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Silhouettes and winter stems

Silver, mink-brown and black are very much a monochrome scheme and the colour that lights everything up is red, however small the quantity. European dogwoods (not to be confused with the harder to grow Chinese and American species) develop damson foliage and colourful stems that include the red-stemmed Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’. These thicket-making shrubs send up pencil-thick stems every now and again and winter light makes them look extra vibrant. Once established the technique is to cut them back hard every year in March or April, so that they produce new, shiny stems each year. The dogwoods have to be well established though, so allow them three years to settle in.

There are gold to green forms of dogwood, such Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’ and even a damson-black called C. alba ‘Kesselringii’. These do well in any soil and are one of the few plants able to tolerate wet ground, so very useful near ponds. Still water also mirrors these stems to great effect.

There are also dogwoods that form small shrubs covered in small twiggy growth. These look like licking flames rising up in winter light, and they glow placed near green foliage, such as box (Buxus sempervirens). C. sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ will make a small shrub, 1m at most, and benefits from having some of the older twigs removed every spring.

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