Many Cornus - Dogwoods - are grown for their colourful stems throughout the winter months. For this to be successful, it needs a particular kind of pruning - easy!
We take you through the pruning exercise and tell you when and how to prune your Dogwoods.
You need to prune at the right time, which is late Winter or early Spring.
We are NOT talking about the flowering Dogwoods - Cornus - which are NOT grown for their stem colour.
Cornus alba, stolonifera and sanguinea types, should be pruned in the spring of each year for maximum stem colour effect.
Cornus alba, Cornus sanguinea and Cornus stolonifera types are all grown for winter stem colour.
Pruning the dogwoods in early spring, gives the shrub plenty of time to generate masses of long straight cane-like stems through the summer growing season which will develop into stunning colour effect in the following winter months.
See the 'stump' left to the right of the picture. It will be masses of colourful stems next winter.
Prune the Cornus down to - or near ground level. Prune every stem down to this level - as can be seen in the image above right. This hard pruning of the Dogwood removes all of the stems that were the attraction through the previous winter, but do not worry, for where you have carried out the pruning, many more stems will grow from the stumps left behind.
If you wish to grow them behind other plants, then they can be pruned back to a framework some 45cm (18in) from the ground, and cut them back (pollard) them each year to this level.
These new young stems will produce brightly coloured stems for the following Winter dormant season. If left un pruned, then the Dogwood would lose vigour, and the stem colour would fade year after year.
Hard pruning is the way forward for this, and make sure that you prune early enough in the spring.
The image shows the growth of new stems, that resulted when just 4 old stems were cut back hard. Throughout the following growing season - summer - the new stems will grow to around 90cm - 1.2m depending upon the variety.
It would be natural to go for the bright red varieties of Dogwoods - such as Cornus alba Sibirica, Cornus alba Aurea, Cornus a. Spaethii or Cornus alba Elegantissima. It is far better to use these in conjunction with another stem - bark - colour such as Cornus stolonifera Flaviramea (Brightest green) or Cornus sanguinea Winter Beauty (Orange) or my favourite which has to be Cornus sanguinea Midwinter Fire - gold, orange and scarlet all on the same bush. This particular variety is best not prunes so hard as the other Dogwoods.
Also of interest, would be the near black stem colour of Cornus alba Kesselringii - very unusual with its darkest purple stems.
The varieties above should all be pruned - cut back hard - not trimmed - in early Spring rather than late winter. They will soon start to re-grow their new vibrant stems.