Gardens Illustrated
Salix alba var. vitellina 'Yelverton'

Expert's choice: shrubs with colourful winter stems

Published: December 9, 2021 at 12:00 pm

The colourful or eye-catching stems of deciduous shrubs come to the fore in the winter months. Plant expert Andy McIndoe recommends five plants for the best winter stems. Photographs Dianna Jazwinski


Rubus biflorus

Rubus biflorus

Rubus biflorus is a suckering shrub with upright, prickly stems that are covered in an eye-catching white bloom in winter. Small white flowers in summer are sometimes followed by small yellow fruits. Left unpruned this ornamental bramble makes an impenetrable thicket, so annual pruning to ground level in spring is the best practice. 3m. AGM. RHS H6, USDA 4a-8b.


Rubus thibetanus

Rubus thibetanus in winter

Rhubus thibetanus is also known as the ghost bramble, thanks to the chalky white bloom that covers the dark purple winter stems in winter to stunning effect. The stems can be upright or arching. Small, purplish flowers in spring develop into inedible black fruits. The fern-like leaves are green above, silver-white beneath. This ornamental bramble is ideal for growing under the light shade of trees. 90cm. AGM. RHS H6, USDA 4a-8b. 


Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire'

Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire' in winter

Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire', the blood-twig dogwood, is widely grown for its fiery winter stems. These are gold-orange at the base, glowing flame-orange towards the tips. In summer, insignificant white flowers are produced; the leaves turn orange-yellow in autumn before falling. A good choice for damp soil. 1.5m. RHS H6, USDA 4a-8b.


Cornus alba Baton Rouge ('Minibat')

Cornus alba 'Baton Rouge' in winter

Cornus alba 'Baton Rouge' ('Minibat') is a striking dogwood with scarlet winter stems. Flattish heads of small, white spring flowers are followed by bluish-white berries. The dark-green leaves turn a rich purple in autumn. 1.5m. RHS H7, USDA 2a-8b.


Salix alba var. vitellina 'Yelverton'

Salix alba var. vitellina 'Yelverton' in winter

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