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Wag the Dogwood

Cornus, or ‘Dogwood’ as it’s commonly known, is shrub that is famed for its many varieties’ brightly coloured bracts, leaves and bark and more specifically for their very useful property of showing these colours in the autumn and winter months, when they really come into their own to cheer the garden.

However, many Cornus can also make for incredibly showy flowers as well, so while we’ve compiled a list of bark and autumn leaf colour specialists, don’t forget their flowering abilities too.

Winter Bark:

image of cornus alba

Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’

This is a medium-sized deciduous shrub, which carries vivid red canes throughout the winter. It also has soft green foliage and white flowers in the spring and summer followed by pale blue berries. It’s incredibly hardy and equally satisfied in sheltered or exposed conditions provided the soil is neutral to acidic.

image of cornus sericea

Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’

This one has bright yellow stems and complements the above very well.

image of cornus sanguinea

Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’

Bright orange stems this time and green foliage that will turn to deep red in the autumn.

image of cornus alba

Cornus alba ‘Kesselringii’

This has pure-black stems and green foliage, with the stems turning deep burgundy-red in winter.

All of these need to be cut down to within a few centimetres of the ground in March to encourage the bright new growth that makes them so special. Plant them in combination for stunningly colourful effects.

Autumn Colouring:

image of cornus mas

Cornus mas

The ‘Cornelian Cherry’ is a deciduous shrub with a vigorous and spreading growth habit, whose stems will bear yellow flowers in the winter months. Its autumn foliage is special however, with the bright red leaves forming an impressive foil for the edible fruits. It will tolerate the vast majority of soil types and ph levels.

image of cornus kousa chinenses

Cornus kousa chinensis

This deciduous shrub or small tree will produce green foliage that will turn brilliant shades of orange as the weather turns colder. They will also bear cream coloured flowers throughout the summer and pink fruit in the autumn making their colour scheme highly diverse.

image of cornus florida rubra

Cornus florida rubra

This deciduous tree will produce beautiful pink flower bracts in late spring. It has a conical growth pattern and you can expect its 8m height to be achieved in 20-50 years. The foliage will also progress through mid-green, red and purple for an impressive autumn display, however, you must ensure you plant it in acidic or neutral soil.

image of cornus contraversa

Cornus contraversa ‘Variegata’

This one forms a large shrub or small tree whose tiny cream flowers are borne in layers on its strongly tiered branches throughout the summer, giving it the common name of ‘Wedding Cake Tree’. It has matching creamy variegated foliage from spring to autumn, when it will turn shades of buttery yellow.

Always remember that we have a finite amount of column space for our recommendations and that there are dozens if not hundreds of other varieties waiting to be discovered.

By Josh Ellison

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