Common name: Dogwood
Within this family are numerous shrubs, trees and ground-covering sub-shrubs. They generally fall into two groups: those grown for their attractive coloured stems, and the flowering ‘dogwoods’.
Popular species and varieties
Of those grown for their invaluable winter colour, one that is most widely grown is Corpus alba, a vigorous, suckering, upright-growing shrub. ‘Sibiricaa’ (AGM) has stunning coral-red stems in winter; it is also sometimes listed as ‘Westonbirt’. Another to consider with the same stem colouring, but with variegated foliage, is ‘Sibiricaa Variegata’ (AGM). ‘Spaethii’ (AGM) has golden variegated leaves and red stems that are most eye-catching in winter. One form that is very popular is ‘Aurea’, with golden leaves. These cornus also take on attractive autumn leaf tints. Another cornus noted for its winter stem colour is the bright yellow-green Cornus stolonifera ‘Flaviramea’ (AGM).
One member of the family that is a splendid addition to the winter garden, this time not for its stem colour but for the umbels of small yellowproduced in profusion in late winter, is Corpus mas. It is perhaps better known to many gardeners by its common name of Cornelian cherry. This is a vigorous spreading deciduous shrub. Its flowers are produced on bare stems. The blooms are followed in late summer by fleshy, bright red fruits.
A cornus that stands out well either as a specimen or in a border is Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’ (AGM); its foliage is attractively marked with white. The flowering dogwood (Corpus florida) is a deciduous shrub or small tree. There are a number of excellent varieties: ‘Cherokee Chief’ (AGM) with rich ruby-pink bracts; ‘Cloud Nine’, the bracts in this case white, and ‘Rainbow’, also with white bracts — its name refers to the dark green leaves with yellow-green margins that turn to purple-red in the autumn. Corpus florida is noted for its rich autumn colour
One hybrid that grows into a sizeable shrub is ‘Eddie’s White Wonder (AGM). It is deciduous and of upright habit The rounded white bracts are produced in mid-spring, wreathing the branches. In autumn it has a further surprise in store; the foliage turns to bright orange.
A member of the cornus family grown as a ground-covering plant is the creeping dogwood (Cornus canadensis) (AGM). This sub-shrub was introduced into Europe from North America in 1774. The low-growing foliage is almost hidden by white flowers.
Soil type Most cornus are happy in humus-rich, well-drained. The exceptions are Cornus florida and Cornus canadensis — both dislike alkaline conditions.
Planting This is best done in late winter or early spring. Choose a sunny spot, although most will be successful in a lightly shaded area.
Maintenance Cornus grown for their colourful stems should be cut back in the spring to within a few inches of ground level. This should first be done in their second year and annually thereafter, and will result in a much neater plant and rich colouring on new growth. Other members of the family do not generally require.
Propagation Semi-ripe cuttings with a heel may be taken in early to mid-summer. Root in the normal way.
Pests and diseases Normally trouble free.