Fall is a great time to shop for trees because many plants are available for purchase. In most parts of the country, fall is also an ideal time to plant. The soil is still warm, so the tree roots will continue to grow. However, the leaves are dropping or have dropped, so the plant isn’t demanding water and nutrients to survive. The only exception is that evergreens in the North may need some winter protection since they will continue to transpire water throughout the winter and their roots may not be established enough to support their growth. In those situations a simple burlap wrap may be enough to protect evergreens from winter’s drying winds and cold.
When selecting trees, don’t just think in terms of flowers, berries, and fall foliage color. Think about the bark. In winter, a tree with interesting bark patterns and colors will enliven a garden and yard, becoming a stunning visual in an otherwise-bleak landscape. Here are some trees to look for with interesting bark:
Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis): This American native is related to the London plane tree. These large trees shed their bark in patches to reveal a combination of white, brown, and green inner bark. The pattern looks almost like camouflage.
Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum): Not only does this medium-sized tree offer attractive fall foliage color, but the old bark peels away to reveal new cinnamon-brown bark underneath.
River Birch (Betula nigra): Like the paperbark maple, the river birch exfoliates bark and changes its color with age. Young river birches have silvery-gray bark with light reddish-brown patches. Older trees have dark reddish-brown bark. As with all birches, the sheets of exfoliated bark can be used for holiday decorations or for kindling to start fires.
Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica): These small trees, known as the lilacs of the South, have smooth bark that peels to reveal beige, cinnamon, and even bright red colors.