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Decorative trees in winter

American hornbeam
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Robert Mineau)  
Carpinus caroliniana

Whether for the color of their bark or for their original silhouette, here are trees that will enhance your garden in winter.

Species or cultivar     Fall and winter interest
Acer ginnala Small flower with fragrant white blossoms, followed by red, decorative keys in July that dry out and remain on the tree all winter. Flamboyant red colouring in the fall. So many virtues – everyone loves it!
Acer pensylvanicum Smooth, striated green and white bark, resembles snakeskin.
Betula papyrifera Exfoliating white bark. Beautiful yellow colours in the fall. A classic in winter gardens that never goes out of style!
Betula utilis var. jacquemontii Birch with chalky white bark (one of the whitest). A nice change from paper birch.
Betula platyphylla var. japonica 'White Spire' Another birch with white bark.
Betula nigra HERITAGE® ('Cully') Salmon-coloured exfoliating bark (one of the loveliest birches and resistant to borers). Tolerates poorly drained soil. Probably the prettiest tree in a winter garden.
Betula alleghaniensis Exfoliating bark with grey and yellow shades. Hardy cones. Beautiful golden colours in the fall. Aromatic bark reminiscent of wintergreen. Official provincial tree of Québec. Underused.
Betula pendula 'Tristis' Tree with the most cascading branches of the species. Very gracious.
Betula pendula 'Youngii' Weeping bearing, white bark.
Carpinus caroliniana Small tree with smooth, slate-grey bark that resembles protruding muscles… Hardy fruit. Fall colouring is often flamboyant. Marcescent leaves.
Catalpa spp. Long, robust, longilineal berries.
Carya ovata Exfoliating bark in long, vertical strips.
Celtis occidentalis Grey, bumpy bark. Unusual.
Cercidiphyllum japonicum Beautiful golden yellow in the fall. Autumn leaves smell like caramel… or strawberry jam. What do you think? Modest flowering early in the year, Young leaves in the spring are bronze or mauve and darken in the summer. A lovely and little known tree.
Cercidiphyllum japonicum 'Pendula' Same characteristics as previous but with a weeping bearing. A unique substitution for the better-known Betula pendula 'Youngii'.
Cornus alternifolia Small indigenous, hardy tree with a spread of horizontal branches. Oriental effect. Underused. Try it in a container!
Crataegus spp. Many hawthorns have a twisted trunk (C. douglasii) and a dome-shaped crown. Beautiful colouring in the fall (C. crus-galli). Small, red, robust berries. Be careful of the long thorns of many species!
Crataegus phaenopyrum The Washington hawthorn bears robust orange berries late in the year. Beautifully coloured in the fall, with deep reds and oranges. 
Crataegus viridis 'Winter King' Robust and abundant fructification. Exfoliating silvery-grey bark.
Fagus grandifolia Noble indigenous tree. Attractive smooth grey bark. Lovely golden yellow fall colours. Marescent leaves on young subjects. Difficult to grow.
Fagus sylvatica European beech. A very attractive tree with smooth grey bark and marescent leaves. Several cultivars with purple leaves, fastigiate (upright) or weeping habit. Often used for high hedges.
Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis Long twisted persistent pods on female subjects. Zig-zag shoots.
Ginkgo biloba Large fossil tree, slow growing, easy to cultivate. Lovely yellow fall colours. Attractive fissured grey bark. Interesting fruit, resembling small yellow crabapples on female subjects. Leaves look prehistoric. Plant it for prosperity or to impress your neighbours!
Gymnocladus dioicus Few erect branches, creating an unusual silhouette. Large persistent pods on female specimens.
Malus spp. et cv Choose cultivars with small fruit, which persist longer.
Morus alba 'Pendula' Markedly weeping habit. Silkworms feed only on the leaves of this species.
Phellodendron amurensis Unusual thick and corky bark. Vase shaped.
Quercus rubrum Lovely red foliage in late fall. A noble species you plant for your grandchildren.
Quercus alba Lovely red foliage in late fall. Marescent leaves. Slow growing.
Quercus coccinea Lovely red foliage in late fall. Resembles red oak but more colourful.
Quercus x 'Crimson Spire' Fastigiate habit. Dark red foliage in the fall. Perfect for yards on the Plateau in Montréal.
Quercus robur 'Fastigiata' Fastigiate habit. Marescent leaves. For sites with limited space.
Robinia pseudoacacia Slender silhouette. Persistent pods in winter. Lovely rich green foliage. Clusters of fragrant flowers.
Salix matsudana 'Tortuosa' Corkscrew branches. Makes a great focal point.
Salix matsudana 'Snake' Corkscrew branches. Improved cultivar (better choice than the previous one).
Sorbus aucuparia Persistent fruit. Excellent orange-red fall colours.
Syringa reticulata Small tree with lovely lustrous bark and protruding lenticels. Japanese tree lilac is better known for its feathery cream-coloured blooms in June. Just the tree to plant under those hydro wires.
Tilia cordata 'Winter Orange' This small-leaved linden has a conical habit. Young stems are orange in winter.
Ulmus glabra 'Pendula' Small grafted tree with a markedly weeping habit.


Based on an article by Robert Mineau in Quatre-Temps magazine, Vol. 26, No.4.

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