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Winter Stems for Garden Drama

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They rise out of the bare brown soil like flames from a rising phoenix and turn a bleak winter’s day into a firework display!

Here’s some of the best winter stems to turn your garden into a wonderland!

Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’


This gorgeous dogwood has multicoloured stems in shades of oranges and pinky reds and really do set the garden ablaze with winter colour. It’s one of the most popular of the Cornus family and grows to around 1.5 metres tall. Although plants grown for their stem interest look at their best grown in big swaithes – even one of these in a garden would be enough to inject warmth into the cold winter months.

Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’


The coral red stems of this Cornus are truly stunning and work best when grown alongside other Cornus varieties. The dense redness of the stems is just like having your own coral bed in your garden. This one grows up to 2.5 metres tall so is more suitable for a larger garden. Like all Cornus’s grown for their stem effects, the summer plant is really just a green blob – but does work very well as a foil for other more showy summer plants whilst it quietly waits for its time to shine.

Cornus alba ‘Kesselringii’


If you have a very contemporary garden or fancy a little bit of dark winter drama then this dogwood could be for you. After its lovely hued autumned leaves fall, its dark heart is revealed in all its glory – blackish purple stems that look amazing dusted with frost or piercing through a white snowy blanket!

Rubus Cockburnianus


What could go better with the oily blackness of the black dogwood than the ghostly whiteness of this white stemmed flowering raspberry. Only suitable for the bigger garden – this spectral beauty already looks covered with frost – so even on the most gloomy wet and miserable of mild winter days your garden can be a frosty winter wonderland!

Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’


If you fancy the white ghostly look but only have a small garden, this Russian Sage may be the plant for you. Its stunning mauve flowers in late summer light up the borders and trick you into thinking summer is only just beginning. Then in winter they leave you with a delicate tangle of white stems – not so dramatic as the Rubus but just as beautiful.

Salix acutifolia ‘Blue Streak’

Salix acutifolia  'Blue Streak'~mid stems

If you have a very large garden with an area of wet soil that you really don’t know what to do with – this may be a good choice for you. Growing to about 5m it’s not for the faint hearted but can be kept smaller by pruning it back down to 30 cms each year in spring. Your reward will be the most beautiful elegant arching stems of bluey purple dusted with a bright ghostly white bloom creating a magical winter effect and the treats don’t stop there – in spring masses of silver catkins appear too!

And course there are plenty of beautiful trees with outstanding stem colour such as Prunus serrula or Betula utilis var. ‘Jaquemontii’ – both of which look stunning in a winter garden.

Prunus serrula, Cornus sanguinea 'Winter Beauty' at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire.

So don’t let your garden loose its personality over winter – with a little planning you can transform it into a dramatic plantscape of texture, colour and vibrancy that will almost make you forget about spring… well almost.


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