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Winter Stems

Winter Stems

Along the main path in the Azalea Walks before the Play Area

The winter stems of white willow (Salix alba var. Vitellina - yellow stems) and Siberian Dogwood (Cornus alba 'Sibirica' - red stems) deliver fantastic colour throughout the winter months and contrast well to make a magnificent display.

Younger stems have the best colour so these plants are cut back hard every year in March to April to cause the plant to grow new colourful stems for the following winter.  The willows are grown as a pollard - stems are cut back to the trunk at head height and the dogwoods are coppiced - all the stems are cut back to ground level. 

Both pruning techniques - pollarding & coppicing have been practiced for thousands of years to produce wood for a variety of purposes from fuel to ship building (carried out on cycles of 5-50 years depending on the tree and use) without having to replant trees. Newly planted Willows and Dogwoods should be left unpruned for the first 2-3 years until they are fully established.

The pruned stems of both plants can be cut into 30cm sections and used as hardwood cuttings. Just remember which was the bottom of the stem as they won't work if inserted upside down!  Insert the sections into pots of multi-purpose compost or straight into well drained soil in a sheltered part of a border.  Two thirds of the stem should be pushed below ground level.  The cuttings will have rooted by the following spring and can be moved to their permeant positions.

Cornus alba (Siberian dogwood) was first introduced into Britain in 1741 from Siberia. The variety 'Sibirica' was introduced by Westonbirt Arboretum in the 1830's.  Salix alba var. Vitellina is a European native. The common name White Willow comes from the colour of the undersides of its leaves. Both are relatively unfussy of soil type except very dry and happy in a sunny or partially shaded position.