By Marianne Binetti
I love my garden in winter. A light snowfall highlights the hardscaping, such as the brick pathways, and my focal point birdbath. There are no more watering issues or weeding to worry about, so the winter garden is easy to enjoy.
Adding trees with colorful bark is an easy way to guarantee winter color. Once established, many trees are drought resistant. Coral bark Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’) is my favorite small maple tree because the bright-orange bark intensifies in color during cold weather. I grow one in front of the dark-green backdrop of a large cedar tree for maximum color contrast.
Winter container tip: I like to prune any of the coral bark maple’s wayward branches while the tree is dormant in winter. Then I poke the colorful, bare whips into empty container gardens along with fallen tree branches covered in silvery lichen. During the Christmas season I even add bright-red berries or plastic ornaments to my tree-branch pots. If you add a coral bark maple to the landscape, there is no reason your winter window boxes or patio pots should ever lack in year-round color.
Another small maple tree to consider is the paperbark maple (Acer griseum). Just as the coral bark Japanese maple, the paperbark maple grows slowly. This makes it a fine specimen tree for near an entry or patio. Here it’s shown during the growing season, but the peeling bark is delightful throughout the year, especially in winter.
The curls of rich-brown bark remind me of freshly shaved chocolate — the perfect inspiration for grabbing a cup of cocoa, garnishing it with whipped cream and chocolate curls, and settling in to enjoy the beauty of the winter garden.