Garden Photo of the Day

Winter Bark

Cryptomeria japonica ‘Black Dragon’ with a Japanese Maple

Kevin Kelly shows us how beautiful winter bark really is! 

"As I am spending the weekend wandering around my yard, and so wanting to get my hands dirty, I reminded myself how beautiful the bark of trees can be in the winter landscape (as well as throughout the year). Trying to create a 4 season garden in Zone 6b Harrisburg, requires paying attention to all the little things that our shrubs and trees have to offer, beside leaves and flowers. I have taken photos of some of the interesting winter bark specimens in my garden. Hopefully this can be enjoyable to everyone as well."

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Lagerstroemia indica ‘Pink Velour’

Cornus kousa

Acer griseum

Acer tegmentosum ‘White Tigress’

Pinus bungeana

Betula nigra ‘Heritage’

Quercus palustris ‘Green Pillar’

Zelkova serrata ‘Green Vase’

Stewartia pseodocamellia var. koreana

View Comments


  1. user-7007498 02/29/2016

    I hope you don't think it is weird that I am posting the first comment on my own pictures, but I wanted to try something very different. I hadn't seen any prior posts of just bark. I know everyone loves to look at landscapes and flowers (as do I), but there is just something so beautiful about the barks of trees. It is easy to forget this when we see all the color in the other seasons. Winter helps me to refocus on the bones of the garden. I hope everyone can enjoy this quirky post as much as I did taking the pictures (after all, I've got to do something when the ground is frozen). I want to thank Susan for including these pictures on GPOD.

    1. User avater
      gringopeligroso 02/29/2016

      Kevin! One of the reasons I, and perhaps many others, come to this post every morning is to learn something new and to be inspired. (OH, and to get a "healthy" & sometimes heaping cup of envy, too!!) One of the main benefits of this forum over my fave printed magazine (FG) is that we have the opportunity of dialogue, as well as the connecting of like minded spirits!! So, no not weird, but on the contrary, welcomed!! Perhaps you'll be able to add "Trend Setter" to your resume!! We'll see!!
      Your views come at a great time for us as we are installing the bones of our newest environment. I've been wandering around, between cold spells, and asking what we can do to make our young garden interesting and inviting at this time of year, also? After all, in less than 12 months, we'll all be back here, again!! (The Lord willing, as they say!) So,I find your portfolio is inspiring and thought provoking as the trucks once again begin rolling into our garden centres, filled with TOOO many temptations and wonders!! Thanx for posting and re-focusing our attentions!! (Insert appropriate Zen music, HERE!)
      PS: Great Photography!!

      1. user-7007498 03/01/2016

        Thanks Jesse. Best wishes on your new project. Trees are such a longterm investment, it is so important to acquire ones that serve multiple purposes. Anything that can serve to pull us out in the garden when the weather is cold is a blessing. I also spent time placing trees in the garden based on various views from inside the house. It is so nice to be sitting by a window, reading, or looking at GPOD, and then look at at the landscape around us. It is a way to remain connected (and warm).

  2. user-3565112 02/29/2016

    Kevin, You have some unusual & interesting trees. In layman's terms what is the Green Pillar? I like that photo a lot. Did you plant these ? Some of them look very old to me ? Thank you for the photos & good luck this spring, Joe

    1. user-7007498 02/29/2016

      Joe: All of these trees are planted on my property, a suburban landscape just under 1/2 acre. Because I have limited space, I have spent time looking for plants that have multiple season interest, which led me to these trees.

      Green Pillar is a pin oak that is unusual in that it only grows 10-15 feet wide, yet will get to 50 feet tall. It has a beautiful red fall color, and will develop small acorns. As you can see in the photo, the branches are tightly upright. Creates a cool vertical accent.

      I bought the property 19 years ago, and there was nothing on it, so every plant has been slowly added since.

  3. wGardens 02/29/2016

    Enjoyed your posting very much Kevin! So glad you sent them in. I am especially taken with the Pinus bungeana. Must look that one up! Thank you.

    1. user-7007498 02/29/2016

      It is an awesome slow growing pine, which has that beautiful bark even as a young tree. I prune it very open to show off the bark.

      1. wGardens 02/29/2016

        How tall is it now and how old is it? Would love to see a photo of it showing its' structure. Thanks, Kevin! Great job.

        1. user-7007498 02/29/2016

          It's about 10 years old, and only about 7 feet tall, and about 4 feet wide. I searched my photos and realized I don't have one of this. Shame on me. I will have to get one for you.

          1. wGardens 02/29/2016

            Thank you, Kevin! I appreciate your response/info! Looking forward to more postings from your garden!!

          2. user-7007498 03/01/2016

            I took these photos when I got home. I am not sure if this will upload right.

          3. wGardens 03/01/2016

            Thank you, Kevin! I like this tree quite a bit. Do you have a good nursery in your area or do you get alot through mail-order?

          4. user-7007498 03/02/2016

            I do have a great local nursery that specializes in native plants and dwarf conifers. I have also gotten good ideas from Pennsylvania Horticultural Society "Gold Medal Plants" which highlight plants well suited for the area.

            My favorite mail order nurseries are Plant Delights and Klehm's Song Sparrow. Both provide really cool introductions.

          5. wGardens 03/02/2016

            I also have a good Nursery about an hour away ( so I don't get there as often as I'd like). I have also ordered from Plant Delights and Song Sparrow. Great companies!

            I expect you'll be going to the Philly Show. (Annual treat for me) Have a GREAT time!

            Thanks, Kevin!

  4. User avater
    user-7007816 02/29/2016

    Thoroughly enjoyed your interesting and beautiful selection of trees.

  5. User avater
    meander_michaele 02/29/2016

    I'm with you, Kevin, in loving to prowl about my yard regardless of season. Winter is a wonderful time to notice and appreciate some of the subtle beauty of structure and texture. You have some tree varieties that had not been on my radar screen like the 'Green Pillar' pin has such great proportions. Since you are a fan of exfoliating bark, I'm a little surprised you don't have a 'Natchez' crape myrtle although, perhaps, zone 6b is pushing the envelope of its hardiness. I definitely enjoyed your pictures.

    1. diane_lasauce 02/29/2016

      Indeed, 'Natchez' is what I grow here in central VA, and their bark thrills me more than the foliage!

      1. User avater
        meander_michaele 02/29/2016

        Yes, I totally agree with you, Diane. I adore its bark with the variation in cinnamon colors and all that fun exfoliation. It never fails to delight me.

        1. diane_lasauce 02/29/2016

          As the bark peels in grand swaths, I cannot help but stroke the trunks, just in case they itch with all that peeling! ;-)

          1. User avater
            meander_michaele 02/29/2016

            Hmm, nice to know I'm not the only one who likes to show her 'Natchez' some physical "affection". I remember the first time I visited the public garden down in Birmingham AL, I was like a broken record exclaiming about the muscular trunk size of their 'Natchez' crape myrtles. Every few steps, I was exclaiming to my husband "Oh, my gosh, look at those trunks". Then I'd just have to touch them...ha, it was turning into plant porno!

          2. diane_lasauce 03/01/2016

            LOL!!! Our little secret!

    2. user-7007498 02/29/2016

      I know a couple of local gardeners who tried to grow 'Natchez', but they kept dying back to the ground, even when our winters in Harrisburg weren't that severe. I agree, it is such a lovely tree.

  6. NWAgardener 02/29/2016

    Thank you Kevin for the wonderful close-up pictures that demonstrate just how lovely and interesting bark can be. Your tree selections are marvelous and show how much thought has gone into your plant selections. I have a coral bark maple and a red twig dogwood that add a pop of color to my winter landscape. Both are small-medium sized and fit well into my 1/2 acre lot. So many trees, so little room!

    1. user-7007498 02/29/2016

      I know what you mean about squeezing things in. I only have 2 large trees to shade my southern exposure patio (the Heritage River birch in the pictures and October Glory maple). Everything else is either small to medium trees, narrow trees, or dwarf conifers. I will always try to squeeze something else in.

  7. GrannyMay 02/29/2016

    Thanks for sharing these, Kevin. Even in our area, where there are plenty of evergreens and you can have flowers in some form or other year round, beautiful or unusual bark on a lot of shrubs and trees becomes more visible and important. I love your choices and will be looking to see if the Green Pillar Oak might be a viable addition in my garden.

    1. user-7007498 03/01/2016

      It would be well worth the investment, and it stays so narrow. See also, my response above to Eddi Reid

      1. GrannyMay 03/01/2016

        I looked it up and it is definitely tempting. I also meant to mention that your Cryptomeria 'Black Dragon' looks intriguing. I have Cryptomeria japonica 'Sekkan Sugi' which is gorgeous. It eventually grew too tall for its location near power lines and in December I cut off 6 feet of the leader and some of the other branches to re-shape it into a shorter pyramid. I kept the leader, which is still looking great on the deck behind an Acer palmatum 'Winter Flame'.

        1. user-7007498 03/01/2016

          I have 'Sekkan Sugi' as well. Agree, what a beautiful plant.
          'Black Dragon' is also spectacular. Very slow growing. I have one that is 10 years old. Has grown from 4 to 8 feet in that time.

  8. annek 02/29/2016

    What a beautiful batch of photos! Enjoying the winter season is a more contemplative pastime, isn't it? The subtle beauty of the various bark in your garden is so serene, it slowed my heart rate....very peaceful.

    1. user-7007498 03/01/2016

      Thanks. The trees look especially cool with the ground snow covered. It helps to remove many other visual distractions.

  9. GrannyCC 02/29/2016

    Beautiful bark, I am sure it helps for getting through winter.

  10. User avater
    LindaonWhidbey 02/29/2016

    Kevin, my 4yr old granddaughter recently pointed out some beautiful bark on a tree that was too tall for her to see anything but the bark. It made me realize how often we look right past that feature of our trees, except of course, the incredible Paperbark Maple. How old is yours and how long did it take to start peeling?

    1. user-7007498 03/01/2016

      Children often notice things that us adults see every day, but do not "look at". They often help us to refocus on the beauty of small details.

      I punched the Paperbark maple 2 years ago (B&B specimen with a 3" trunk and 10 feet tall). It started exfoliating last year. It has only grown about 6 inches, as it is still getting its roots established. I am looking forward to seeing it take off in the next 3 years.

  11. BoxwoodBarbara 02/29/2016

    Kevin, thank you for drawing attention to a landscaping feature so often overlooked in favor of foliage, flower and fruit. I have always especially loved the play of light and shadow on the trunks of smooth-barked trees like elm and zelkova, as well as those delightful exfoliating specimens that I too used to have in my gardens. Cheers to you!

    1. user-7007498 03/01/2016

      Thanks. It is so easy to overlook the full beauty of nature. I often wish I had a larger property to squeeze in a few more trees.

  12. katieerb 02/29/2016

    I love these photos, looks like artwork! There is nothing more beautiful than trees in their various stages, thanks for sharing.

  13. eddireid 02/29/2016

    Trees are beautiful at all times but winter allows them to show off the structure and he amazing variety of bark.
    Thank you Kevin for sharing your lovely trees. My favorite is the Green Pillar Oak - mostly because I have never seen one of these at all and it is very unusual. Oops! Time for the plant encyclopedia and the shopping list!
    Secret - I take photos of bark, too.

    1. user-7007498 03/01/2016

      I feel in love with it when I saw a specimen at Swarthmore College, outside of Philadelphia. This cultivar was discovered in New Jersey in 1994, amongst a row of planted pin oaks. I have had mine since 2008, and love it. I had to drive to a nursery 125 miles away to acquire it. Birds love to build nests in it because it is so dense and gives them great protection.

    2. eddireid 03/01/2016

      Great recommendation! Thank you again.

  14. grannieannie1 03/01/2016

    Thank you, Kevin, for reminding us to appreciate the less flowery aspects of plants. I've often enjoyed the smooth circular cherry tree bark and the almost bark-less limbs of our crepe myrtle. Now you've added some others to my list.

  15. user-7007940 03/01/2016

    Love the different colors of bark. Nice trees

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