finished! Especially self seeded ones, and there is no room for them all unless we want to live in a forest. And trees I didn’t like would need seeing too as well… You have certainly got lots of gorgeous trees! Anyway, your winter garden has done so well and what vision you had when you created it. By the way, Bob Brown recently in Which? Gardening compared C Midwinter Fire and Annie’s Orange and said there was little difference

  15. I love trees too and you have a fine selection, in fact an amazing collection. Fingers crossed for the chestnut.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Gill. I am rather worried about the horse chestnut. Apart from anything else it costs an arm and a leg to have it removed. Not literally I hope, although I did have to close my eyes at one time when George was dangling from the top of the cherry. It’s a good thing his mother wan’t watching.

  16. bittster says:

    I’m glad the winter garden is finally getting its due. It has certainly filled in well and you did a fantastic job on picking all the best variety in twig and bark colors. I need more dogwoods.
    Sometimes a tree just has to go. Sure it was an investment of years but you can always plant another and most gardeners end up with a woodland garden anyway… regardless of what they cut at the start.

    • Chloris says:

      Yes, coloured stems are the way to go for winter interest. There are so many overgrown trees and shrubs here. They were probably lovely many years ago but they are a headache now and I spend a lot of time hacking back. Actually I quite enjoy a bit of forestry.

  17. Sam says:

    All your hard work is paying off – your winter garden is looking fantastic. We have a similar blowsy cherry tree and have chopped bits off it. I think we need to go the whole hog, though, because it just looks plain ugly now!

  18. pbmgarden says:

    Makes me happy to see your project of a winter garden looking so lovely.

  19. Annette says:

    Your garden definitely shines at all times, Liz. Great selection of bark and silhouettes. I had Butterball in my last garden and miss it, such a star plant. Special malus –like a lot of other things– are hard to find around here. I know what you mean with cherry snob. The candy pink is not my favourite and I still dream of the weeping, porcelaine pink cherry that grew in our drive in Ireland and took our breath away in spring. Never found out its name as it had been planted ages ago by the former owners. Your new greenhouse looks very pretty. Looking forward to seeing more of it 🙂

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Annette. I love crab apples, I wish I had room for a lot more. In my previous garden I had a gorgeous weeping cherry called Prunus subhirtella Pendula Rosea.
      Yes, I am having so much fun with my new greenhouse.

  20. Peter says:

    Your winter garden has grown together very nicely and you’ve got some great inherited trees. Fingers crossed for your horse chestnut! I can’t wait to hear more about your shiny new greenhouse!

  21. snowbird says:

    I see the pianist lost the battle over the cherry tree!!! I had a huge weeping willow that came down in a storm one Christmas eve, it nearly demolished the house along with ripping the power lines down. Oooooh….I want a walnut tree, yours is just lovely. I am amazed at how your winter garden has grown, it looks fabulous! I am also surprised how quickly those three years have gone. A marvelous post, I did enjoy

  22. Chloris says:

    Thank you Dina. I am delighted at how quickly the winter garden has developed. Oh you remember the Pianist liked that tree. When it comes to the garden, fortunately he rarely has opinions. I don’t encourage them. I am really glad he isn’t a gardener. This garden isn’t big enough for two opiniated people.

    • snowbird says:

      The Pianist is a scoucer, that’s a blood bond, more powerful than any mafia…..of course I recall his sentiments, you sleep with one eye open love, you cut down his tree!!!! I think I’ll start a petition to plant another one…even MORE blousey, in his honour!xxxx

      • Chloris says:

        Goodness, you Scousers are scary. I think the only reason he liked that tree is that it was the only thing in the garden he could name.

  23. Ali says:

    That has established quickly! It is lovely.

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