Spring Trees in Bloom

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • Dahlias, lilies and gladioli come in a wide variety of colors. Plant the roots now for flowers this summer.
    • Mulch blueberry plants with aged sawdust and feed with cottonseed meal or an acid fertilizer.
    • When you plant your vegetable garden, why not grow a little extra to donate to the food bank this summer.

The Beautiful Dogwood Family

The Eastern dogwood (Cornus florida) is the species most people think of when the word dogwood is mentioned. Although it is the favorite of the dogwood trees, there are other species that grow here as well.

Members of the dogwood family are fine ornamental shrubs and small trees that are beautiful in every season of the year, but are most conspicuous when in flower.

The Eastern flowering dogwood, Cornus florida, grows in the shade of other trees in the forests of the eastern United States. In the landscape it usually reaches 20 to 25 feet tall and has a graceful, layered branching habit.

Over sixty varieties of this tree have been named, offering a variety of leaf and flower colors. Flowers bloom in April and May and come in white, pink or red. Actually, these are bracts, which are colorful leaves that surround the real flowers. The leaves are usually green but some cultivars offer variegated leaves. The fall color is a brilliant scarlet before the trees drop their leaves to reveal picturesque branches.

The Japanese dogwood, Cornus kousa, is very similar to the Eastern dogwood, but blooms about three weeks later as the leaves are coming out. The tree is more vase-shaped than the Eastern dogwood, and the mature bark has an attractive mottled look.

The Pacific dogwood, Cornus nuttallii, is native to the forests around Willits. It is a beautiful tree but, unfortunately, very hard to grow. A fine variety, Eddy’s Wonder, is a cross between the Eastern and the Pacific dogwoods and makes a handsome tree that grows very well here. It has large white “flowers” on a vigorous tree.

The “Stellar” dogwoods are a cross between the Eastern and the Japanese dogwoods. They are very vigorous and make a tree 20 feet tall and wide in 20 years. “Stellar Pink” is particularly lovely with its bracts of pale pink flowers that cover the tree.

Dogwoods can also be shrubs. Cornelian cherry, Cornus mas, tends to be multi-stemmed and is formed more like a shrub than a tree. It is slow-growing to 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide, and is a rounded, multi-stemmed shrub or small tree. The Cornelian cherry produces showy yellow flowers in late winter and early spring, before the leaves emerge. Fruits are bright red and edible, used for tart jellies and attractive to birds.

The beautiful red-twigged dogwood, Cornus sericea, has bright red stems which intensify in color during the winter. Small flowers bloom with white bracts in clusters in the spring followed by bright red berries that attract birds in the winter. It makes a beautiful addition to the woodland landscape. A closely related variety, ‘Flaviramea’ has bright yellow stems.

Flowering dogwoods prefer an acid, well-drained soil high in organic content. They grow naturally in partial shade, but will also grow in full sun with ample summer watering. Too much shade will cause them to produce fewer flowers.