Harvesting Red Twig Dogwood Stems - When, Why, How and Where | PITH + VIGOR by Rochelle Greayer

Welcome to the

Pith   Vigor



Do you wish for more great garden magazines in the world? 


So I made some... 

the Book



Hey There! I’m Rochelle Greayer. I’m a garden designer on TV and IRL. I’m also an author and entrepreneur who thinks she can save the world by teaching everyone a little something about landscape design.



REgister now!

A Free Master Class




Get IT Now!

Print copies have sold out, but you can still access the digitized 6 Issue Downloadable Collection. 

Cultivate Your Garden Style


Join the Course Today!

Mix & match plants like a pro!

Harvesting Red Twig Dogwood Stems – When, Why, How and Where


1389054_582064128529072_962187904_nThe time is just about here if you are interested in foraging or harvesting your garden for the beautiful red twigs of Cornus sericea that are so often used to make wreaths, arrangements, and container decorations for the holidays.

A few years back, a few of my commercially purchased stems leafed out after a mild winter spent with their cut stems stuffed into the soil of a holiday container.  They had taken root and once I transplanted them to my garden they have since thrived (I subsequently have 5 large dogwood shrubs in my garden!).   Over the years since, I have learned a few tips for making most of these shrubs when it comes to harvesting their beautiful red stems.

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

The leaves are just about to fall off the shrubs here in Central MA and as soon as they do, this will be the perfect time to cut the stems that you wish to use this year.  These stems will be fresh and pliable for use right away.

I received a pair of loppers in June from Troy-bilt that I have been trying out all season.   I recommend these or something similar for pruning for a few reasons:

  1. They have nice long handles, reducing your reach – and therefore reducing the likelihood of taking a stem to the eye…(been there, eye-patches, it turns out, aren’t as fun as pirates make them out to be).
  2. These particular pruners (Troy-bilt Comfort Classic Anvil Loppers) are taking the likes of my unique style of tool-toture.  That is that they arrived in June and have not seen the inside of a shed since.  They have been constantly left on the ground, in the garden, draped over a fence, or generally not put away where they are protected.  This photo was taken last week – and they still look and perform like new.
  3. Cutting with loppers is much easier (given that these are woody stems) than cutting with regular pruners.  The handles give you good leverage (for easier cutting) and the anvil blade gives you a cleaner cut on tougher material (better for the remaining plant) .


I advise that you do not however prune back every stem at this time! I estimate it is best to take about 30% or so of the stems during this fall harvest.  Same goes for plants that you might find in the woods that you are cutting from – don’t take everything.  You don’t want to harm the plant’s ability to survive the winter.  If you are foraging, look for this shrub in wild areas where the soil is wet (river edges for example) and where the plant can get enough sun to keep the stems red (wild dogwood growing in the shade will likely have brown and less showy colored stems).

In the very early spring you can pollard (that is to cut pack all the of stems to the main root-stock coming out of the ground)  the entire plant.  This will force the shrub to put out many new stems that you can harvest next fall.

If you can’t find red-twig dogwood naturally for foraging or aren’t growing it in your garden there are often local sources particularly in the northern  part of the USA (including those where these images were sourced)



Top image from Local Color Flowers who services the Baltimore and Mid-atlantic region with all-local grown cut flowers and stems (including red-twig dogwood).  

Image by Rochelle Greayer

Holiday Container image by Garden Crossings who sells plants (including a variety of red-twig dogwoods) out of Zeeland, Michigan. 

The wreath image (bottom) is by Nick McCullough of Red Twig Farms in Central Ohio.  Contact them for a variety of branches used for winter container decorations. 

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Troy-bilt. I am not an employee of Proven Winners and all opinions are my own.

Spread the love

REgister now!

A Free Master Class



Do you Need a
Garden Makeover?

Join my Free Webinar Today!

- Learn my 7-step system to design and build a stunning garden anywhere in the world.

- The 5 mistakes EVERYONE makes when creating a garden. (save yourself time, money, and headaches and get much better results!)

- How to work directly with me (but at a DIY price!) to design and create YOUR own gorgeous garden. 

  1. Donald Tole says:

    Hi….where can l sell red dogwood stems and what are they worth?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

join the FrEE 10-day garden Design challenge

Your Garden will look waaayyy better in less than 2 weeks - Promise!

in the weeds?

Sign me up