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Add winter colour to your garden with Cornus

Published: 2nd November, 2016

Cornus or dogwood shrubsThe lazy, hazy days of summer may be over – but that does not mean that colour and interest in your garden has to come to an end until next spring. With careful planning, borders can still add a riot of colour to your outdoor space throughout the winter months. There is a wide range of hardy shrubs, conifers, heathers and perennials that will keep your garden colourful despite the cold.

One of our all-time favourites is ‘Cornus’. Commonly called Dogwoods, these reliable and hardy shrubs are truly plants for all seasons.

Clusters of small creamy, white flowers are produced in spring, followed by blue/white berries, with oval dark green leaves which provide a luscious leafy backdrop to summer flowers. The foliage transforms into a rainbow of colours through autumn before falling. But it is during late autumn and winter that they come into their own. The leaves fall to reveal brilliantly colourful, structural stems. The smooth and glossy bark and stems come in a range of vibrant colours from crimson red to gold, adding wonderful colour that lights up the garden.

Multi-stemmed with canes growing directly out of the ground, Dogwoods make stunning architectural displays.  Use them as an informal hedge or as a specimen plant. They can even be grown in a large pot or planter. On a more practical level, their widely-spreading root systems make them effective plants for erosion control (for example, on steep banks). Wherever you plant them make sure that they can be easily viewed from a window so you can enjoy the stunning winter display.

Dogwoods are extremely hardy and will tolerate most soils but they will flourish best in moist, even boggy soil. In the wild they are usually found growing at the edges of streams and other bodies of water. Aim for a site with full sun – they will grow perfectly well in shade but the colour never develops as brightly as those that get sunshine for at least half the day.

If planted between September and December, they require minimal maintenance. The roots will take well while the soil is still warm and moist and the plants will settle in before the more extreme weather conditions arrive.

The brightness of Dogwood stems tends to fade over time so to get the brightest coloured stems, they need heavy pruning.  Don’t prune them in the first year, but after that, they should be pruned quite heavily in the spring. Aim to lose about a quarter of the canes in any given year but you can even totally rejuvenate a dogwood by cutting them back all the way to the ground.

Dogwoods are really stunning, so no wonder varieties have been given names like ‘Winter Beauty’ and ‘Midwinter Fire’ as the intense rays of the sun really bring those fiery-coloured stems to life. Take a look at the whole range of shrubby dogwoods to discover varieties with different foliage and stem colour combinations from ‘Flaviramea’ with green leaves and golden-yellow stems, ‘Spaethii’ with variegated, yellow-edged green leaves and red stems, or the white margined leaves and red stems of ‘Elegantissima’.

Check out Henry Street Garden Centre to discover a great variety of these wonderful garden performers.


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