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Prune coloured dogwoods

24 March 2015
Prune coloured dogwoods

Prune coloured dogwoods to encourage a dazzling display of those vivid red stems again next year. Dogwoods are among the very best shrubs to choose for winter colour as their young growth has bark in vivid hues which shine out through the coldest months of the year, especially when back-lit by the low winter sun.

The best scarlet is Cornus alba 'Sibirica', but there are more subtly coloured dogwoods too: Cornus stolonifera 'Flaviramea' has lime-yellow stems while 'Midwinter Fire' is all the colours of a bonfire with stems flaring orange through yellow to red at the tips.

The best stem colour is produced by one-year-old shoots, so prune dogwoods right back to the base each spring. You'll need to be brutal – cut every stem back to about two buds from the base to leave a stubby framework.

If you don't like the look of a stump in your border you can still enjoy the effect of the one-year-old stems by pruning half the shrub every other year. This year, prune out every other stem, leaving a thinner framework of branches in place. Then next year prune those out in turn, so you get the benefit of that winter beauty without leaving a hole in your border through summer.