Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’

by Flora O’Brien, EMGV

This is the time of year we appreciate architectural elements in the winter garden. After the dazzle of fall we could use a bit of color, especially when the days are dreary or snow is on the ground. Enter the red twig dogwood.

Red twig dogwood. Photo by F. O’Brien

Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima,’ commonly called Tatarian dogwood, is an eye-catching shrub with bright red stems. In Spring there are gray-green leaves variegated with pure white edges, which last into fall. As the leaves disappear, the red stems remain. There are flowers, white, small and mostly hidden by the leaves in the spring. Drupes ripen by mid-summer and are enjoyed by the birds. The shrub grows eight to 10 feet tall and about five feet wide. The stems are reddest if the plant is grown in full sun. It tolerates various soil conditions and a moist, well-drained site. The new growth has the most color so it is advisable to prune back some of the oldest growth to six inches in early spring.

Elegantissima (synonymous with ‘Argenteomarginata’) tolerates deer and rabbits and is attractive to birds and butterflies. It grows wild in central Asia where the Tatars live, giving it its common name. All in all, the red twig dogwood would be a most lovely addition to your garden.

Resource & Further Reading