Sunday, March 2, 2008

Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter's Fire'

32 F this AM; not so warm as yesterday when the morning chorus of birdsong drew me outside and resulted in this picture!

When the sun is low on the horizon, just after sunrise or before sunset, it sets this plant afire in an eponymous incandescence. It is very cool...or hot. Twigs and stems are green when temperatures are warm, but assume these incredible colors: at one time, the stems grade from apricot, through gold, to a range of oranges almost reaching red. Wow! The generic form of Cornus sanguinea, the Bloodtwig dogwood, is native to most of Europe and parts of Western Asia. This selection has been in the trade a relatively short time. It grows into a gawky fairly formless large shrub with nondescript leaves so we coppice it, that is, cut it almost to the ground, every spring. It is easily grown and fast, not requiring any special treatment.

I have a few suggestions regarding its use. First, consider its location in relation to the winter sun. It is best viewed early or late, with the sun behind the viewer. Second, while it can be used effectively in mass plantings, it is often more effective as a specimen. Third, since its summer presence is not a real addition to the garden, and the new growth colors more effectively, conside coppicing.

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