February 11, 2013

Isanti

Initially our front porch had a 3 foot drop by the front door, with only rough concrete siding it.

We fixed the uglies by putting brick over the concrete, but it didn't do much to soften the drop off. Shrubs are always the answer when there's a decorating problem outside, so four skinny little redtwig dogwoods were planted in a row.


These are Cornus sericea 'Isanti' named for the Minnesota county where it was introduced (the county itself named for the Santee Sioux).

Redtwig dogwoods can get very rangy, but this cultivar was advertised to grow compactly to only 5 feet tall, just enough to come up over the 3 foot brick face and then another 2 feet to create a low wall of greenery along the open edge.

A year later they were still little, but showed promise.


Species redtwig dogwoods will get really huge, and will sucker. This smaller cultivar is nicer in so many ways.

After five years I could not be happier with them. Unlike many of my gardening solutions, this one worked beautifully. Right size, full shape, a loose look that billows without looking too unkempt by the front door.


But wait, there's more!

There are pretty flowers in spring.


And the characteristic red stems in winter.


 And those red stems look wonderful against snow and the dark green spruce.


 They are eye catching as you walk up to my front door.


On winter nights the porch lights illuminate the bare red twigs just so, and they glow ruby red in the dark. It's a sight that people comment on when they come to my front door.

Cornus sericea is a suckering shrub, and it is easy to cut rooted stems off and replant them. I created another stand of redtwig dogwoods behind my dry creek bed just from a few random rooted cuttings that I took from this row.

I have not pruned these yet, other than to take off the more rambunctious branches that reached toward the front door. But you can cut them all the way back and they'll regenerate.

Or you can cut out just the bigger older stems and leave the younger shoots. That is supposed to assure good red color, since it is the newer stems that are reddest.

I spend a lot of time on this blog lamenting my mistakes and all the goofs I have made in my gardening career. This is not one of them.

Planting Isanti redtwig dogwoods was the perfect solution.

Rob Woodman at The British Gardener did an excellent three part profile of shrub dogwoods here, here, and here. Check out his posts for some great info!

32 comments:

  1. What a fabulous choice. They really suit that position perfectly.

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    1. Bernie, thanks! They do fit just right where I put them.

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  2. Hi Laurrie....these Dogwoods were the perfect solution!! Nothing beats year round beauty! BTW, your neighborhood looks really nice!

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    1. Christy, the neighborhood is finally looking like it belongs here. It was all new 8 years ago and very raw and without any landscaping ... now it's so much better.

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  3. You did a great job - choice of plant, and showing us the seasonal views. Gardening is a year long project, isn't it?

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    1. Claudia, Yes, you're right -- gardening doesn't stop in winter or in the "off" season -- it goes on all year!

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  4. They sure did work out right. I can't think of a place in my CT yard for them.

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    1. Jack- they'd be lovely in your yard if you have space. Even though 'Isanti' is smaller, it is still a big shrub and needs room!

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  5. It is fun seeing before and after shots. Your solution of Redtwigs are perfect for this space. It is about time to be out there cutting back some of mine at this time. I love those red twigs.

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    1. Lisa, I should cut them this year. I haven't done it before, but I do notice this winter that some of the larger, older stems are no longer red. Those need to but cut back. Good luck with your trimming!

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  6. I'm so glad to know about this cultivar. I love the winter interest of dogwoods but I've always hated them once they grow leaves. These look beautiful!

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    1. Heather, thanks. The red stems are the main attribute, but I actually like these with their leaves on. They have clean, trouble free foliage and modest but pretty flowers.

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  7. You're right Laurrie. This is a gardening solution that seems to have worked perfectly. Congrats :)

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    1. Aaron, I just love it when solutions to my gardening problems actually work out!

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  8. Ooooo, they are gorgeous, especially against the white snow. Isn't it nice when something turns out as wonderfully as we have imagined it would!

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    1. Rosemary, these plants exceeded my plans!

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  9. Thanks, Laurrie. It's good to know that Isanti really performs as advertised. Some of these compact varieties really aren't. Does this one have the white berries?

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    1. Jason, I agree -- many dwarf varieties just are not any smaller. This dogwood does have white berries, but mine are not showy --- I don't think I've ever noticed them. The plants do flower well, and the berries form, but not that I really see.

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  10. I'm a fan too - in fact, I just added 2 to my yard this past spring. But did I understand you correctly when you said you hadn't cut them back yet? That's amazing! I was expecting to cut mine back every year to ensure the red color.

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    1. Sarah, these little dogwoods were planted in 2006, so I have had them 7 years and have not pruned them. But this winter I do notice that a couple of the largest stems in the middle are not red, so I will go in this spring and cut those to the ground, leaving all the others. I'm glad to know you've got some redtwigs growing in your yard!

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  11. How nice to read a happy story! So important to celebrate the happy gardening stories and share a good idea.

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    1. Marguerite, I know, sometimes I think I focus to much on the failures. It's nice to sit back and look at a gardening success.

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  12. Don't you love it when you plant something and are still happy with the p;lacement years later? In my case I need to work towards getting that to happen more often :).

    I just removed a large Cornus alba 'Ivory Halo'. Not because I didn't like it but because it was blocking one of my spigots (another example of poor placement). They do get big even when you selectively thin them. A couple of years ago I picked up C. sericea 'Hedgerow's Gold' at Broken Arrow because the combination of the emerging foliage against the red twigs made me swoon. Oh to have more space!

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    1. Sue, You are so right. When it all clicks, it is great! I'd love to see what that Hedgerow's Gold looks like.

      We all need so much more room.

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  13. Those are lovely. Did the front door color or the dogwoods come first?

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    1. Sweetbay, the door color came first. And I never thought about the dogwood stems matching it -- another happy event that came from planting these : )

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  14. Thanks for those links. I find the red twig dogwoods confusing and the links help. Yours are beautiful.

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    1. James, Cornus is one of those groups that there are so many of, and they are so variable. I'm glad Rob's links helped, he has quite a survey of redtwig dogwoods on his blog. Well worth checking out.

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  15. These are beautiful! I can't decide if I like like the spring or the winter look better! I have never seen a red twig dogwood around here, even though it's supposed to grow in my zone. May have to experiment!

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    1. HolleyGarden, I wonder if redtwig dogwoods just don't do well in heat? I would think you'd see them around in your area, they are quite often used in all kinds of landscapes here. I hope you do experiment with one!

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  16. Laurrie, it was a right solution to plant these dogwoods! I love them and had one, it grew very slowly the first years. Now I have 5 dogwoods, planted the pruned branches of the first one. Pretty plant!

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    1. Nadezda, It is easy to get more plants from redtwig dogwoods, just as you have done by planting anything you cut off. NIce!

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