Now that the last leaves have fallen from my dogwoods I can finally see the wood through the trees! That means I can finally get in there and give them a good cutting back. Using a Loppers to prune Cornus or Dogwood should be done once every 3 to 4 years and you will find that they respond very well to a hard pruning. These plants are somewhat inconspicuous in the summer months when all other plants are in full bloom, but once winter sets in and leaves begin to fall the Dogwood can take centre stage. Their vibrant red or yellow stems brighten up a winter’s day and when touched by the low winter’s sun they can really glow with life.
The problem with pruning Dogwood is that, like all plants they should be pruned in the dormant season. This is however the time of year that the Dogwood looks best so pruning them back when they are in their prime is like taking a loppers to your roses in midsummer or pruning your Cherry blossom in May.
Without pruning and staying on top of your Dogwood plants they will soon grow out of control as they can spread to 6 metres. Also without pruning them back you won’t have as healthy or as many of those young bright red or yellow stems that you would otherwise have. Instead the Dogwood’s old wood is a dull lifeless colour that offers little in the way of winter interest.
To prune these plants you have one of two options: Cut them back hard, or cut them back really hard. So once you get over the idea of cutting away all those lovely red stems, you then need to get over the fear of cutting the entire plant back to within an inch of its life, or more accurately; a foot off the ground!!
This is the best way to prune dogwood; cut it back to one foot above ground level, leaving only a stump of about 10 to 15 shoots. Use a strong loppers and pruning saw to cut away the stems. When cutting be sure to cut at an angle so that rain water can’t sit on, and rot the wound. Make clean cuts and when you are finished clean, dry and put away your loppers and pruning saw. This is to prevent the potential spread of any diseases or fungus that may be present on the old wood. Botrytis is a common fungus on many old garden plants and it can be spread if tools are not properly cleaned between use. Also cleaning, drying and storing your loppers will help keep the blade sharp and working well, giving smooth and clean cuts.
If you are brave enough to cut your Dogwood back this way then you will be rewarded with an abundance of fresh new colourful stems in spring which will have you looking forward to the onset of next winter.