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The perfect specimen tree for city gardens

Paperbark maple: Its shiny cinnamon-coloured bark exfoliates to reveal striated new skin of pink, green and brown.


Although it's from China and therefore not native, compact paperbark maple is the perfect specimen tree for Canadian city gardens, boasting a tidy yet dramatic profile. As its name implies, it has shiny cinnamon-coloured bark that exfoliates to reveal subtly striated new skin of pink, green and brown.


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In sunny to lightly shady areas with well-drained soil having high humus content. The tree develops a striking rounded canopy, so I've kept mine to one stem and positioned it where it can be viewed and admired all year-round. It seems unbothered by pests and neglect. And it develops a huge rootball, so place it away from other plants. It grows up to nine metres.


Paperbark maple is the perfect specimen tree to position on its own, as the exquisite bark is just the beginning: It provides four-season interest. In the spring, it develops fruit that won't seed all over the place (it's androdioecious). And in the summer, the canopy becomes a light haze of blue-green. By the fall, blue-green gives way to an orange-pink to deep red - and it's the last tree in the garden to erupt into flame.


This is one tree to demand at your local nursery because it's available, from $80 up, through major wholesalers across the country. Make sure it's exfoliating before you buy it.

Visit for more gardening and plant information, including autumn bulbs.

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