A celebration of colourful Cornus

Most of the garden is dormant in November, but there are a few hardy plants determined to put on a good show despite the weather turning colder. Whilst many plants are fading back this month, others will continue to provide pleasing scents to enjoy.

To create a beautiful garden with year-round appeal it’s essential to pick the best plants, and few celebrate the season more than colourful cornus. Shrubby cornus (such as Cornus alba, Cornus sericea and Cornus sanguinea) commonly called dogwoods, are reliable and hardy shrubs that provide a luscious leafy backdrop to summer flowers. As a final fanfare their foliage is transformed into a rainbow of colours through autumn before fluttering away to reveal brilliant wand-like stems, especially when grown in full sun. Unfussy about their soil conditions, they will thrive in damp conditions and are ideal for planting streamside or along a pond. Cornus need no real attention, plant and they will grow. To keep the stems in really good colour, dogwoods do best if cut back almost to the ground in March of each year, it looks savage at the time, but they quickly grow back. (It also means you have lovely red coloured pea sticks/ small plant supports for the coming season).

Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ is another perfect plant for winter colour on dark November days. This compact, evergreen shrub is a popular choice for borders and patio containers, where plants will provide colour and interest all year round. Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ is a male clone bearing rosettes of glossy, aromatic leaves. (Female forms of Skimmia produce bright red berries). The evergreen foliage is punctuated by red buds through winter, with an explosion of potent, fragrant white blossoms appearing by spring. This trouble free shrub is tough and long-lasting making it ideal for beginners and those with less experience in gardening. Perfect for a neglected, shady spot in the garden.

As we head into the depths of winter, Viburnum x bodnantense Dawn is a hardy shrub that bursts into life producing masses of richly perfumed blooms on bare, woody stems. The dark pink flowers open in November and fade slowly to white in the spring before giving way to small, rounded purple berries in summer. By autumn, the green foliage of Viburnum x  bodnantense ‘Dawn’ transforms to a vibrant cloak of orange and yellow, in one final display before the winter returns. This superb RHS AGM variety has a particularly long season of interest, making it an excellent choice for prominent borders and wildlife gardens. It’s perfect for growing in the front garden or near an entrance or walk, where its fragrant, pretty blooms can be best appreciated.