Best of the bunch: Dogwood (Cornus)

Dogwood. PA Photo/Thinkstockphotos.
Dogwood. PA Photo/Thinkstockphotos.
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The vibrant stems of dogwood, in shades of vivid red through to deep yellow, provide a touch of drama to the winter garden. Some carry variegated leaves and all are easy to grow, but the one rule of thumb is that you must hard-prune them each spring.

Cornus alba is a great red-bark variety, its new stems produced each spring forming a thicket which spreads each year. C alba Sibirica will give you really right stems, while C alba Elegantissima bears white edged leaves and C stolonifera Flaviramea produces yellow stems and looks effective grown against a red-bark variety.

Cornus will grow in virtually any garden soil, in sun or partial shade. Prune back to a few inches above ground level in spring.