The tracery of bare branches and the texture of bark become art during the winter. They are much easier to see without foliage which tends to hide them. If the element of color is added, they become an exuberant exclamation.
Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’, a Japanese maple with bright coral bark, is commonly called Coral Bark Maple and is treasured for its distinctive bark which provides excellent color and contrast to landscapes in winter. It is an upright, slow-growing, vase-shaped form that can eventually become 20-25’ tall. Because the best color is seen on young growth, annual pruning could easily keep this as a very small tree. The pink to coral coloration is less pronounced to almost absent in summer.
The spring foliage is a lovely green edged with red while the fall foliage is golden.
Acer griseum (Paperbark Maple) has cinnamon-colored, exfoliating bark.
Normally planted as a specimen tree, it is stunning as a small grove. This maple will become 20-30’ tall and has very colorful fall foliage.
The shrubs best known for colorful bark are the red twig and ‘yellow twig dogwoods. They all belong to the genus Cornus but belong to different species, C.alba, C.sanguinea, and C.sericea. These shrubs generally grow 6-9’ tall and wide and benefit from frequent pruning since the best color is on the new growth. They also have creamy white flowers in spring and some cultivars have variegated foliage. Since these Cornus are stoloniferous, they are excellent for erosion control.
Winter will not seem nearly as long if you start thinking about incorporating some of these plants into your landscapes.