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Consider the winter beauty of trees
The gray, tight-barked Carpinus carolinia is called 'muscle wood' because of its sinewy appearance.
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Maple is a typical example, when grown in the open, of a species that does not respect branch hierarchy. This can cause future problems with branch failure, which is often a winter occurrence. Given the frequent mix of winter precipitation in this part of the world, broken branches from freezing rain are common. Next time you see a broken branch, notice the relative size of the branch to where it was attached.
While our landscape is not dominated by green during this time of year, this hue of life is not entirely absent. Besides the pine and spruce trees we know well, American holly and southern magnolia are two native broad-leafed evergreens unique to the southeastern United States. These and other "evergreens," such as deodoar cedar, provide our winter landscapes with varied shades of green year-round from the blue-green of a Colorado blue spruce to the "forest green" of a short-leaf pine.
Even colors we usually associate with spring, such as red, can be found this time of year. Several crabapple varieties offer the first couple months of winter a persistent red fruit. A cousin to our state tree, the redosier dogwood is not as showy in flowers as the flowering dogwood but has bright red stems all year long. It's a large shrub that makes a great border planting for year-round interest, and its dense growth pattern works well as a living snow fence.
The redosier dogwood, as a native plant, is a great substitute for the non-native invasive "burning bush." Euonymus alatus (winged burning bush) is, unfortunately, a popular item at garden stores and continues to be planted in landscapes, but then proceeds to invade natural areas nearby. It does have neat-looking stems with "wings" but the bright red of the native dogwood is a good tradeoff for a native plant.
Many more tree and shrub species have something to contribute to the view out your window on winter's bleakest days. Chances are your landscape already has a beauty you've yet to discover. Let your gaze linger a while longer on the trees and shrubs now present on your landscape. As your eyes wander, let your mind wonder at the beauty that surrounds us but goes unappreciated.
To discover more about our natural areas, consider joining us for a day of learning at the 10th Annual Landowners Woods and Wildlife Conference on Feb. 23. This day of general and concurrent sessions offers topics for large and small acreage owners alike. More information is available at: anr.ext.vt.edu/enviroandna tres/upcomingprograms .html or contact your local extension office.