Small gardens can be dreary in winter when it comes to colour that is higher than ground level. Dwarf varieties of narcissi, plus crocuses, snowdrops and winter irises provide splashes of brilliance just above the earth but taller shrubs tend to be chosen for spring and summer interest rather than winter brightness.
One exception to this rule is the coloured-stemmed dogwoods, which, regardless of what the weather throws at them, sing out in the gloom from the moment they lose their leaves until spring, when the foliage once more masks the beauty of their young bark.
And that is the key – it is the young bark that is the most brilliant. As the stems age they become duller and more gnarled, and the bright and lively colours they possessed in their youth are but a memory.
For this reason, dogwoods that are grown for their bright stems are best hard pruned at the end of winter – at…