January Plant of the Month | Cornus
Not many plants can offer value to the garden in every season, but Cornus, also known as Dogwood, is one of the best plants for year-round benefits. The prime attraction of this varied group of shrubs or trees is their brightly coloured stems in winter, in fiery shades of red, orange and yellow.
We particularly recommend a number of varieties for impact at this time of year: Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’, Cornus alba ‘Sibirica Variegata’, Cornus sericea ‘Cardinal’, Cornus sericea ‘Bud’s Yellow’ and Cornus sanguinea ‘Anny’s Winter Orange.’
Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’
A hardy, deciduous shrub grown. Produces yellow-orange juvenile shoots with mid-green leaves, turning red in autumn. Stems age to a beautiful deep orange. Produces white flowers in summer, followed by blue-black fruit in autumn. A low maintenance plant, easy to grow in mixed beds and borders.
Height and Spread: 2.5m x 2.5m
Cornus alba ‘Sibirica Variegata’
Another hardy, deciduous shrub. The red stems hold variegated, green and cream leaves which turn red in autumn before falling. Cream flowerheads are produced in summer, followed by berries in autumn. Low maintenance and easy to grow in mixed beds and borders.
Height and Spread: 2.5mx 2.5m
Cornus sericea ‘Cardinal’
A hardy, deciduous shrub grown for its colourful stems in autumn and winter. It has bright orange-yellow stems, tipped scarlet, which hold dark green leaves that turn burgundy-red in autumn. Clusters of small white flowers are produced in late spring. Low maintenance and easy to grow in mixed beds and borders.
Height and Spread: 2.7m x 2.4m
Cornus sericea ‘Bud’s Yellow’
This Cornus variety produces green leaves, which turn bright red in autumn. It has distinctive yellow stems and bears white flowers in spring followed by white berries in autumn. Another low maintenance variety
Height and Spread: 2.5m x 4m
Cornus sanguinea ‘Anny’s Winter Orange’
A slightly smaller Cornus variety, C. ‘Anny’s Winter Orange’ has bright orange-red stems. These are covered by mid-green leaves in spring-summer, which turn red in autumn and ultimately fall. Dense clusters of white flowers in summer are followed by blue-black fruit in autumn. A wonderful, Low- maintenance plant.
Flowering / fruiting time: Cornus varieties typically offer green leaves in spring and summer, produce flowers in the summertime, followed by beautiful stems and sometimes fruit in autumn-winter.
Sun Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
Soil: Any good, well-drained soil
Hardiness: Fully hardy in all of the UK, often down to -20°C.
Hillier tip: If you have heavy clay soil, the best variety to choose is Cornus alba ‘Sibirica Variegata’. A general tip if you have clay soil in your garden is to mulch with organic matter such as bark chips. Over time this will help with aeration and drainage.
Cut back hard every other year for best stem colour. This can be done in early spring – late March to mid-April – to give more opportunity to enjoy the winter growth.
Keep well watered until fully established – the first two to five years after planting.
Complementary Planting Ideas
The bright stems of Cornus look particularly striking when planted en masse. Try underplanting with the distinctive black grass Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ for a real pop of colour at a time when most of the garden is not at its best.
Because Cornus wood is very hard, it was used historically for items like arrows. One theory suggests that this is the origin of the name ‘dogwood’, deriving from ‘dagwood’ (dag meaning dagger, arrow etc.)