C. alba 'Argenteo-marginata'
C. alba 'Sibirica'
C. sericea, also called C. stolonifera
C. sericea 'Flaviramea'
|Those who think that all dogwoods have large
white or pink flowers are missing some of the most interesting members of the genus. The
species described here offer conspicuous clusters of small blossoms, showy fruit, bright
autumn foliage and, in many instances, vividly colored bark that provides unusual patterns
of color in winter. These species are handsome bushy shrubs of broadly rounded shape,
usually about 5 to 10 feet tall, not trees as the more familiar dogwood species are.
The Tatarian dogwood, from Asia, and the native red osier dogwood are similar in all respects except that the red osier dogwood spreads by sending out underground stems, or stolons, to form large clumps. Both species have bright red branches that bear 2-inch clusters of tiny white flowers in late spring. In late summer tiny white or bluish white berries appear and the 2- to 5-inch-long leaves later turn red. One of the best varieties of the Tatarian dogwood is C. alba 'Sibirica', the Siberian dogwood. Unpruned, Siberian dogwoods can become 7 to 9 feet tall, but most gardeners prune the plants regularly in order to produce new stems, which are brighter in color than old ones. The stems of a similar variety called 'Westonbirt' are a particularly vivid red. Two other excellent Tatarian dogwood varieties are C. alba 'Argenteo-marginata', the silver-edged dogwood, whose white-edged leaves make it an interesting accent plant in shrub borders, and C. alba 'Spaethii', the yellow-edged dogwood, with leaves edged in yellow. Two recommended varieties of the red osier dogwood are C. sericea 'Kelseyi', Kelsey dogwood, whose bright red stems rarely exceed 2 feet in height, and C. sericea 'Flaviramea', the yellow-twigged dogwood, whose new stems are bright yellow instead of red. The cornelian cherry is entirely different from the Tatarian and red osier dogwood species. In the earliest days of spring its branches are laden with a golden mist of tiny flowers. The branches may be cut in midwinter and brought indoors to blossom earlier than the normal blooming season. Flowers are followed in late summer by 3/4-inch cherrylike fruit, which is excellent for preserves. Finally, in autumn, the 2-inch leaves turn deep, dramatic shades of red.
HOW TO GROW. Tatarian dogwood grows in Zones 5-10, red osier dogwood in Zones 2-9 and cornelian cherry in Zones 4-8. All three types tolerate light shade but are best planted in sun, which brings out the full color of their stems. They grow in almost any soil, and all& especially Tatarian and red osier dogwoods do well in wet places, such as near a pond. Prune Tatarian and red osier dogwoods in early spring before new growth starts, cutting old stems to the ground to force an abundance of brightly colored new growth. Cornelian cherry rarely needs pruning unless it is being trained into tree form; whatever pruning is required should not be done until after the flowers have faded, since the flowers form on the previous season's growth, not on new growth. New plants of all three types of dogwoods can be started from softwood cuttings of young growth in late spring or early summer, from semi hardwood cuttings of more mature growth in mid- or late summer, or from hardwood cuttings of dormant leafless growth in late fall or winter. Tatarian and red osier dogwoods can also be propagated from underground branches, or suckers, or by forcing a branch to grow roots by the method known as ground layering.