Glorious red sticks
Yep, that’s about the size of it. Cornus alba Baton Rouge = 'Minbat' (PBR) is a plant, introduced from France in 2007, which has stolen the hearts of many gardening fanatics looking for something brilliant to enhance the winter months.
And how has a simple shrub managed to do that? Well, it has the most vibrant red stems, it’s relatively compact, and has the bonus of white flowers followed by summer berries, and then purple-pink-toned autumn colour. Then, in the winter, it shows itself off to its best advantage.
Growing shrubs for colour
At Wisley we grow an assortment of Cornus (dogwood), Salix (willow) and Rubus (bramble) along with other trees like Tilia (lime) and Acer (maple), and unusual ones such as Styphnolobium japonicum ‘Flavirameum’, a.k.a. the Japanese pagoda tree.
All of these feature on our Winter Walk on Seven Acres. For most of these, and certainly for the first three mentioned, it is the young growth that has the best colour. So every year or second year (depending on the vigour) we cut back the stems to almost ground level (coppicing) in spring, give them some mulch and let them grow up again over the summer.
How to grow dogwood
Cornus alba Baton Rouge = 'Minbat' (PBR) is one of the shrubby dogwoods. It’s unfussy in terms of soil conditions and is pretty easy to grow. It’s versatile too, lending itself to imaginative planting combinations with bulbs or ornamental grasses, reflected in water or grown in containers. The colour is stunning – it’s vibrant on a dull day, and outstanding in the sunshine. Around our Winter Walk (that is still young, but very inspiring) you’ll find beds of this “red stick shrub” outside the Garden Library and at stopping point 4, near the lake. Perhaps it might just give you an idea for your own garden…
Plants for winter interest
Winter Walk (1.31 kB pdf)