Happy New Year. And happy gardening. There are so many special plants in the garden in January - showing off colour, scent and structure - that this is a much-debated choice. But there is a particular plant so wonderful in winter that we grow it in abundance, and have recently increased our stock even more. You see it in the car park, glowing in the distance as you arrive at RHS Garden Wisley. You see it blazing at the end of the Top Terrace. And most of all, you see it radiating warmth around the Seven Acres Winter Walk. This is ‘Midwinter Fire’.
A type of dogwood, Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ AGM has rich orange, red and yellow stems that really are reminiscent of a flame - and forms a thick shrub with the reddest tints on the sunniest side of the stems. We prune them hard each year and the young stems grow back annually, and with great colour. (They look pretty fine in autumn too when the leaves are turning). We have them as specimens – wonderful against a dark background – and in bold clumps. The boldest of all are around the lake on Seven Acres where established plantings of ‘Midwinter Fire’ combine with contrasting coloured stems of other Cornus cultivars, alongside various Salix (willow), white Rubus, (bramble) and even Tilia (lime). On a sunny day it is quite simply stunning. And, oh, the reflections in the lake…
Maintenance is straightforward too as the entire lot can be cut back in late winter. Young stems are the brightest, but remember that this is one of the less-vigorous dogwoods so it may be worth pruning only every couple of years.
Yes, we all love this plant, and its many cousins. Its easy-going nature makes it ideal for a garden of any size, so a trip via the Plant Centre could pay dividends this time next year.