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Mike's Blog - Day 216

Well, would you have guessed? Another dogwood today.

This is the most recognisable and typical of the dogwoods, grown really for their red winter stems. When you say “dogwood”, this is the plant most people think of, Cornus alba “Sibirica” (Siberian dogwood) as well as the wild native one, Cornus sanguinea.

These often look awful, typically if trimmed like a hedge in a supermarket car park and full of dead wood.

Cut them back to a stump every 3-5 years depending on what size shrub you want and they are great. The best time to do this is as late in winter as you can, so you get those bright red stems as long as possible. It’s usually before mid March. The new growth is vigorous and bright red, and the more you prune it then the more shoots you get over the years. There are orange/yellow stemmed ones too. We saw some nice ones on a trip to RHS Harlow Carr in February.

They can give you a good show of autumn fruit too, the berries are described as “blueish white”, and we seem to have both pure white and blue berries in our thicket of them by the woodland garden.

Our native one has black berries. In this group of dogwoods, the berries are regarded as not edible, or from what I can see “can be eaten but may have an emetic effect” – in other words make you vomit. So I’ll not bother trying these.

So, three days of dogwoods and no explanation why they are called dogwoods. It had me puzzled as it’s just a name I have always known them as, they are such a common thing. From what I can see the strong thin sections of stem have been useful in the past for making short sharp sticks, or “dags”, for things such as butchers skewers or even arrows. "Dag wood"?

Otzi the ice man apparently had arrow shafts in his pouch made from Cornus.

Final thought. If you do cut little short sticks of them at this time of year and push them into the ground they root quite well.