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Winter Stems: Dogwood and Willow

Winter Stems: Dogwood and Willow

Winter Stems: Dogwood and Willow

Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ with Cornus alba ‘Siberian pearls’

Some hardy, deciduous shrubs and  trees produce coloured stems due to stimulation by hard pruning the previous spring. Dogwoods (Cornus) and Willows (Salix) are the most commonly used winter stems for their colourful bark. Though the twisted stems of the corkscrew Hazel (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) also makes a great statement in the garden.

Cornus Sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’

Cornus Sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire,’ looks like flames rising from the earth and is a fantastic plant for late season display. It produces suckering clumps of shoots after hard pruning in early spring – which is the secret of the Cornus plant’s success during its first few years! After a strong base has formed annual pruning is then optional. Apply a slow release fertiliser around the base of the plant after pruning and water well. Mulching with organic compost or well rotted manure is beneficial.

Siberian Dogwood, or Cornus alba ‘Siberian pearls’

The contorted corkscrew Hazel looks beautiful if planted near to the fiery red of Cornus alba ‘Siberian pearls.’ There is also an Argentinian twisted Willow, Salix x sepulcralis ‘Erthroflexuosa,’ which creates an attractive silhouette in the garden.

Salix daphnoides, known as Violet Willow

Salix alba ‘Golden Ness,’ or golden stemmed Willow has beautiful burnished stems during the winter. It looks particularly good planted next to streams and ponds.

Salix alba ‘Golden Ness’

Combining two Dogwoods of different hues can be effective in the garden. Underplanting winter stems with evergreen ground cover is a good idea, as they are then surrounded by a leafy carpet, rather than bare soil. Low growing sedges, such as the evergreen Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’ is ideal, as are large leaved ivies, such as Hedera colchica ‘Sulphur Heart,’ and Bergenias such as Bergenia ‘Overture.’

Himalayan Birch with Cornus

Willow and Dogwoods underplant and contrast well with the white stems of Himalayan Birch, and both tolerate any soil and low temperatures. Willow grows quickly and has a reputation for seeking out drains, so some gardeners avoid using it in their gardens. It certainly thrives on heavy , waterlogged soil, but is easy to manage and pruning is straight forward: just an annual chop. Willow does require more room to grow than Dogwoods, but their stems in winter really are breath taking. There are a number of varieties for size and colour that would fit in any garden.

Salix acutifolia ‘Blue Streak’ with purple black stems