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Trees: Betula – Utilis versus Pendula

betula utilis jacquemontii bark

The Betula or more commonly known Birch are a genus of around 60 species of deciduous [their leaves fall off in winter, in short] trees that grow extremely well in our Irish climate. By its soft leaved foliage I find it quite feminine in feel and appearance which works really well in softening any landscape or building exterior.

All of our photosynthetic friends have in them at least one outstanding trait for which we want to grow them. In this case, it is without question the birch’s bark. But, like all things great, you get what you pay for and there is always a reason why one is cheaper than the other as I will discuss shortly.

Asking for a Birch, just like any plant, needs to be a lot more definitive. It’s got more than 60 relations of the same second name remember. To these two fellows: The difference between Betula utilis and Betula pendula – couldn’t be that much ? You might be surprised.

Betula utilis

The Himalayan birch is an absolute stunner. As it matures from a young main stem to a tree like trunk its skin peels and develops from a rusty orange tinged brown to a soft pinkish white, then further maturing to a bright smooth as you like, white paper skin.

Although it will do so anyway, I always love the fact that you can peel it off like a bad roll of sellotape. The utilis types are upright [ ie. go against gravity] by their appearance and habit and can grow to about 60′ tall. I have 5 in my garden – worth every single cent and centimetre .

  • recommended: Betula utilis ‘Jacquemontii’

Betula pendula

The main trait of the Betual Pendula types is that they are all [think about it… pendula, pendulum ~ ie. swing ~ ie. must hang ~ as versus upright] weeping trees by their nature. That said they can still grow up to 80′ tall.

Far more important than that however is that they have a glitch, a flaw in their character. Like the way I’ve never not met a Jack Russell without a dodgy back leg; as the tree matures it’s bark cracks and the newly maturing and indented creases of the bark then turn to black.

In the not so pretty department, it’s not only the bark that’s a bit brutish in appearance and touch as you’ll find the stems of its foliage suffer a similar effect.In comparison, it can be a little scraggy, depending, and just doesn’t cut the mustard in the same way the Betula utilis ‘jacquemontii’ does.

  • recommended: Betula pendula ‘youngii’

Notes:

The key to developing that white bark all over is the crown raising. Strip the lower branches bare, like a telegraph pole and try as best as possible to retain only one leader. this I should add and double underline, is something that is so very important and really should be considered when first selecting and choosing the trees for purchase. The wounds will heal over and what may [possibly] seem a little unfair will pay its dividends.

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betula utilis jacquemontii bark

Garden Ideas: 5 Uses of Mirror in Garden Design

peter donegan mirror

Mirrors are a great way to brighten up any garden and add that extra added and varying dimension to your space outdoors. The following are 5 examples of how I have used mirrors in gardens to change, for the greater a gardens space.

If you have an area which needs that little something to brighten it up, this should get the mind flowing and maybe thinking in a slightly different light.

1. Surrounded by Walls on all Sides

garden mirrors

This garden area is walled in on all four sides making available light almost at a premium. To change that, three of the walls in this garden were painted white whilst one was covered with three full length, slightly separated mirrors. The light increase now as the sun moves around is phenomenal. More than that, it made the garden interesting and the views so different depending on where you stood. Brighter for the better on so many levels.

2. Low Level Light Reflection

garden mirror

With lights installed at ground level a 4 metre wide paved area separates the light source from the  mirror surface installed on the far side. This allows the light, as you see it in the image, to be viewed from a very different angle. Extremely effective at night and made even better by choice planting which dappled the lights shadows as the winds movement caused it to appear to flicker.

3. The Small Courtyard Garden

garden mirror

This small courtyard is around 1 metre by 3.5 metres in size. Raised beds in place the mirror choice allowed the transformation from a dull and non descript potential no mans land to one were dappled planting gave it just that extra added dimension. The photograph was taken from inside the kitchen area and the rain at the time dapples the image captured slightly.

4. Mirror Garden Surface Furniture

mirror garden furniture

Sometimes less is more and this table top covering was just enough to create a little intrigue from one point within the garden. On a non garden design side note, the use of mirror here also ensured a clean easy of the eating area. That aside, personally [and although I might have been told off for it in my youth], I liked it most when my elbows rested on it.

5. The Narrow Garden Space

garden mirror

Just at the point where the garden narrows and the design may appear like it has just, well… ended. In this case this garden very simply needed that something to take ones eye away from a path that I was not able to change nor move – [client is king]. Note the distance it created as you look at it. Simple, yet effective.

mirror n 1 a sheet of glass with a metal coating on its back, that reflects an image of an object placed in front of it

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peter donegan