52 Weeks in the Garden: Week 2 – Scars

We’re still covered in a light blanket of snow here at Cherry Creek, although today’s rising temperatures (35F as I write this) and rain in the forecast are working to reveal the darker tones of the landscape below. I took advantage of a sunny day yesterday to photograph the garden and think about the stories it held for my Week 2 edition of 52 Weeks in the Garden.

First, I wanted to more properly introduce our Cercis canadensis (Eastern Redbud). Last week’s closeup of its exfoliating bark didn’t quite give an accurate image of this tree in our winter landscape.

Cercis canadensis (Eastern Redbud) habit

Viewed from a distance in dormancy, the tree’s double-trunked form gracefully entends upward into a spreading, fluted habit. Its branches intertwine each other to an extent that makes it visually difficult to trace one back to the trunk. Planted about 8-10 feet to the north in the neighbor’s yard is a Silver Maple (Acer saccharium) that provides some shade, but also detracts slightly from the visual impact of the redbud’s habit year-round.

As I was looking at the redbud yesterday, I noticed where the bark had been peeled up along one of the lower branches. I suspect it was the result of one of our backyard squirrels, as I’ve seen similar damage on the red maple (Acer rubrum) the squirrels frequent. I’ll be interested to see how this damage heals over, and whether it will leave a scar.

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blushing Bride’ leaf scars and vegetative buds

With most woody plants, however, the presence of a scar is not evidence of a squirrel. In fact, the scars found on woody plants are evidence of last season’s growth. In the case of Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blushing Bride’, the beige, heart-shaped scars along the upright stems are the place where the leaf stem attached last season. Within each leaf scar are three bundle scars, the place where the vascular tissue ran from stem to leaf. On many plants, including H. macrophylla, the placement of these bundle scars results in a face-like appearance to the leaf scars. On this plant, you can see the coming year’s vegetative buds waiting for warmer weather to signal a new growing season.

Hylotelephium ‘Matrona’ stems and leaf scars

Scars are evident even on herbaceous plants, like the Hylotelephium ‘Matrona’ in my gardens. The lighter-colored markings mark where the leaves are alternately spaced along the stem. These stems (and the seedheads they support) add beautiful color to the winter landscape, particularly when the ground is covered with snow.

Scars are not often mentioned in the same breath with beauty, but they can provide interesting texture and variety in the winter landscape, while providing clues to a plant’s history and growth.

For additional photos from Week 2 at Cherry Creek, please see http://fromthesoilblog.shutterfly.com/seasons/5580.

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