How well do you know dogwood

Kathy Henderson Garden Columnist

Visiting my garden recently the Henry County Master Gardeners were fascinated by my Korean (or Japanese or Chinese and even Himalayan Dogwood). While this Dogwood is not unknown, my evergreen one is often a little hard to find.

Examples of dogwood trees in Kathy’s garden. Special photo

The Korean Dogwood, Cornus kousa, is a wonderful small tree that blooms later than our native dogwood, Cornus florida, and its cultivars. The blossoms have pointed white petals and the leaves are narrower than the Flowering Dogwood.

The tree grows to a height of about 20-25 feet and almost as wide. It should be planted in filtered shade or at least protected from the mid-day and afternoon summer sun. It would prefer to have rich woodland soil with good drainage. Otherwise, I have never done anything special in maintaining this wonderful plant.

Examples of dogwood trees in Kathy’s garden. Special photo

My evergreen one, Cornus kousa var. angustifolia keeps its leaves very well in the winter. An extremely cold winter can damage the leaves and cause some defoliation.

The center of the white flower forms a berry-like fruit that looks a lot like a raspberry. When the plant is filled with white flowers that form on the top of branches, it is a lovely sight. But when those flowers turn to fruit, it is amazing! The berries are edible, but not real tasty.

Examples of dogwood trees in Kathy’s garden. Special photo

While I love my evergreen one, I wish I had many of the cultivars of the deciduous Cornus kousa all around my garden. The birds that love these fruits would enjoy that also. Some of the cultivars have pink petals (bracts), others have variegated leaves, and others are weeping or dwarf in form.

Cornus kousa var. chinensis is taller than the others with larger flowers and fruit.

These trees are worth the adventure of locating them in nurseries or finding a small sapling online.

Kathy's hydrangeas with late blooms. Special photo

When you cut them back, you can root the cuttings (6”) in a pot of potting soil or water. The best and the laziest way to produce new plants is to carefully bend down low-growing limbs into the soil and put a bricks on them. The limbs will produce new roots and once this is evident, you can cut them away from the main plant and plant the new shoots in other places in the garden. That is called “layering.” You can do this with many plants in the garden - especially shrubs that are more difficult to reproduce. If your hydrangea is not performing well in the location that it is now planted, this is the best way to move it to a better spot. Saves a lot of back work that is necessary when transplanting.

There are so many hydrangeas on the market now, it is hard to recommend one that produces better than others. They all have their good points and most have problems when planted in too much sun, poor soil and drought conditions. You need to choose a place that gets mid-day and afternoon shade, provide good rich soil and deep drainage (no wet feet) and near an outdoor hydrant so you can supply water easily during a drought. Then if it does not provide you with pleasure, you can blame it on the cultivar!