The dogwoods or the various forms of Cornus make a massive impact in the garden for the winter months. Their highly coloured stems really shine out in the winter light. The best colour comes from the youngest of growth and if you are growing them for just the winter colours, now is the time to prune them.
It is an easy job and to carry it it you may need a pruning saw, a pair of secateurs, a pair of loppers, gloves and eye protection. It may also be worth catching up with my blogs on pruning cuts to help you during the task. Part 1 is here, part 2 here and part 3 here.
They are 3 ways to prune these dogwoods, first way is to do nothing and let them grow to their big size, second way is to coppice them to the ground and allow all new grow for next winter, main drawback is that you don’t get any flowers on them, the last way is to every 2 years thin out half the plant and leave the one year old stems in to flower, the stem colour isn’t as rich in theses 2yr old stems but it’s ok
This is the step by step part of pruning the dogwoods down as per coppicing them.
1) the main plant, this ones not been touched for a few years and you can see the bottom is full of old stems and dead wood, also notice how green and brown these older stems look, no where near the bright red of the younger Cornus stems
2) I try to get these old stems down to about 150-200mm if I can but finding the buds can be a slight problem. They are opposite meaning you they are normally in a straight line I have tried to mark some of the buds off in the above pictures to give you a rough idea of what they look like
3) now as they are opposite buds they need a straight cut just above the buds and on Plants this size I just use the saw and then the secateurs for the smaller stems. There are too many stems of this plant, so have removed some down to the base of the plant and cut the dead wood out as well.
4) The finished coppiced dogwood.
This is the other way by leaving some of the 1 year old stems in and removing the older 2yr old stems, this leaves the plant to flower later on in the year
This is the plant before I started pruning
You can see I am thinning down the older stems leaving the young stems
And once I have finished you can see all young 1year old stems left, these will flower and be removed this time next year and the new shoots made in the summer
There we go, I hope that helps you to get the best from your dogwoods.
There is also a very good use for some of the spent prunings but we will look at that next week!