x-Cornus sericea 'Flaviramea'
Dogwoods are some of the most rewarding shrubs in the garden and the shrubby types – grown for their vivid, winter stem colour will brighten even the gloomiest winter days.
Cornus sericea 'Flaviramea' has stems of golden, olivey-green that are slightly more subtle than other cornus stems and much easier on the eye, but it is great for growing en masse with brighter varieties such as the fiery 'Winter Flame', scarlet 'Baton Rouge' or the darker, more moody 'Kesselringii' .
The rest of the year the stems of 'Flaviramea' are hidden beneath simple oval, dark green leaves and in spring this rounded, deciduous shrub has clusters of delicate, white flowers followed by white berries, often flushed with blue. In autumn, the leaves turn brilliant red before finally falling to reveal those, straight, elegant stems once more.
For the brightest stems, plants should be 'stooled' every couple of years, which simply means that stems are cut back hard, to 5-8cm above ground level. It sounds drastic but a good hard cut will produce the straight, young stems, so full of colour later in the year. Mulch plants well after pruning and don't waste the cut stem, use them to make colourful teepees to support climbing plants elsewhere in the garden.
These shrubby cornus are unfussy about soil, growing just about anywhere, even tolerating cold, damp sites, and they look particularly lovely grown near water where you get the double impact of their reflection.
They will grow in sun or shade but are at their very best in a sunny spot if you have it - anywhere that catches the winter sun is perfect.
Plants such as these, that pack a real punch in the garden, are also best planted in groups - of at least three, although a stand of five or seven look wonderful if you have the room, and growing a couple of different varieties together looks stunning.
'Flaviramea' goes brilliantly with deep, green winter evergreens such as Viburnum tinus, the dark glossy leaves contrasting beautifully with the much lighter bare, rigid stems, or try dotting lush ferns, like Dryopteris amongst them. Deciduous shrubs with fragrant yellow winter flowers such as Hamamelis, lonicera or chimonanthus are also ideal companions and add the simple pale flowers of Helleborus niger for the perfect winter display.