THE BIRDS HAVE STRIPPED MOST EVERY JEWEL from the garden. I’m down to the crabapples on ‘Ralph Shay’ and ‘Bob White,’ which they seem to save for last, and the occasional holly berry. To add to the pain, a 55-degree thaw just erased the beautiful snow. At times like these, a gardener is grateful for any colorful twig she can get, and they don’t get much better than Cornus sanguinea ‘Winter Flame,’ above, a fiery haze even viewed from a distance.
I noticed that my friend Bob Hyland at nearby Loomis Creek Nursery is counting his twiggy blessings, too, this week—with an ode on his website to Salix ‘Swizzlestick,’ a distinctive corkscrew willow he grows as a dramatic 60-foot hedge.
I’m making myself content with much less, but even a little ‘Winter Flame’ (hardy to Zone 4) warms the winter-weary soul. My young plant hasn’t reached full size of 8-10 feet, though at 4 feet it produces a show of yellow-, orange- and reddish-tinged stems that read as coral to my eye.
The Dutch breeder of ‘Winter Flame,’ Andre van Nijnatten, has also developed a smaller-stature version called Cornus ‘Arctic Sun’ that is earning high praise, with more twigs and a naturally compact habit (3-4 feet tall). I’m thinking a grouping of them is in order. ‘Winter Flame’ has peachy-yellow fall color as well to recommend it, below, as does its newer cousin.
Maximum color on twig dogwoods comes from younger wood, so an every-other or every-third-year “stooling” (cutting the whole shrub down to about 6 inches) is the traditional pruning method. (Think of the dramatic large-scale arrangement you can make with those twigs!)
Other twiggy things to be grateful for here:
- Cornus sericea ‘Silver and Gold’ (white-variegated foliage, yellow twigs)
- Cornus sericea ‘Sunshine’ (gold foliage, red twigs; see it and ‘Silver and Gold’ in this slideshow)
- Kerria japonica ‘Picta’ (a mass of slender green twigs, profiled in this post)