Allie Kaspersetz

16 March 2022

No Comments

Home Notes from the Garden

Beauty in the Details

Beauty in the Details

A growing body of scientific research shows that spending time near trees enriches our lives both physically and emotionally. While trees clean pollutants from the very air we breathe, their year-round beauty can awaken our curiosity and prompt us to set aside modern-day concerns as we spend time enjoying the many facets of their beauty. Simply sitting near or walking among them reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and improves mood. Even in winter, when there are no handsome leaves, flowers, or fruits to admire, we can discover the intricate, fascinating variety of colors and textures found in tree bark.

For example, the young branches on a cluster of Coral bark maple, Acer palmatum ‘Sango kaku,’ near the Cascade shine on a gray rainy day with their brilliantly colored branches (photo above). Often overlooked, tree bark adds textural interest and year-round beauty to the garden. Here are six more examples from our collection of life-enhancing trees that we hope will inspire you to seek and discover the remarkable variety of patterns and colors of tree bark you can find on your next visit to Greenwood.

All trees ‘breathe’ through pores or tiny openings in their bark and this outer “skin” is gradually replenished over many seasons. The London Plane, Platanus x acerifolia, sheds large sections of its bark throughout a single season, discarding the pollutants it had absorbed and thereby protecting the health of the tree. The fresh bark appears in a variety of cream and grey-green colors.

It is easy to see how Shagbark Hickory, Carya ovata, got its name. Another species with exfoliating bark, these trees are covered in long, smoke-grey sheets often more than a foot long and six to eight inches wide. Some beneficial animals, like the native Indiana bat, make their homes in the shelter provided by the flaking bark.

The Peking Lilac, Syringa reticulata subsp. pekinensis ‘Morton’ (China Snow™), bears little resemblance to the common and beloved lavender-flowered lilac. This Asian native features creamy white flowers in early summer and beautiful, amber-hued curlicues of peeling bark.

The deeply fissured, “checkerboard” bark of the native American Persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, makes this species easy to identify. The Lenape called this tree pasimenan and used the fruit for both food and medicine.

The bark on a young Austrian pine, Pinus nigra, is deeply furrowed, but on a stately, mature specimen like this, the fissures can deepen – and form patches of layered, silvery scales and plates that shine in the shade.

The reddish-brown bark on young dawn redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides, matures over the years into a deep, rich color and develops distinctive, longitudinal fissures below each lower branch and narrow, exfoliating strips of bark.