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Readers' questions

QWhen should I prune a dogwood?

AEarly spring is the best time, just before they burst into leaf. Cornus alba (pictured) and Cornus sibirica are grown for their wonderful coloured stems. If you neglect to prune each year, then the colour of the stems fades and the beauty of this plant is lost.

After planting a dogwood, leave it alone for the first year so it can establish itself. In late spring, cut back half of the stems almost to the ground, leaving a little over 6cm of stem at the base. Don't touch the other half of the stems; these will be the ones that you will hard prune next year.

On the third year, you can cut back all the growth to near the base of the plant and this will ensure beautiful, vibrant-coloured stems in winter.

QCan you recommend a tree that will do well near the sea?

ATwo of my favourite trees are well suited to life by the sea. The first is Tamarix ramosissima Pink Cascade, which has beautiful dusky pink flowers all summer long. It is deciduous, with needle-like foliage, and is salt tolerant, making it ideal for your garden.

The other one that will do equally well in a seaside location is Arbutus unedo, a native tree which is also known as the strawberry tree. The bark is a rich, dark reddish-brown -- it cracks and peels and you won't be able to resist helping it along.

The fruits will remind you of tiny strawberries, edible but very tart. The Arbutus flowers, and it produces fruit in autumn. The dainty white flowers are urn-shaped and carried in clusters. This is an evergreen tree and one of the most handsome for a garden.

Email your questions to mstaunton@independent.ie

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