Choosing trees and shrubs that are pretty in winter makes good sense. Certain types have extra-special beauty after leaves have fallen, which is nice because we have a fair number of months with bare branches.
Redtwig dogwoods are shrubs with great winter color. But cultivars (named varieties) of dogwoods vary greatly in the intensity of twig color. The branch color of some dogwoods is a muted, dull burgundy. Nice, but not spectacular.
Why not go for the best and brightest? Here’s where botanical names give great clues. Varieties of Cornus sericea like ‘Cardinal’, ‘Bailey’ and ‘Arctic Fire’ are nice, but tend to be less intense in red twig color than varieties of Cornus alba, like ‘Sibirica’ and ‘Baton Rouge,’ which are spectacular.
And that brings us to the whole point of my story: the dogwood cultivar ‘Baton Rouge.’ Last spring Mary and I were shopping for shrubs at a local garden center and from halfway across the large display, a shrub group caught our eye and demanded attention. The brilliant-bright red twigs were the most noticeable shrubs on the display floor. It was ‘Baton Rouge,’ and we knew we needed to try it. It’s a relatively new variety, but it’s from the same winter-hardy strain as the well-adapted Siberian dogwood.
What’s so special about Baton Rouge Dogwood?
- It was developed for it’s very bright and showy twig/branch color that can best be described as a flashy bright apple-red, rather than the subdued burgundies common with some.
- Foliage is neat, clean and fresh green during summer.
- Extremely hardy, rated zone 3.
- The shape is neater than many dogwoods. Average size of ‘Baton Rouge’ is 3-4 feet high and wide, as compared to 6-8 feet with Siberian dogwood. Larger dogwoods have a valuable place where space allows, but ‘Baton Rouge’ is ideal for smaller landscapes.
- Grows well in full sun or partial shade. A good choice for areas that stay moist, where drainage isn’t sufficient.
No matter what the variety of dogwood, they all have better color on younger twigs and branches. Older branches tend to loose color intensity. If a dogwood is no longer as colorful as it once was, the color can be rejuvenated by cutting the entire dogwood shrub down to about 6 inches above ground level in early spring. The new, smooth, vigorous branches will have a brighter color.