Are you surprised to find a cornus in the Top 30? Plants in the genus Cornus were very popular choices but no one particular species or cultivar gained enough votes for a high place in the list. So just creeping in at Number 30 is Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’.
Could there be a better name for a plant? Just when we are at our lowest ebb, in cold, often wet, January and February it lights up the garden and our spirits with its stems in fiery colours of red, pink, yellow and orange. Some of the popular cultivars, such as ‘Sibirica’, with bright red winter shoots, and ‘Kesselringii’, where the stems are almost black, are derived from Cornus alba, a species from Asia. But ‘Midwinter Fire’ is a cultivar of Cornus sanguinea, the common dogwood, native to most of Europe and western Asia.
It forms a shrub to about 2m and is best grown in full sun for the stems to colour well. The stems can be cut to within 2 or 3 buds of the base in early spring, although some gardeners are a little more cautious in their pruning for less vigorous plants, perhaps only removing about a third of the stems each year or pruning every few years.
This image was taken in the Winter Garden at Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire, which is well worth a visit.