CORNUS continued
last updated 19/01/2018

Cornus for winter stem colour

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 be more effective in this way than the cultivars of Cornus sanguinea, grown for their brilliantly coloured stems. They are easily grown, and combine well with so many other plants. Imagine them with luminescent white barked Birch or a softer combination with the honey colours of Betula ermanii. Try them against rich green or evenly brightly variegated, hollies and cheerful daffodils. You are limited only by your imagination.

Some authorities advocate cutting them down to ground level in late winter to maximise the new growth the following season. To my mind this is bad practice because it invites hard pruning just as the sap is rising. At best this will make a mess and weaken the plant, but it can actually kill it. I much prefer to prune on a 3 year cycle, whereby I prune the 1/3 oldest shoots to the ground each year, leaving the others to give cover.

This group of Cornus are deceptively late into leaf in the spring, with the earliest emerging leaves often getting frosted. However, I have never known one to be seriously damaged in this way. They always recover and grow away later in the spring, but they can benefit from some superficial pruning to tidy any winter damage.

I should explain that we no longer grow cultivars of C. alba or C. sericea. In fact, we have removed them all from the collection here. The more established they became, the harder they were to maintain. Their strong tendency towards layering meant that they were taking up an increasing amount of space, trapping windblown weed seed within their structure that became increasingly difficult to control. So they went. The C. sanguinea cultivars are so much more elegant and much more brightly coloured. Their habit is typically more upright, with thinner, twiggier stems. Although they do still form a thicket, they are much less aggressive and easier to manage. 

CORNUS sanguinea 'Anny's Winter Orange' 
This is my favourite in this group, with the brightest orange stem colour. As with the others, there is some colour gradient from the tips to the base of the stems, but the over-riding effect is of bright orange bark.
See it at the top of the Quarry Garden.

CORNUS sanguinea 'Magic Flame' 
The distinctive characteristic of this one is actually the foliage. The leaves are significantly larger than those of the other cultivars, and spaced further apart on the stems. This gives it a more open appearance, and therefore greater elegance to my eyes. The foliage is particularly beautiful in the autumn when it turns a bright, clear yellow.
See it in our Woodland Walk.

CORNUS sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire'  
Raised in 1980, but not commercially distributed until a decade later, this is currently the most widely available of an increasing range of these gorgeous plants and as such is not one that we are currently offering. The bright red to orange winter bark colour. 

CORNUS sanguinea 'Winter Beauty' 
Amazing winter stem colour grades from orange yellow at the base to pink and red at the tips.
See it at the top of the Quarry Garden.

Back to Previous Page

Next Page

Go Back to Top of Page