A pop of Valentine color in the garden

By Lynette L. Walther | Feb 08, 2019
Source: Proven Winners Bright red stems of Arctic Sun Cornus sanguinea provide colorful winter contrast and interest in the landscape.

Forget roses — for the moment. There’s a different sort of Valentine red in the garden now. Lighting up the winter landscape is the red twig dogwood. Mixed with evergreens, this colorful shrub shows its true colors this time of year.

Arctic Sun Cornus sanguinea has bright red, orange and yellow stems that enliven the landscape with or without snow. Even the fall foliage of this variety is colorful, making it a sought-after native cultivar in all seasons.

This variety is compact (three to five feet), making it a good fit for most landscapes. Largely trouble-free, Arctic Sun works well as a hedge or in rain and cutting gardens. It can stabilize banks, too. C. sanguinea has OK deer resistance, but isn't quite as good as C. sericea. Still, it's a really useful plant that's hardy to USDA Zone 4, and grows in full sun or part shade.

We still need evergreens and other color in winter. Red twig dogwood is an obvious choice; Physocarpus and Heptacodium are more subtle options for winter interest. Berries are great, too -- viburnum, callicarpa and Ilex verticillata have lots of personality in colder months.

Not only do these landscape additions add color, but they also provide winter shelter and food for wildlife.

While winter color is a great addition to any landscape, when it comes to Valentine flowers, there’s no substitute for a rose. This year we have a new choice, a delightful addition to rose selections — a fragrant, disease-resistant and cold-hardy landscape rose. At Last is special enough to be designated the Proven Winners 2019 Rose of the Year. At Last rose grows about three feet tall and three feet wide, with masses of delicate apricot blooms. And deadheading is not necessary. It is hardy to USDA Zone 5, and like all roses, it grows best in full sun.

This rose is spectacular as a specimen plant, but it also makes a great mass planting or hedge. Of course we’ll have to wait for summer for this one to shine. In the meantime here’s a suggestion: If you want to give your Valentine a bunch of roses, download and print out an image of At Last rose. Use that to make a card or “gift certificate” for a bush or two — or more — of their own to plant come spring when you can order or buy one to fulfill the promise of fragrant, hardy roses all summer.

The colorful fall foliage of Arctic Sun Cornus sanguinea is just one reason to plant this native cultivar. (Source: Proven Winners)
A fragrant landscape rose would be perfect for any Valentine. At Last is a compact and hardy landscape rose. (Source: Proven Winners)
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