Attraction of dogwood lies in its colourful stems

Here's a conundrum; do you want a plant for its flowers or for the brilliant colour of its stems?

Well, with Cornus alba, the dogwood, the vast majority of gardeners plump for the second option because it's worth losing the blooms when compared with the stunning colour that's produced in winter on those bare stems.

C alba 'Elegantissima' has pale green and white variegated foliage, which, in itself, is highly attractive, but come late autumn, when those leaves have fallen, and the true beauty of the plant is revealed. Like its close relative, C alba 'Spatheii', its stems are an in-your-eye red.

And for an even bigger blaze of colour, there's 'Westonbirt'.

Alternatively, if crimson isn't the king of your colours, plant C stolonifera 'Flaviramea' whose foliage turns yellow before falling to reveal yellow stems.

To make the most of your dogwoods for winter splendour, you have to sacrifice the blooms which appear on two-year-old wood. The key to encouraging those blazing stems is to hard prune every spring. Farewell flowers, hello a multitude of colourful canes.

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