Welcome to Lowe's
Find a Store

Prices, promotions, styles, and availability may vary. Our local stores do not honor online pricing. Prices and availability of products and services are subject to change without notice. Errors will be corrected where discovered, and Lowe's reserves the right to revoke any stated offer and to correct any errors, inaccuracies or omissions including after an order has been submitted.

Bare Trees in Winter

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

By Luke Miller

Before spring flowers steal your attention, take a moment to appreciate the character of bare trees.

A tree with character

Don’t mind these lines beneath my eyes
They’re well-earned souvenirs
Of a thousand nights of laughter
And occasional tears
Frank Sinatra, How Old Am I?

Can you imagine an older person without a few lines and wrinkles? It’s the same with trees. Look around now — before the leaves cover everything — and you’ll see plenty of so-called imperfections.

But are they really imperfections? Or, as the song lyrics suggest, are they well-earned souvenirs? I say it’s the latter, the result of the twists and turns and cuts and scrapes of life. They’re the scars of everyday living. That’s character.

Yes, I know about the importance of pruning. Not too long ago, I paid $750 to have some limbs taken off an old silver maple — limbs that could have been clipped with hand pruners 30 years ago. That’s the danger of letting a large tree develop multiple trunks. That’s also why I encourage gardeners to prune early, while trees are young.

Bare Trees in Winter

But wouldn’t it be boring if nature only produced telephone poles? I prefer something with more architectural appeal. These two trees sprouted a bit too close for comfort. As a result, they developed into mirror images of each other. From a horticultural point of view, it’s a mistake. Artistically speaking, it’s intriguing.

Bare Trees in Winter

Then there’s this double-trunked specimen, which was upended in a storm. That leaning limb is still attached and clinging to life. Hemmed in by another tree, it’s probably not an immediate threat. So why not enjoy it as a living work of art until the woodpile needs replenishing?


Bare Trees in Winter

Sometimes a tree’s unique form can come from an unexpected source. See that tree doing a curtsy? Its shape is due to a tough strand of barbed-wire fencing holding its ground. Take a bow, Mr. Elm, you’re the star of this hedgerow!

Bare Trees in Winter

Black walnut makes for some pricey lumber. But this tree, couldn’t catch the fancy of a lumberjack even if it was wrapped in red plaid and served flapjacks for breakfast. Having lost its top, the tree is perpetually stuck doing the YMCA dance. On a smaller species, this would be a harmless diversion — and a fun one at that! But walnuts grow large, and this one’s near a house. In this case, it’s probably best to take care of the structural issues before a tree surgeon is needed.

Oh, if only someone had done that with the silver maple at my house. I’d be $750 richer today.

Editor’s note: You can get plenty of character in smaller species without risking problems down the road. Compact trees are available in contorted, weeping, pyramidal, columnar, and topiary forms.

See more by this author.