Dogwoods and other April bloomers

I cannot recall a spring when blooms of the native dogwoods have been so magnificent. Perhaps this is because gardeners tend to remember their miseries and failures rather than successes, but in any case, the dogwoods are perfect this April.

Sadly, our native dogwoods is troubled by a variety of pests, so that it is recommended with a note of caution, but there is no more delightful tree in bloom, and autumn foliage color and berries are superb. Dogwoods occasionally suffer from black spot and powdery mildew in an abundantly wet spring, so these maladies are common, though rarely bothersome enough to fool with spraying to prevent. Problems with cankers and borers are not unusual in older trees, and can result in the tree’s demise. But, before I have discouraged you unnecessarily, I must say that I have planted a handful in my garden. None have died, several are twenty years old, and all are glorious.

I feel no need to analyze why the dogwoods are more lovely this year than others. No doubt there is a formula based upon weather conditions in late summer last year when the flower buds were set, and temperatures through the winter that have conspired to create ideal conditions for the blooms, but it is simpler just to enjoy.

Though our April weather has been less than ideal the garden is growing remarkably, and damage from February’s heavy snow is nearly forgotten. So long as I don’t look up at the broken and bent tops of the cryptomerias, that is. It is so much more pleasant to enjoy the serviceberry (white blooms, above), redbuds (above) and Carolina silverbell (below) than to worry about problems that are beyond the gardeners reach. The tops of the cryptomerias must be addressed eventually, but there is no need for that to be immediately.

Today, weeds are growing as quickly as the perennials in the damp soil, and the gardener is sometimes challenged to differentiate the two. As is usual each spring in this garden, there are dozens, possibly hundreds of Japanese maple seedlings popping up (below). I am always curious to see the form and color of their foliage since seedlings are often quite different from the parent tree, but they are becoming too numerous and in the next week or two I must pull them out so they don’t overtake the planting beds. I’ll pot a few up if they are worthy, but there will be more next year, and so the entire batch could end up in the compost pile.

Certainly I have gone on far too long about the flowering trees, but in the next few days I’ll move on to the blooming perennials and Japanese maples, including the three that are newly planted. The foliage of several of the maples has emerged fully, but a few others will take another warm day (Golden Full Moon maple, below).  

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6 thoughts on “Dogwoods and other April bloomers

  1. Serviceberrys are a great tree. I am trying to find a spot to plant one in my yard. We had a couple wild ones in the yard of the house I grew up in and my parents always thought of them as a messy tree and wanted to cut them down. After the birds had feasted they would roots on the telephone and power lines going into the house which was right above the driveway. I’ll just say that the cars were a little messy for a week or two. I always liked how the tree was alive with birds and squirrels feasting on the berries.

  2. Serviceberry are a great tree for an informal garden, and particularly along the edges of the garden or at forest’s edge. I rarely see a berry on the one in my garden since the birds snatch them so quickly.

  3. Okay, so I’m not the only one who has noticed how spectacular the Dogwoods are looking this year. Trees in my neighborhood that I never even noticed before, I am definitely noticing this year. Great write-up about Spring-flowering trees, this is my favorite time of year!

  4. I wanted to ask about your bent & broken Cryptomeria. Some of mine did in fact bend after the winter we had, but none of them have broken off the main leader. Some of them have gone straight like before already, but the younger ones are much slower. Has it been your experience that they will be able to make themselves straight again or should I intervene? If I should intervene, what should I do.

    Thanks so much.

    • An evergreen with a central leader that is bent to a slight angle will often straighten without intervention. More severe angles will usually not straighten on their own, but new growth will grow straight skyward, rather than following the crooked angle, so that after a few years the angle is not noticeable. I have seen people tie a straight stake (wood or fiberglass) along the trunk so the the crooked leader can be tied to it and forced straight. On young evergreens with pliable branches this might be successful, but it is difficult to set up.

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