Montag, 4. November 2013

How to grow - Cornus

Article for Minerva Publications

Cornus alba 'Elegantissima' in the background
with Iris reticulata and Hamamelis sp. in the foreground
 After the fiery autumn colours are gone it is show time for the equally vibrantly coloured stems of dogwoods. Not to confuse with their profusely flowering cousins in summer, varieties of Cornus alba, C. sanguinea or C. stolonifera are grown for their stems in vivid shades of red, pink, green or yellow. Deservedly the most popular cultivars are probably C. alba ‘Sibirica’, C. alba ‘Elegantissima’, C. sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire' and C. sericea ‘Flaviramea’ or C. sericea 'Budd's Yellow'.



Their feature is one of the major attraction in the Winter Garden at the Sir Harold Hillier Arboretum and Gardens. In contrast with colourful Rubus sp. or the evergreen black grass Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' it proves that after leaf fall the cold season is far from being boring or quiet. The petite flowers of snowdrops planted en masse underneath gives the coloured stems elegance which is enhanced by the grace of winter frosts.

Cornus sericea 'Flaviramea' surrounded by snowdrops and Cornus alba 'Sibirica' in the background

Cornus alba 'Sibirica' with Carex morrowii
Another advantage is the ease of cultivation. Hardwood cuttings can be taken any time after the leaves have dropped and before spring when new leaves emerge. Cut pencil thick pieces of 5-6 inches length. They can be bundled together and put in sharp sand in a cold frame. Two to three months later they will have developed roots and are ready to be potted on or planted out.



After the plants have established all there is to do is an annual prune down to a few inches above ground level around March time, just before new leaves emerge. That will keep the shrub neat as well as numerous new shoots at the base will form the next winter display. An unpruned specimen will soon lack in colour and will grow straggly.

Cornus sericea 'Flaviramea' and Cornus
sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire' in the background
The coloured stems of Cornus are easily combined with evergreens or grasses as well as bulbs such as winter flowering Irises and Hellebores. They do not take much space and would happily fit into a small garden, although a nice big drift of course has a greater effect. Certainly uplifting the supposedly dull season during winter, one of the Cornus varieties mentioned above is a must have.

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