Red Twig Dogwood

Winter may seem like a bleak time for your garden, but if you have red twig dogwood (Cornus sericea), you have a fiery scarlet island in the endless sea of white or brown. The striking shrub, which is native to North America, has winter stems that vary in colour from bright red to dark burgundy. The cultivar ‘Cardinal’ (pictured here) is one of the best for outstanding stem colour. Though red twig dogwood is a brilliant beauty, it’s not high maintenance at all, and it’s not picky—it’ll grow in just about any type of soil.

Common name: Red twig dogwood or red osier dogwood

Botanical name: Cornus sericea (syn. C. stolonifera)
Plant type: Deciduous shrub
Zones: 3 to 7
Height: 6 to 9 feet
Family: Cornaceae

Growing conditions

• Sun: Full sun to part shade
• Soil: Dry, moist, well-drained
• Moisture: Dry to wet

Care

• Mulch: None needed.
• Pruning: Prune out old stems in late winter or early spring to encourage new stems, which have the brightest red color.
• Fertiliser: None needed.

Propagation

• By seed or by root cuttings.

Pests and diseases

• Susceptible to leaf and twig blights, leaf spots, and canker.
• Leaf miners, scale, and bagworms can be an occasional problem.

Garden notes

• Red twig dogwood is easy to transplant.
• It looks great massed or as a specimen.
• The plant performs exceptionally well in wet locations. Along streams or ponds, its spreading roots can help prevent soil erosion.
• Red twig dogwood bears white to pale blue fruit, which birds love, in late summer and early autumn.
• This shrub also attracts butterflies.

All in the family

• The dogwood family (Cornaceae) includes about 110 species. Most are trees and shrubs and may be deciduous or evergreen.
• The plants in this family are grown for their graceful habit, summer fruits, and colourful fall leaves.
• The dogwood family is quite controversial when it comes to taxonomy. Many genera have been added and removed over the years.

Littleleaf boxwood charms, especially during the holidays

As Christmas decorating gets underway, thoughts turn to pine boughs and holly wreaths. Or, in some cases, littleleaf boxwood (Buxus microphylla).

If you’re searching for a pinch of green to supply big Christmas spirit in a small space, this could be your plant. The ½-inch bright green leaves hold their own in a holiday display—they’re stiff enough to hold some twinkling lights or tinsel—yet are perfectly happy to perch on a table or countertop, leaving the living room to you and your guests.

The tiny cultivar ‘Morris Midget’ (Buxus microphylla var. japonica ‘Morris Midget’) is especially appropriate for holiday duty.

Common name: Littleleaf boxwood

Botanical name: Buxus microphylla
Plant type: Broadleaf evergreen
Zones: 6 to 9
Height: 1 to 2 feet
Family: Buxaceae

Growing conditions

• Sun: Full sun to part shade
• Soil: Well-drained sandy loam
• Moisture: Medium to moist

Indoor Gardening & Houseplants, Growing Perennials – Littleleaf boxwood charms, especially during the holidays

• Mulch: None needed.
• Pruning: Prune to shape; tolerant of frequent pruning.
• Fertiliser: None needed.

Propagation

• By seed or cutting.

Pests and diseases

• Possible target for psyllids, scale insects, mites, and leaf miners.
• Susceptible to leaf spot, root rot (if drainage is poor), and blight.

Garden notes

• While your boxwood is indoors for the winter, be sure to keep it moist, either by placing a tray of water nearby or misting it regularly.
• If you live where it’s hardy, plant your littleleaf boxwood outside in the spring. It’s great as a specimen plant in a bed with other small shrubs or perennials. Or use several as a border or low hedge.

Cultivars

• B. microphylla var. japonica ‘Morris Midget’ grows about 1 inch per year.
• B. microphylla ‘Kingsville Dwarf’ grows only ½ inch per year.

All in the family

• There are about 70 species in the Buxus genus; they’re found around the world.

Cornelian cherry dogwood

If you don’t want passersby to stop and stare at your yard, don’t even think of planting Cornelian cherry dogwood (Cornus mas). This small tree opens the growing season with a bang in March, when its clusters of tiny yellow flowers explode. The show often continues for weeks and can still be going when other spring-blooming favourites, like forsythia and crabapple, join in. The tree offers another blast of colour in summer, when bright red edible fruits form, and the flaking grey-brown bark is pretty in winter. But you’ll probably only have to sign autographs in the spring.

Common name: Cornelian cherry, Cornelian cherry dogwood

Botanical name: Cornus mas
Plant type: Deciduous shrub or small tree
Zones: 4 to 8
Height: 15 to 25 feet
Family: Cornaceae

Growing conditions

• Sun: Full sun to part shade
• Soil: Average, well-drained
• Moisture: Medium to moist

Care

• Mulch: Mulch to preserve moisture in the soil.
• Pruning: Cornelian cherry dogwood will sucker, so if you don’t want a thicket, remove root suckers. Simply mow them down if the tree is surrounded by lawn. Prune lowest branches off to form a tree shape.
• Fertiliser: None needed.

Propagation

• By seed, cutting, or division.

Pests and diseases

• Generally free of problems.

Garden notes

• Cornus mas looks good as a specimen plant, as a hedge or screen, and in shrub borders and foundation plantings. For the lowest maintenance, allow it to naturalise in a woodland area.
• Plant Cornelian cherry dogwood in front of a dark green or reddish background to show off its bright yellow spring blossoms.
• Plant two for maximum fruit production. You’ll get some fruit with only one tree, but more with two.
• Reports on the tastiness of the fruit vary. Some call it unpleasant. Others compare it to a tart cherry. You can pickle it or make it into wine, syrup, or jam.
• Birds like the fruit.

Cultivars

• C. mas ‘Golden Glory’ has a more upright habit than the species.
• C. mas ‘Variegata’ has variegated leaves with green centers and white margins.
• C. mas ‘Yellow’ bears tasty yellow fruits.

All in the family

• Many dogwoods are garden favourites. Flowering dogwoods (C. kousa and C. florida) are beloved for their showy spring flowers; pagoda dogwood (C. alternifolia) for its striking horizontal branching pattern; and redtwig dogwood (C. alba), red osier dogwood (C. stolonifera, also C. sericea), and bloodtwig dogwood (C. sanguinea) for their brightly coloured stems.
• The dogwood family, Cornaceae, has more than 100 species. In the United States and Canada, we’re familiar with this family through dogwoods and tupelos.

Woodland Phlox

The problem with phlox is waiting until midsummer for the blooms. But there’s a cure for that, and it’s called woodland phlox (Phlox divaricata). This fragrant and hardy wild phlox is a spring bloomer with pretty violet-blue flowers and glossy green leaves. It stays closer to the ground than its city cousins and spreads by rhizomes to form large colonies, so it will make a handsome ground cover over time. Hummingbirds and butterflies both like it. But best of all, it allows phlox fanatics to stop chewing their nails for a month or so.

Common name: Woodland phlox, blue phlox, wild sweet William

Botanical name: Phlox divaricata
Plant type: Perennial
Zones: 3 to 8
Height: 8 to 20 inches
Family: Polemoniaceae

Growing conditions

• Sun: Part to full shade
• Soil: Rich, well-drained
• Moisture: Average to moist

Care

• Mulch: Mulch to preserve moisture in the soil.
• Pruning: None needed.
• Fertiliser: None needed.

Propagation

• By seed, division, and cuttings.

Pests and diseases

• Powdery mildew can be a problem. (www.gardeningclub.com)
• Spider mite infestations can show up during hot, dry weather. Rabbits like to snack on woodland phlox.

Garden notes

• Use woodland phlox as a ground cover in a shady area. Its rhizomes creep at a decent pace to form wide mats of glossy foliage. It’s perfect under deciduous trees, where it gets sun in early spring and shade after the trees leaf out.
• It’s also perfect for hiding the spent foliage of spring bulbs.
• Other good companions are bleeding heart, columbine, ferns, foamflower, and trillium.
• Don’t put woodland phlox in a sunny, dry spot—it won’t thrive.

Cultivars

• ‘Blue Moon’ has flowers that are darker blue than the species.
• The flowers of ‘Blue Perfume’ are said to be the most fragrant of all the cultivars.
• ‘Manita’ has white flowers with violet eyes.

All in the family

• Many species in the Phlox genus are garden favourites, including annual phlox (P. drummondii), garden phlox (P. paniculata), and moss phlox (P. subulata). Dozens of cultivars are available in a rainbow of colours.
• Polemoniaceae contains several genera, but few are familiar to U.S. gardeners. One we do know and love is Polemonium, or Jacob’s ladder, with 25 species.