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Add some year round interest to your landscape with ornamental trees that have incredible bark characteristics. Cipriano Landscape Design, Northern NJ 2014


One of the more interesting, but less thought about, characteristics of ornamental trees is their bark. Bark is often overlooked as a beneficial trait since everyone is drawn to the trees’ shape, leaves, or flowers.  But as a tree grows and matures, the bark becomes a prominent and eye-catching feature of the tree. Bark is particularly important for winter interest, and for contrast against the home and other structures.  The color and texture of tree bark is something we pay close attention to in our design process.

Many species of trees have interesting bark characteristics, but we will only cover a couple in this blog that might benefit your yard here in the Northeast. Many deciduous trees can grow to very tall heights and act as great shade trees in your yard, and several of them have wonderful bark. Beech trees (Fagus sylvatica) have a wonderful grey bark that almost looks like the skin of an elephant. As they mature they may produce knots on their trunks which create a very unique texture. Red oak (Quercus rubra) trees have a lovely bark that creates deep ridges which actually look like stripes or ski trails running down the length of the tree. Japanese Zelkova (Zelkova serrata) has a grayish white bark that produces lenticels that look and feel similar to Braille. As the bark gets older it can begin to exfoliate revealing an orange colored inner bark.

Smaller ornamental trees with great bark characteristics include Japanese maples, paper bark maples, kousa dogwoods, and cherry trees. Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) are sought out in many landscape designs because of their rich leaf color and shape. They also have a wonderful smooth, grayish bark which contrasts their deep reddish purple leaves. The paper bark maple (Acer griseum) is even more spectacular, as its bark is a rich mahogany color that exfoliates in thin pieces which look like strips of paper peeling from its trunk. Kousa dogwoods (Cornus kousa) are a popular residential tree because of their beautiful white flowers that emerge towards the end of spring.  But the bark of the Kousa is very interesting and varies depending on the tree, but as it ages the bark exfoliates revealing a camouflage-like pattern.  Japanese flowering cherry (Prunus serrulata) is an ornamental cherry tree with beautiful white flowers and fragrance, and also comes with an amazing burgundy color bark. The cherry tree bark will also produce lenticels for added interest.

Definitely consider a trees bark for your landscape design, you can seek out your local nursery for more ideas and advice if you are looking for ornamental trees with interesting bark characteristics. Bark is a great attribute for everyone to look at and enjoy and becomes the dominating characteristic in the landscape in the wintertime. A holistic approach to design will ensure you get the most out of your landscape all year long.