Red-Barked Dogwood ‘Elegantissima’

Red-barked dogwood ‘Elegantissima’ goes by the Latin name cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ and is a cultivar of dogwood, related to the native cornelian cherry. This particular cultivar has been selected for its attractive red stems, which make a stunning display in the winter garden. This multi-stemmed shrub bears large cream-green variegated leaves with silvery edges in summer, accompanied by creamy white flowers in early summer, followed by dark red berries. The leaves turn shades of red and orange in autumn before this deciduous shrub sheds them. It is capable of growing an attractive informal hedge virtually anywhere, as it will grow equally well in wet, waterlogged soils (including clay) and drier, free-draining soil.

Red-barked dogwood also makes an effective groundcover for difficult positions or dull corners, without having to worry if it will thrive in that particular site. Red-barked dogwood ‘Elegantissima’, with its reddish naked stems, is probably one of the deciduous species of – hedging – plants that stands out most in winter. It is solely grown for its ornamental value and does not provide as much screening as many other hedging plants.

Cornus alba cultivars are vigorous growers, but pale in comparison with the actual species, which is hardly suitable for garden purposes due to its sturdy nature and its tendency to overgrow other vegetation. Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ can easily be left unpruned, in which case it will develop into a medium-size shrub. However, an annual pruning in March is highly recommended, as this will not only restrict the shrub’s size, but also stimulate the shrub to produce new growth.

It is the new growth that has the desired red hue in winter, so if you are looking to create a colourful winter garden, a rigorous cutback (down to around 5 cm above ground level) in early spring would be the right way to go. Make sure to leave approximately half of the shrub, removing only the oldest stems which do not have the desired red colour anymore. Red-barked dogwood ‘Elegantissima’ can be pruned as desired and will always grow back. A position in full sun will allow red-barked dogwood to produce the brightest stem colours, but this versatile plant will also grow in full shade.

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