Beautiful bark always takes me by surprise at this time of the year. Once the last of the autumn drama queens have thrown down their fiery, leafy cloaks, these hidden gems of the winter garden come to the fore. The watery light from the low winter sun is perfect for drawing out every intricate tone and detail. Whether it is highlighting the radiant beauty of polished mahogany on a birch-bark cherry, or the sinuous patterning found on snake-bark maples. Some peeling barks are tantalising to touch, while others can be marveled at for their sheer complexity. Although I wouldn’t grow a tree purely for its winter bark, it is certainly an important feature to consider - especially in a small garden.