Dogwood shrubs ensure a colorful winter landscape

Dogwood shrubs with colorful red or yellow branches liven up a winter landscape.

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    The stems of Midwinter Fire, a shrubby dogwood, go from reddish-orange to coral to apricot, making them a colorful addition to the winter garden.
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Garden designers often use colorful dogwood shrubs in landscapes to provide winter interest. There are several worthy ones, some with red stems and some with yellow.

The brightest yellow-twig dogwood seems to be Cornus stolonifera ‘Flaviramea’. Best used in front of evergreens, its bright yellow twigs in winter are dramatic and charming, especially from a distance.

I’ve also been fond of the variegated red twig, Cornus alba ‘Argenteo-marginata’ AKA ‘Elegantissima’. It brightens a shady spot nicely, but needs a lighter background to show well. Ornamental grasses that are buff-colored in winter can provide the necessary contrast.

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My new favorite is a mixed bag. I love the bright, warm color of ‘Midwinter Fire’, a cultivar of Cornus sanguinea. The color is not as solid as the two dogwoods mentioned are. It goes from reddish-orange to coral to apricot on the same stem. But the gradations in color seem to give the plant more liveliness and depth.

As with the other colorful twiggy dogwoods, cutting back the older branches (in spring ) – which turn greenish-brown as they mature over several years – improves the winter show. The younger branches and twigs have the best winter color.

Like many of the shrubby dogwoods, ‘Midwinter Fire’ has a problem with leaf spot in summer. The first few weeks after it leafs out are fine, but as the heat and humidity increase, the leaves look terrible.

My solution to this: I plant it in the back of the garden border. That way, it's showy in winter when perennials and grasses are dormant. Then in summer, the terrible looking leaves are hidden. Easy enough.

Donna Williamson is one of eight garden writers who blog weekly at Diggin' It. She's a master gardener, garden designer, and garden coach. She has taught gardening and design classes at the State Arboretum of Virginia, Oatlands in Leesburg, and Shenandoah University. She’s also the founder and editor of Grandiflora Mid-Atlantic Gardening magazine, and the author of “The Virginia Gardener’s Companion: An Insider’s Guide to Low Maintenance Gardening in Virginia.” She lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

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