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Barking Up The Right Tree


By AndrewR


With the leaves off all the deciduous trees and shrubs in the garden, now is a good time to look at their bark. Some are well known for having decorative or coloured stems but others are just as attractive although not as well celebrated.

Several of the dogwoods are grown for their coloured stems. The best red ones belong to cornus alba ‘Sibirica’

Whoever heard of a daphne being recognised for its bark? Well, this is daphne mezereum – what do you think?

Sheltered gardens with acid soil can grow the Chilean fire bush, embothrium lanceolatum

Do you recognise this summer flowering shrub? It’s a hibiscus

And here is something else we grow for its flowers. But the green stems of leycesteria formosa stand out at this time of year

Luma appiculata is a multi-stemmed tree belonging to the myrtle family

The bark of a shrub that is flowering now – mahonia x media ‘Charity’

Closely related to kerria is neillia thibetica. This flowers in June and July and, like a kerria, has a suckering habit. The best colouring is on the youngest stems

But it is the old stems of physocarpus where the park peels off in an attractive manner

Prunus serrula has rich, shiny copper-brown bark that makes you want to stroke it but it has a poor floral display. While the bark of prunus ‘Accolade’ may not be in the same league, its blossom is one of the best

But you wouldn’t want to touch rosa rugosa

This bark is shiny although it hasn’t been polished. It belongs to sambucus racemosa, one of the cut-leaf elders

Or how about this one? Ulmus x elegantissima ‘Jacqueline Hillier’ is a dwarf elm and is resistant to Dutch Elm Disease

This beefy climber winds around anything to climb – even itself! Did you recognise it as a wisteria?

I can recommend going out and looking at the bark of woody plants in your own garden – it may make you see things in a new light

More blog posts by AndrewR

Previous post: Spring is on the way

Next post: After The Tree Surgeon



You've opened my eyes, Andrew! Even when I walk in the woods I tend to look at the overall rather than the individuals - suppose that's where the saying 'can't see the wood for the trees' comes from?

24 Jan, 2009


Wonderful - fascinating, Andrew.

I love the bark on my old Ash tree, it's so gnarled and fissured. The Eucalyptus drives me scatty, though, because at certain times of the year, it sheds large pieces of bark all over the place - but I shall be looking at all the other trees and shrubs now with different eyes!

Some people can tell you what a tree is from a picture of its bark - I'm ashamed to say that apart from a few, I certainly couldn't!

24 Jan, 2009


That was good. I went for a walk this morning along the river bank near here and There were lots of diferent trees with diferent barks.
I'll have to take a look in my garden tomorrow. There isn't much there at present but it's worth considering what a plant looks like in winter when you buy one.

24 Jan, 2009


An interesting Blog and photos Andrew.

It was super to see your photo of the Wisteria bark.Our Wisteria at the front of the house is now 35 years old and the trunk has a wonderful gnarled and twisted structure.

24 Jan, 2009


Lovely photos Andrew. I especially like the one of the old Wisteria. Its fascinating. The one of Ulmus x elegantissima ‘Jacqueline Hillier’ looks as if you oiled it up specially for its photo session. :o)

24 Jan, 2009


What a great variety of bark.

Good photography and very informative.

Thanks for the lovely blog. :o)

24 Jan, 2009


Talking about trunks, Andrew, would you look at page three of my photos, bottom row, extreme left and identify this tree for me - any ideas? It's driving me nuts trying to find out. The fruit and leaves are on the next photo. Hope you can help. By the way, very interesting blog as always.

24 Jan, 2009


Great blog Andrew......I shall look at trunks with new eyes now! The Wisteria is incredible and I love the Physocarpus.....very interesting.

24 Jan, 2009


Wagger - I've put a comment on your photo of the berries of your mystery tree. I think it may be aralia spinosa

24 Jan, 2009


Thanks again, Andrew.

25 Jan, 2009


Thanks Andrew i really enjoyed your blog of different bark.

25 Jan, 2009


Please can you tell me, how "dwarf" is Jacqueline Hillier? I've only just found out about it, and can't really get any reliable informtion. Thanks!

29 Jan, 2012


Fran - it gets about eight feet high and the same across - more of a large shrub than a tree - but by rubbing out any low shoots, you can get a clean trunk

29 Jan, 2012


thanks, Andrew - as my garden is about the size of a tablecloth I've been looking for dwarf plants, but eight feet would be rather twoards the high end of the dwarf scale

30 Jan, 2012


Fran - a smaller tree is prunus x cistena which gets to about five feet - more of a bush really than a tree but is has a single trunk. There's a picture of it in "Maureen's Second Blog" from last April

30 Jan, 2012


thanks, I'll check it out!

30 Jan, 2012

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