Part One - Tatarian DogwoodsNakedness is something you don't often think of when gardening. Not that I'm advocating naked gardening, time is cruel, and my mental image of myself is far from reality. Instead, I'm talking about the beauty uncovered when plants shed there robes of foliage, as in the case of red twig dogwoods. At this time of year, Red twig dogwoods morph from a fairly unassuming shrub into a thing of wonder as their foliage drops to show off their fiery red stems. No longer a background shrub, it comes out of its cocoon to grab the attention of the observer, changing a dull winter into a festival of color.
|Berries - Flickr, Webeyer|
The tartarian dogwood can be found from Siberia, down to northern China and into Korea, growing on moist, boggy locations. The common name 'Tatarian', is from of the ethnic group, Tatar, that live in the same area where this dogwood is common. The first plants to be grown outside of their range were recorded being sent to the Chelsea Physic Gardens in 1741, but was never admitted into the garden on account of its rampant spreading behavior However smaller, well mannered varieties were produced from that first introduction that did make it into western gardens.
|Stooled shoots - Flickr, Basswulf|
Historically, the stems of this dogwood have long since been used in weaponry with arrow shafts found dating back to the Mesolithic period. Its wood is extremely hard and has also been used for making cooking skewers and pipes to name but a few. Some reports also refer to its use in gunpowder. Charcoal, base ingredient made from dogwood stems is considered the best for small-arms powders. Dogwood charcoal was found to burn more rapidly than other woods, producing a stronger explosive to propel a round. Production of wood for charcoal processing could be done annually in a process called 'stooling' or 'coppicing' , where stems are cut down to its base in late winter. The plant would then regenerated its growth and be ready for harvest the following year, something that is impossible to do with tree type dogwoods.
Below is a list of the varieties that I have seen come through the garden center during my time here. As you will see, the Siberian dogwood comes in many different forms making the selection process harder when deciding which one to use in your garden.
|'Argento-marginata' - Flickr, KarlGercens.com|
'Ivory Halo' (Bailhalo) is a more compact and densely branched form than the one mentioned above, to come out of Bailey's Nursery in Minnesota. Making it a top pick for a smaller garden, this cultivar has become the one of choice for both landscapers and homeowners alike. Apart from the reduced height, all other traits are the same as 'Elegantissima'
|'Buds Yellow' - Flickr, tobchasinglight|
|'Aurea' - Flickr, CiaranBurkeGardenPic|
'Red Gnome' (Regnzam) is an extremely compact and low growing form (3 to 4 ft high, 4 to 5ft wide) suitable for any garden. The slender green leaves turn a deep ruby red during the fall and give way to slender, upright red stems in winter. Its height and compact habit makes it useful for hedging.
|'Sibirica' - Flickr, Brianpettinger|
In part two, we'll take a close look at our own red twig dogwoods and highlight some of the top varieties that have emerged from that group. I hope I have intrigued you to stick around to see why a dogwoods bark can really lead to a bite!
Part Two - Red osier dogwoods
Part Three - Bloodtwig dogwoods