Here is a tree with few attributes. It does not have attractive spring flowers, does not attract hummingbirds or butterflies, has no ornamental fruits, and though it has nice fall foliage, it certainly doesn't match Maples or Ashes. And it has a very narrow area of adaptability, suited only to cool summer/cold winter regions. And yet, this is one of the most beautiful trees in existence. It is the Snow Queen birch tree, or Betula utilis var. jacquemontii 'Snow Queen', also known as Himalayan Birch and has been a favorite of the Chelsea Flower Show for the last few years, and with good reason. In spring, summer, fall, and winter its ethereal beauty casts a spell over the garden. The whiteness of the bark is absolutely gleaming. And that is only after two years when the ordinary brown color of the trunk and branches peels back, revealing the brilliant, bright-white underbark. This is perhaps the most attractive bark of any tree.

And if real drama is desired, plant the vivid red, orange, and yellow stemmed Dogwood nearby and you will have an unimaginable winter show. And yet, the simplicity of the immaculate white trunks, all alone, lends an atmosphere of peace and contemplation, much like antiquity's sacred groves.

Himalayan birch is completely hardy, and will tolerate most soils, but especially moist, well-drained ones. The tree is medium sized, about 30 feet at maturity and ideal for a small, medium, or large garden. They are fully hardy throughout the UK and do well in much of Canada, the upper US, and cool temperate Australia and New Zealand. As always, a tree this rare is not likely to be found in the large discount nurseries, but more likely found in the select plant nurseries or from mail-order tree nurseries.

‘Snow Queen’

Himalayan birch


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