A Gardening Journal

Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Gold-leaved Siberian Dogwood

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By the end of Winter, there are so many chores in the garden that pruning happens whether or not the plant needs it that particular week (or month), or whether the plant's pre-pruning show is over (or not). Five minutes with no label on them? Bam! Another shrub (that needs it) gets cut to the ground. If not now, there might not be another five minutes the rest of the year.

 

That's what happened with this red-twigged, gold-foliaged Siberian dogwood. In 2012 there just wasn't time to provide what it craves the most: An unrelenting massacre in early Spring. Late Winter in 2013? High time, indeed.

 

The delay reveals a happy unintended consequence: The Spring stems of 2011 didn't give up their colorful bark of youth for dull but respectable brown-bark-of-adulthood by the Summer of 2012. Instead, they kept their color while they continued growing right into the branches of a nearby gold-needled Japanese pine.

 

Even better, the all-over-the-map bark coloring of that first Winter, 2011-2012—orange, red, green—settled down, just a tad, to this elegant and consistent burgundy in their second Winter, 2012-2013. It's an even better partner to the needles of Pinus parviflora 'Ogon'; in Winter, they have matured out of most of their youthful "ogon"—Japanese for yellow—in favor of a subtler mix of blue and pale green.

 

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With the pine tree's relinquishing of most of its yellow, and the Siberian dogwood's relinquishing of its orange, the blue and berry tones of the shrub's second-Winter bark can come to the fore amid the encouraging and sophisticated company of the pine's muted blue and green.

 

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Come warm weather, the spell will be broken. The new foliage of both the pine and the Cornus alba 'Aurea' will be yellow and proud, while the colorful Winter bark of the dogwood, banished both by the pruning away of these old stems and by warm weather's effect on the bark of the new stems, will have retreated to yellow-green.

 

It's a vivid display, yellow-with-yellow-with-yellow-green. But it's entirely without these elegant and even chilly Fred-and-Ginger moves that will return to center stage in Winter of 2013-2014. Then we'll see whether the dogwood's first-Winter bark is as sleek a "Fred" as its second.

 

Not having five minutes to cut Cornus alba 'Aurea' to the ground in 2012, then, may have been the key to the best possible performance you see here. In the future, the Spring pruning may happen only every other year, which would mean 2015. What will I do with that extra five minutes in Spring of 2014?

 

Here's how to grow this easy and colorful shrub.

 

Here's how bright the warm-weather foliage of gold-leaved Siberian dogwood is.

 
 
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