Plant of the month: A cracker of a cornus

Winter is cool… sure. But it can be full of hot colours, too

Cornus 'Anny's Winter Orange'For years, we’ve admired coloured stems of dogwood (Cornus) and willow (Salix) with cultivars such as ‘Magic Flame’ and ‘Midwinter Fire’. But we have a new one that for a couple of years now has burned brightly in January.
 
Cornus 'Anny’s Winter Orange’ catches your eye from a distance, with orange-red flushed stems that stand tall and proud. They can grow to about 2m (6½ft) tall, so are easy to control and fit into any planting scheme, and allow everyone the chance to look close up. Imagine being a small child and losing yourself in a colourful, fiery stand of winter stems…. You get the chance to do that with this one, especially if you take the Winter Walk around Seven Acres.
 
You’ll find two areas where we grow this dogwood. The first is near the edge of Seven Acres as you approach Wilson’s Wood (just beyond the Food Hall), but these are only babies. Far more impressive is the other collection by the lake, near Stop 3, and in this case it is part of the rainbow of coloured winter stems that include numerous Cornus, Salix, Rubus (bramble), Acer (maple) and Tilia (lime). Cornus 'Anny’s Winter Orange’ is right beside the main path, surrounding a Betula utilis, and with white-stemmed Rubus alongside.
 
Cornus 'Anny's Winter Orange' in autumnIt’s pretty easy to grow, and this cultivar is preferred to some others because it’s a strong plant – vigorous – without being overly dominant. To ensure the best colour for winter, we need young stems, so every year in late winter or early spring we cut established plants down to the ground – a process known as stooling – and it shoots up again.

The plants are lovely and green in the summer, with small white flowers in June, and come autumn the leaves turn buttery yellow, sometimes red, and you can see the orangey stems gradually being revealed as the foliage falls.

Attractive, easy, and great throughout the year, but particularly in winter, you can tell why this is our January Plant of the Month!

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