Come winter, when gardens go quiet in the Northeast, most of us become so hard up for visual stimulation that we finally get excited about tree bark. Now that our eyes have adjusted to winter, trees’ designer hues and bark patterns are more noticeable, and even thrilling.
It’s easy to fall for exfoliating bark. Only gardeners in the northernmost reaches of our region with consistently wet soil can grow the classic native paperbark birch (Betula papyrifera, Zones 2–6). The rest of us enjoy the wild pink peels of river birch (B. nigra, Zones 4–9), a multitrunked native tree that is tolerant of heat, humidity, and drought.
Another standout, paperbark maple (Acer griseum, Zones 4–8) displays elegant copper curls and…
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