Saturday, December 29, 2007

Dwarf River Birch

Dwarf River Birch
Betula nigra 'Fox Valley'
(BET-yoo-luh) (NY-gruh)
Synonyms: Little King

This is one of my favorite trees in the garden. It is almost an exact replica of its larger cousin Betula nigraHeritage’ without the big size. I planted my grove of 6 ‘Little King’ in 1995, four years after the tree was released by King Nursery of Oswego, Illinois. The final height is 10 -12 feet and the spread looks to be 8 to 10 feet. I like the densely packed twigs and of course the exfoliating bark is nice all year but really brightens up the winter garden. The bark on ‘Little King’ starts to peel at an early age compared to the larger River Birch. The foliage is double serrate and attractive, and I haven’t had any problems with insects. I have noticed the fall color is nothing really to speak of, often times the leaves just turn brown, although some autumns it has a nice yellow fall color.

There are two reasons I favor River Birch over most of the other species of Betula. They seem naturally resistant to leaf miner and the Birch Borer that can be such a nuisance with Birch cultivation. Another reason I like River Birch is that it can grow in tough conditions including bottom land and even periodically flooded areas. It grows in part shade area (although prefers full sun) and almost any soil type as long as there is enough moisture available.

This tree won the prestigious Cary Award in 2007 and I would have to agree that it is an outstanding tree for grove planting, accent or specimen planting or even a deciduous hedge. The Cary Awards are named after Ed Cary of Shewsbury, MA and are awarded to distinctive plants that have proven themselves in the New England landscape. They have three purposes:
1. To inform home gardeners which plants would be good choices in their landscape.
2. To instill confidence in the home gardener's plant selection.
3. To increase the diversity of plant material utilized by gardeners, landscape designers and architects.

I took these pictures at work yesterday, it was beautiful weather although there wasn’t much in the garden to see. The almost inch of rain we had last night probably got rid of much of the snow that was left.

"I heard a bird sing in the dark of December
A magical thing and sweet to remember.
We are nearer to Spring than we were in September,
I heard a bird sing
in the dark of December."

Oliver Herford


Phillip Oliver said...

I didn't know there was a dwarf river birch. I have several "Heritage" trees planted around my house and I love them but they are big. I think they are such attractive trees.

Oswegan said...

These are cool photos.


Ali said...

Just dropped by to wish you a great New Year. x

kbguy said...

wow ! nice photos. Now I feel ashame of my photo blog...I am so lousy. lol! Can we exchange link ?
my other site is at

anyway, happy new Year !

SandyCarlson said...

Beautiful, as ever!

Happy New Year!

joey said...

Great post. Loving the River Birch, I agree. We have lost many native birch trees up north at our cottage to disease ... so we continually replant, hoping ...
Wishing you a healthy & peaceful New Year.

Sandy Kessler said...

Amazing where we find such overwhelming beauty and detail

Digital Flower Pictures said...

First Happy New Year to everyone!

Phillip, thanks for leaving this comment. I didn't know River Birch grew that far down South.

oswegan and sandy, hi and thanks.

ali, good to see you back 'on the air'. I hope you are feeling better and are going to start posting some more pictures.

sri, thanks for visiting. I am not trading links at this time but will visit your site. Why don't you try joining ABC Wednesday, you can get a lot of links that way.

joey, thanks for the well wishes and of course same to you. I hope that 2008 leads to better health with your extended family members and of course more of your great recipes and fantastic garden photos. God Bless You, especially.

sandy, I agree sometimes I just have to remember to open up my eyes.

Shirley Davis said...

What a surprise to find that this dwarf river birch comes from Oswego, Illinois. I graduated from Oswego High School in 1947 and was married in the Oswego Presbyterian Church when it was in its previous location. This looks like the tree we need for a pretty wet and damp location along our driveway -- not much room there so it must be dwarf. The bark looks beautiful in your photo. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

How big do the trunks get? Trying to decide whether to use this type of river birch clump or not in a flower bed near the front of our house. Thanks for writing about this version of the river birch.