Corn us alba ‘Elegantissima’

This dogwood gives joy all the year round. A fast-growing deciduous shrub which forms a thicket, it is a mass of beautiful variegated leaves in spring and summer, pale green margined with creamy-white, which turn pinkish-gold in autumn before they fall. Then, all the young shoots on the bush are revealed as brilliant scarlet, and remain so through the winter. If you want the whole shrub to be a phalanx of scarlet stems, you must pollard it in early spring, cutting it to 8 inches (20 cm) from the ground, but if you do this you will have to wait some weeks for the new stems and leaves. (The flowers are small, white and not very interesting and, if you do not pollard, appear in early summer.) It is sometimes listed as C. a. ‘Vanegata’.

This shrub looks wonderful by water, especially in winter, but alternatively plant it against the dark background of cypress or yew. It is rather rampant, and the variety ‘Sibirica’, or Westonbirt dog-wood, is neater for the small garden. Its stems are even more brilliant in winter. But the leaves are plain green, a considerable loss. Both varieties like moisture, but if watered well when young will establish in any good garden soil, including chalk.

Plant them in sun or light shade, either as single plants, or, if you want a large group, I suggest three plants 4 feet (1.2 m) apart. Another excellent variety is ‘Spaethii’, with leaves variegated in green and gold.

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