Acer palmatum ‘Sango kaku’, better known as the coral bark maple, has been growing in popularity in recent years, and with good reason: It’s beautiful all year long, even in the dead of winter – as in right now -- when its show-stopping, coral-colored trunk and twigs are at their peak.
Not every bird is lucky enough to find a warm, cozy spot when the weather turns foul. Even those that do find shelter still need food and water to survive. And there’s a genuine payoff for gardeners who tend to their flock: The birds will call your garden home and eat everything from weed seeds to pesky plant pests.
Here in our neck of the woods, we have dozens of great trees to choose from, both deciduous and evergreen. But there are three in particular that are as close to foolproof as you can get because they tolerate an incredibly wide range of soil conditions, are relatively pest and disease free, and are tough as nails. Oh and on top of all that, they’re beautiful.
Imagine being able to add something to your garden that makes plants far less susceptible to insects and diseases, provides essential nutrients and micronutrients, improves soil structure and water retention, activates beneficial soil microbes, and basically provides the perfect growing conditions for anything and everything you grow. Now imagine that “something” is free.
This isn’t the first time I’ve written about conifers, and it won’t be the last. My love affair with this amazing plant group began many years ago with a visit to Rich’s Foxwillow Pines Nursery in Woodstock, Illinois. Owner Rich Eyres took me on a tour of his place, and as he described the plants in his considerable (as in $12-million) inventory, his passion oozed like sap from a fresh-cut spruce.