If you are looking for some winter interest in your garden I would highly recommend planting some dogwoods, these shrubs can provide a stunning display of brightly coloured stems throughout the winter months, whilst the variegated varieties can provide interest throughout the year.
Dogwoods can produce stems from dark purple to bright yellow so whatever your favourite colour your sure to find something you like, one of my favourites is Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ this has individual stems of yellow blending into orange then red like a flame, when this is planted en- masse it produces a magnificent display. Other varieties to check out are Cornus alba sibirica for intense bright red stems, Cornus Sanguinea for light red stems Cornus alba Kesseringii will produce dark dramatic stems and the Cornus sericea Flaviramea will give you lime green stems.
To ensure that you have a cornus display every winter it is important to know when and how to prune them, when your first buy a plant you will need to let it establish for the first year, after this you can start to prune your plants, in order to get lots of long colourful stems in winter you need to cut back the old stems back to approximately 15 cm from the ground in spring, Mid-March to mid April, it may seem harsh but this will allow a full growing season for the new stems to develop.
What can you do with all the bright colourful stems now, if you are creative the cornus stems can be woven together to make attractive plant supports or something else you could try would be hardwood cuttings, these are so simple,
Choose a straight stem about pencil thickness
Take a cutting of approximately 25-30cm
Look at the bumps on the stem these are the nodes and this is where the plant will grow from.
At the bottom of the cutting make a cut straight across UNDER a node.
Count four nodes up an make a slanted cut ABOVE a node.
You have your cutting.
Now you can put these in the ground in an undisturbed area or put them in pots in a gritty compost mix, plant them with about 2/3rds of the cutting in the ground.
Forget about them now and after few months they will have rooted and started to grow into new plants.
This is a simple way to get free plants from your garden that you can either plant in other areas or give away to family and friends, so give it a try.