I wrote this column in early February about winter beauty right about the time a massive snow storm pounded Washington, DC and the surrounding suburbs in Maryland and Virginia where I grew up (I studied horticulture at the University of Maryland) and where some of my family still lives. I started thinking that right about now they are probably not too excited about the winter garden, even if snow is pretty. I also realize how lucky we are to garden in the southeast.
Plants with interesting forms have always beckoned to me and winter is a season when I especially appreciate trees and shrubs with distinct branching as well as a particular growth habit, such as upright, fastigiate, weeping or pendulous. Winter is also a time when we notice bark, shiny, flaky, peeling or colorful. Buds too, like those on big leaf magnolia, Magnolia macrophylla, one of my favorite trees, or the distinct flower buds of Edgeworthia chrysantha, also known as paperbush. Of the plants I added to my garden last fall, paperbush elicits the most comments from my neighbors who wonder about this shrub which looks like it has been decorated with tiny pendulous ornaments on bare branches. My yellow twig dogwood (the stems actually look more yellow-green) reminds me that I still want to add the shrubby dogwood called Cornus ‘Winter Flame’ and my Prunus mume has a few buds (it is a white flowered selection I bought from McMahan’sNursery last year). I also have a small witchhazel with fragrant orange yellow flowers which I’m excited about even if I can’t remember its name. Hellebores have started to bloom and daffodils are pushing up through the thick layer of leaves in my woodland. These are just a few of the gems in my garden that cheer me up especially on dreary days which there seem to be a lot of recently.
Below is a list of shrubs and trees with interesting forms or showy bark.
Acer griseum- paperbark maple has shiny cinnamon colored bark and shines in the winter garden.
Acer palmatum ‘Sangu Kaku’- coral bark maple has coral red stems
Betula nigra ‘Dura-Heat’- a selection of river birch with beautiful bark and a high tolerance for heat and humidity.
Carpinus caroliniana- our native ironwood
Clethra barbinervis- a shrub with mottled bark, it also blooms in summer
Cornus mas ‘Spring Glow’ handsome bark and early yellow blooms
Cornus sericea ‘Cardinal’- red osier dogwood with winter stems
Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’- Harry Lauder’s walking stick, twisted branches and showy catkins
Crataegus viridis ‘Winter King’- winter king hawthorn has mottled colorfulbark and persistent red fruits
Fagus americana -American beech has beautiful smooth gray bark and tawny colored papery leaves that sound like gentle rain when they blow in the breeze
Parrotia persica- ironwood has colorful bark and tiny red flowers in late winter
Ulmus alata – winged elm- distinct branches and buds
Stewartia pseudocamellia- Japanese stewartia with beautiful mottled bark
Sources for Edgeworthia chrysantha:
Ashe-Simpson Nursery, 4961 Peachtree Industrial Blvd.,Atlanta, GA
353 Boulevard SE
Atlanta, GA 30312
Despite this winter which seems particularly long and cold this year in the South, spring will be here soon and many of these winter beauties will transform when almost magically overnight they put out their new foliage and flowers.