Colorful trees for late spring

I cannot explain why ‘Stellar Pink’ (Cornus x ‘Rutgan’) and ‘Satomi’ dogwoods (Cornus kousa ‘Satomi’ below) are barely pink most years in my northwest Virginia garden, but that once in ten years the pink is a deeper, lovelier shade. In fact, these trees have been planted for ten, maybe fifteen years, and only once was the color what you could truly call a pink flower. Perhaps the concurrence of weather events that caused this will be duplicated in my lifetime, but in every other year the gardener must be contented with white blooms that display only a blush of pink. Which is not so bad at all.Satomi dogwood in early June

I’ve seen ‘Stellar Pink’ and ‘Satomi’ in flower in the lower humidity of Oregon in late spring, and the flowers of both are distinctly deeper in color than in my garden. Through the years, one year or another has been wetter, cooler, or less humid, as close as is possible to an average Oregon spring, but still there is little pink to the blooms.  Obviously, the formula is much more complex than I can figure, so I’ll be happy for whatever small blush of pink these marvelous dogwoods can provide, and I won’t worry about things that are impossible to control or to predict.Silver Cloud redbud

This year the variegation on ‘Silver Cloud’ redbud (Redbud canadensis ‘Silver Cloud’, above) is much more pronounced than in recent years when I began to wonder if the tree was getting tired, or if some malady effected the foliage. The tree appeared healthy, but the leaves were nearly green, with little of the distinctive cream colored mottling. But, this year the cream has returned, and if I said I had any clue why, I’d be fibbing. In any case, the return of of the strikingly variegated foliage is a good thing, and this makes a notable difference in the upper portion of the rear garden.Samaritan dogwood

I’ve mentioned in recent years that the vigorous variegated Chinese dogwood ‘Samaritan’ (Cornus kousa ‘Samaritan’, above) has not flowered, and I suspected the reason was that it is partially shaded. The tree has grown tall and full, and from this I wouldn’t suspect that the shade was too deep, but I’ve had no other excuse for its lack of flowers. I’ve seen ‘Samaritan’ flowering in other gardens, so I didn’t figure this was a genetic shortcoming due to its breeding, and lack of sun seemed the only logical explanation.Wolf Eyes dogwood

Lower in the year garden the shrubby, variegated Chinese dogwood ‘Wolf Eyes’ (Cornus kousa ‘Wolf Eyes’ above) flowers with abandon, but in nearly full sun. The foliage of ‘Wolf Eyes’ is curled, and its spreading habit is more shrub than tree-like, so when I planted ‘Samaritan’ I expected it to be a significant improvement. But, at the time there was no good place to plant the dogwood, so it was shoehorned into a spot that was less than ideal. While this hasn’t effected its growth, the dogwood hasn’t flowered. Until this spring. Today, there are flowers, at the top of the tree that now pokes up above hollies and Japanese maples that obstructed its sunlight. The flowers can be seen, barely from the second story windows of the house through the branches of the tree lilac.Tree lilac in late May

The fate of the tree lilac (Syringa reticulata ‘Ivory Silk’, above) remains unresolved at this point, though it appears in fine health at the moment. In recent years it has lost one branch after another in the summer. As soon as the wilt appears I’ve pruned the large branches back to healthy wood in the hope that the spread could be arrested, and at the moment I’m hopeful that this has done the trick. Already, the branches removed have left the tree lopsided, and to lose any more might require the lilac’s removal. If it were not bordered closely by ‘Samaritan’ and a wide spreading Japanese maple the tree would look odd, but if no more damage is done it gains the benefit of the doubt for its marvelous blooms.


4 thoughts on “Colorful trees for late spring

  1. I think I killed my dogwood. It didn’t flower this year and was getting really big and growing into another tree. So I cut a lot of branches off the top and it looks terrible. My hopes were to trim it so it can be fuller and flower next year but I’m afraid I’ve permanently maimed it. Any suggestions or is it hopeless.

    • The native American dogwood is sensitive to pruning, but if the tree has leaves it is likely to recover. In general, established trees grow very quickly when they are pruned, so it should not take long for it to fill in.

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