last updated 20/10/2014


The winter can be one of the most exciting times in the garden. The long nights somehow make one appreciate every second of brightness, whilst those low shafts of sunlight have the ability to spotlight small groups of skilfully placed plants in a manner never seen during summer. Few groups of plants can better achieve this than the Cornus grown for their stems. We have concentrated on the flowering dogwoods for many years, but realised that this was one group which did not deserve to be ignored. They are so easily grown, no matter how horrible your soil or difficult your site, and combine well with so many other plants to catch any mood or theme. Imagine any of them with luminescent white barked Birch; try the black stemmed ‘Kesselringii’ against a golden evergreen like Ligustrum lucidum ‘Golden Wax’ and brightly coloured daffodils. Many have red and orange stems; I love these in combination with the bronze heads of grasses like Miscanthus. You are limited only by your imagination.

Cut them down to ground level in late winter to maximise the new growth the following season; or if you don’t wish to denude your clump so completely, prune on a 3 year cycle, whereby you prune 1/3 of the shoots to the ground each year, leaving the others to give cover.

As well as C. alba, consider also the cultivars of C. sanguinea and C. sericea (the latter includes those previously known under C. stolonifera).

This year, some of these will be available once dormant as sturdy bare-root plants a £15.00 each. 
Please ask for details.

CORNUS alba 'Alleman's Compact'
(Previously attributed to C. sericea) A more compact form but still with good red winter stem colour.

CORNUS alba 'Aurea'
Red stems and yellow leaves.

CORNUS alba 'Bloodgood' 
Reputedly "the showiest red stem colour of any selection" in the Arboretum at North Carolina University in the USA. What more can I say?

CORNUS alba 'Elegantissima' 
A familiar form with bright red stems and leaves variegated pink, green and white.

CORNUS alba 'Gouchaultii' 
Also well-known, this time with green and yellow leaves contrasting with red stems.

CORNUS alba 'Kesselringii' 
Quite different, with black stems. Try planting with the whitest Betula utilis jacquemontii selections and early daffodils. Wow!

CORNUS alba 'Red Gnome'
The bark colour of this more compact cultivar is noticeably influenced by light levels - best red colours being produced in the sunniest sites.

CORNUS alba 'Ruby'
Selected from a batch of 'Sibirica' seedlings, supposedly for even better stem colour!

CORNUS alba 'Sibirica' 
The classic red-stemmed Cornus, against which all others are judged. I shall never forget my first memory of a big block of this at Westonbirt Arboretum many year ago. Despite my excitement at all our new American cultivars, if I had to choose just the one cultivar for red stem colour, it would have to be this one.

CORNUS alba 'Siberian Pearls' 
Deep red stems are almost predictable. But this one enjoys the added benefit of a profusion of white flowers followed by white berries which turn blue with age.

CORNUS alba 'Sibirica Variegata' 
I love this smaller selection. The dramatic red stems of 'Sibirica' are enhanced by the pretty variegated leaves. Similar to 'Elegantissima' but smaller, slower and with more pink through the foliage.

CORNUS alba 'Snow Pearls'
Arguably the best of the batch for fruit production, which really does give an extra dimension to the autumn display. A slightly more compact grower (perhaps that's down to the energy expended in all that flower and fruit!)

CORNUS amomum 'Blue Cloud'
A similar species, but from North America (C. alba itself comes from Siberia across to Manchuria). Its particular attraction and the reason for the name, are the wonderful blue berries in late summer-autumn. The shoots are purple in winter.

Back to Previous Page

More Cornus

Go Back to Top of Page