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Coloured stems

Brightly coloured stems can add a hint of winter warmth and the lipstick branches of Cornus alba 'Sibirica' stand out splendidly against the low winter sunshine. This dogwood can also thrive in waterlogged ground so it's particularly useful by a natural pond and the still surface will mirror the stems to great effect. Or drift it up a slope, under-planting white-stemmed birches, the bark of which will also look dazzling in mid-winter. Keeping the stems bright is easy for 'Sibirica', and for any suckering cornus, such as the yellow Cornus sericea 'Flaviramea', that pushes pencil-thick stems through the ground. These are strong enough to cut back every April, once established, to promote fresh, young growth that will provide vivid new stems next winter. If the stems are twiggier, like the flame-coloured Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire', aim to trim a third to half of the upper stems every year to promote new tips to the branches.

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