Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Siberian Dogwood: Yellow, Red—& White?

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Spring is for stumping:  For cutting something woody right down to the nubs.  Get in the groove with some Siberian dogwood.  You can be at your roughest and most brutal—or your most uncertain and tentative.  Either way, it just smiles and springs right into growth again.  And look far better Summer, Fall, and Winter.

 

Yes, it's a dogwood—Cornus alba—but the flowers aren't at all interesting like those of flowering dogwood trees Cornus florida and Cornus kousa.  Indeed, the uncommon and astonishing things about the Cornus alba flowers is that they are so completely underwhelming.  Small little white things, and grouped in small clusters.  A snooze—but, in truth, it would be difficult for any flowers to trump Siberian dogwood's show of bark and foliage.  The shrub is almost too blessed with both, and this one in particular, Cornus alba 'Aurea.'

 

Alba 'Aurea': So this cultivar is a "White Gold" dogwood?  Well, sort of.  In warm weather, the bush's foliage is yellow, indeed, so that's the 'aurea' for you.  And it's not a shy yellow either.  It's serious yellow, a chrome yellow so vivid it seems to have white highlights, so intense it's as if it had gravitational pull. 

 

If you're interested in Summertime subtlety, then, this isn't your shrub.  Plant this bush center-stage only; you'll be looking right at it wherever it is, so the view had better be the best you have.

 

When the weather's cold, the yellow leaves fall off completely; alas, there's not usually a decent Fall color to them.  But then the bark—at least on the stems that have been growing all Spring and Summer—turns color with shocking commitment and drama: from light green to full-on scarlet, the real deal, fire-engine red.  If you're interested in subtlety in Winter, this isn't the shrub for you either.

 

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Here's one of the main branches that I just cut off in my yearly Stumping Session with this bush.  Even in early May, there's still good red color in its tips.  These were the very last bits of the growth, produced in August and September.  

 

And see how the bottom of that very same branch—which was just a tiny sprout way back in early May—is just greenish yellow?  The older the stem, the older the bark, and the duller the bark color Summer and Winter. 

 

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So:  This is the red-barked Siberian dogwood with the amazing yellow foliage.  Why is the plant named Cornus ALBA 'Aurea'?  Wouldn't Cornus RUBRA 'Aurea' be better?  Excepting the paltry white flowers, there's nothing "alba" about the plant at all.  Isn't there a UN commission that can help out here?  Come on folks!  Some attention, please. 

 

(Actually, our amazingly patient editor explains, there's the...wait for it...International Association for Plant Taxonomy that meets every six years for an International Botanical Congress. The next one is this Summer: www.ibc2011.com/.  Mark your calenders. 

 

Each Congress publishes a new Code, named after the city in which it met.  Our dear editor has a copy of the Tokyo Code; this Summer's will be the Melbourne Code.  

 
Further, she can't figure why our plant-of-the-day is named Cornus alba either, but cautions that it was one of the ones named by the guy way back when who started the entire plant naming system itself, Linneaus.  So out of respect as well as inertia, Cornus alba it stays.)

 

Back to stumping:  Because young bark on all Siberian dogwoods is the brightest—and even brighter still the growth that's the youngest of all, right at the end of the season—the old-fogey bark from the Summer before is, as you may well imagine, completely boring.  So each Spring, before the new growth starts, get rid of last year's growth—and therefore last year's bark—by cutting all the branches down to stumps.  The bush resprouts happily and will be four, five, even six feet tall by September.

 

And yes indeed, you don't have to be surgical or precise.  Just get out your loppers and pruners and folding saw and have a good chew.

 

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The stems are just itching to push out new shoots anyway.  Look at the tiny pink sprout just starting to pop.

 

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Two additional talents make Siberian dogwoods even more valuable:

 

First, they tolerate and even appreciate lots of water, and revel in heavy clay soil or low spots in any soil that are prne to seasonal flooding.  (Which about describes my entire property.)

 

Second, and possibly relating to their almost aquatic ease, individual branches are very happy to sprout roots if they touch ground that's even normally moist.  And cut stems will root right in a glass of water in your window, in the vase on your desk.  With Winter bark this bright, youll want to cut a few branches regularly throughout the cold months to bring indoors for some color.  (We'll do a Monthly Bouquet of Siberian dogwood next Winter, I promise.) 

 

Yes, as those Winter-colorful stems do acclimate to the comparative warmth inside your house, and they will eventually turn from scarlet back to green.  Keep the stems in water (and in sun) until the roots are an inch or two long, then pot them up to give to friends.  This is the shrub you'll want to share.  And then head back out to the garden to cut more for another vase-full for yourself.

 

When I need to have party favors for a whole group, my bush of Cornus alba 'Aurea' is right there to help.  If the party's in Spring, well, I would have been cutting it all right to the ground anyway, so I also cut off the foot-long twigs from the freshly-slaughtered branches and push each into a plastic test-tube-like "water pick" I get on-line from a florist supply house. 

 

The twigs will stay fresh and viable for a couple of days, and then it's easy to pull them out of the pick and put them in a glass of water.  In a few weeks they'll have rooted into little but garden-ready plants.

 

 

Here's how to grow this sensational Siberian dogwood:

 

Latin Name

Cornus alba 'Aurea'

Common Name

Yellow-leaved Siberian dogwood

Family

Cornaceae, the dogwood family.

What kind of plant is it?

Sun-loving deciduous shrub.

Hardiness

Zones 2 - 9

Habit

Clumping and dense-foliaged, with sparsely-branched upright stems.

Rate of Growth

Very fast.

Size in ten years

Unpruned, a clump to eight feet high and wide.

Texture

Dense.  The many upright branches on established clumps have plenty of foliage, creating a solid mound.

Grown for

the warm-weather foliage!  The leaves are saturated chrome yellow from the moment they sprout, and are still strongly yellow even at the end of a long hot Summer.

 

the cold-weather bark!  The bark on young stems is bright red all Winter long.  Because the stems are fairly vertical, and with few side branches, the stems poke up proudly through the roughest, deepest, heaviest, and sloppiest snow and ice.  And hardy to, yes, Zone 2, so it will never be too cold for this one.  One of the few shrubs that makes you actually wish for horrible Winter weather. 

 

Flowering season

Spring into Summer, but the foliage is such a show you may not even realize that the shrub is in flower.

Culture

Full sun, or at least a minimum of shade, in any reasonable soil.  Normal moisture is fine but the shrub is especially fast-growing in wet or even Winter-flooded spots.

How to handle it

Easy: Let it grow for a couple of years, but early each Spring thereafter, cut all stems down as far as you can with your loppers.  Truly, take some time to chew away at the stubs to get everything as low as possible.  I still recall a gorgeous Siberian dogwood in January at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, that looked as if it had been sawn back to a half-inch the previous Spring.  And yet by that January it was four feet tall and more, and absolutely glowing with color.)

Downsides

If drought-stressed, the leaves can scorch and overall growth is diminished.  That said, the bush is amazingly tolerant.  This cultivar seems much more resistant to some of the ailments of other dogwoods: borers, leaf spot, stem blight, and canker.

Variants

Many cultivars and hybrids of the two red-twig dogwood species, Cornus alba and Cornus sericea, with bark colors variously yellow, plum, purple-black, red, or orange; and leaves solid yellow or variegated with white and green.  There's an all-green-leaved red-twig dwarf, 'Kelseyi,' that is an interesting Winter groundcover to only two feet.  'Ivory Halo' has smaller white-edged green leaves and plum stems, and is only modestly more compact than the full-sized cultivars, with Spring-stumped growth still to five feet tall and wide instead of six or more.

Availability

On-line and at "destination" retailers.  It grows so fast that small plants are just fine to plant.  They'll still be full-size in three years.

Propagation

Cuttings and layered branches.

Native habitat

Siberia


 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
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