Several years ago, I was struck by the beauty of some redtwig dogwoods and made a point of buying the same variety. They are healthy but much taller than the ones I saw, and they’ve never looked as colorful. Do they need special care? —MB, Minneapolis, Minn.
Answer: Your problem is most likely pruning, or rather a lack of it. Newer stems will have the brightest coloration, so this shrub benefits from a rather drastic pruning program.
Just before spring growth ensues, you can cut the entire plant down to a few inches above the soil. This should be done every two to three years, though it can be done annually to keep the shrub a particular size and to create a mass of stems of the same height and color. Or you can remove about a third of the oldest canes each year. This will result in a more billowy form and more variation in stem color. Choose the method that best suits your schedule or design intentions. Don’t undertake either pruning method until the plant is ell established (usually its third year in the ground).