Gardening where the sidewalk ends

The Beauty of Birch November 18, 2009

We had a few white birch trees at our previous place, and I have to admit I didn’t appreciate them very much. One was poorly sited in the tiny front lawn, shading the struggling fruit trees, and the others were in the parking strip, dropping their tiny, storm-drain-clogging, hard-to-rake leaves everywhere in the fall. Their branches tended to hang low and get brutally thwacked every time the UPS truck barrelled down our hill, and when we tried to prune them, they bled fountains of weeping sap.

But now that I can admire them from afar, I have fallen in love with these trees. I think ours were Betula pendula (European white birch), which form huge jagged dark cracks in their white bark, but the ones I’m enjoying in the neighborhood are more likely B. papyrifera (Paper birch), at least I think so – please correct me if you think otherwise.

A white tree looks so very mod and chic in the fall landscape.

Birch alley

Looks like the children (or rodents?) of the neighborhood have not been able to resist a little peeling. Not good for the tree, I would imagine.

Paper-bark birch

This one might be my old nemesis, it seem to have more of a weeping shape.

Last birch leaves a-clinging

I had to really admire this trunk base for a while. It was hard not to peel just a little tiny strip – so tempting! But I managed to contain myself.

Frilly birch

Has a tree (or plant) ever lost your heart but then won it back again?

PS Acer negundo (aka Box elder), I am so over you. A decidious tree that is this blah in fall is just off my list. Thanks to everyone who warned me away from getting one!

Acer negundo (Box elder) in fall - blah!


12 Responses to “The Beauty of Birch”

  1. Georgia Says:

    You are in an amenable part of the country for growing a river birch as a street tree (lots of water) and lucky for having such a generous planting strip. (More here – However, I think your birches are paper birches.

  2. jeff-nhn Says:

    My favorite is the River Birch in clump form. We have several in our neighborhood and they provide interest year around. When I used to go fishing in Canada I would see hundreds of white birch trees line the shoreline. Very beautiful site.

  3. Beautiful photos Karen! I posted earlier in the week about icky Dusty Miller, I have always HATED that plant but surprisingly I actually found myself admiring one recently. Ugh…what’s next roses?

  4. we have a little grove of birches lining one side of our drive. our favorites are the three Birch jaequemonti…an idea we got from a visit to the Oregon Garden. The trunks of these are white, white, white from the very start, and the tree has a perfect vase shape, where some of the others can be a bit sgraggly. A Betula pendula ‘Youngs’ by my studio window shows promise ( nice weeping shape, though the bark has yet to turn white). The first birch we planted is close to the house, and we enjoyed watching a red-breasted sapsucker work it over last spring, even though, later, an intervention was called for to spare the tree’s life.

  5. Grace Says:

    Hi Karen~~ I’ve always loved Birch trees and wish I had their comparatively tiny leaves smothering my lawn instead of my large Sweet Gum’s. The neighbors behind us planted 5 B. jackmontii several years ago. The trees are fabulous except they block our view of the valley. Oh well. One can’t have everything. Your photos are lovely. I think the bark is very chic too.

  6. Bonnie Story Says:

    Speaking of River Birch, I’m expecting five of those from the Arbor Day Foundation and I’m really excited! An Amazing Birch Tale: We had a very old White Birch in the backyard of our old CA place and it snapped clean in half during a wind storm – the whole top, with trunk, landed neatly in the very narrow area between ours and our neighbor’s houses like it was placed carefully by hand… amazing. No damage done, and it was a BIG tree. Really dodged a bullet there. Nice photos! Those curb trees really are quite MOD!

  7. Jen Says:

    When I was a kid we had these trees we called “punk” trees in our backyard that had peeling bark. I never thought I was damaging the tree, but I used to peel it all the time. What was I thinking? Good for you for resisting the temptation!

  8. Jane Says:

    I love those Jaquemontii birches and the paperbark ones, too.
    When our local light rail line went in, a number of them were planted as street trees. They’re about 5 years old now and are lovely at most times of the year. The fact that they grow quickly is definitely in their favor as street trees. I have heard that the European birches are prone to rot and brittleness, making them much less suitable as street trees than the other white-bark birches.

    Glad to hear you’re over the acer negundo: There are so many wonderful smaller trees more worthy of your infatuation!

  9. Catherine Says:

    I love the white peeling trunks of birches. I would love to have a place for room for a little stand of them. That peeling bark is very hard to resist.

  10. Tatyana Says:

    Wonderful! Love it, love it, love it!

  11. I love birch trees–that bark is to die for. Birches don’t do very well here, but I appreciate them when I see them.

  12. Megan Says:

    I have a paperbark birch, and it has been pretty well behaved. I limb it up frequently, and there’s no bleeding sap or any other complaining.
    I am struggling to make myself take out my Acer Negundo. Last night we had a big wind storm, and I realized I was hoping it would come down. I guess that means I’m fully over it too. Best to act now, before it woos me again in the spring.

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