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Cut back dogwoods hard this week

18 March 2013
Cut back dogwoods hard this week

Cut back dogwoods hard this week to encourage those wonderful brilliantly coloured young stems which shine out so beautifully in a winter border. If you haven't got them in your garden already, you'll find a great choice in your favourite garden centre: Cornus alba 'Sibirica' is the one to choose if you want the richest scarlets, or for a clear limey yellow go for Cornus sericea 'Flaviramea'. The two make a lovely contrasting pair planted together.

Pruning these hardy, easy-to-grow shrubs is easy: once a year, in mid to late March, use secateurs to remove every branch down to about 5cm above ground. It may look drastic, but it'll prompt the plant to send up dozens of whippy young growth with that startling colouring. The colour fades as the stems age, so do this every two years or so to keep the younger growth coming.

If you don't like the gap hard pruning leaves in the border, you can take a gentler approach by pruning out a third of the oldest stems each year. The overall effect will be toned down a bit but you'll still get enough young growth coming through to make a splash – and you'll still keep the main structure in place, so your border stays intact.