In May, I was quite pleased to finally have flowers on the ‘Samaritan’ Chinese dogwood (Cornus kousa ‘Samaritan’ below). The dogwood, with excellent green and white variegation, is planted along stone steps that descend from one patio to another between two small ponds in the upper garden. The tree is prominently viewed from the kitchen window, and though it has grown vigorously to at least fifteen feet, the absence of flowers has been a bit disappointing.
‘Samaritan’ has been partially shaded by a tall threadbranch cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera) and a wide spreading Fernleaf Japanese maple (Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’), and while this has not slowed its growth, it has evidently inhibited flowering. To my eye there appears to be sufficient light, but as is often the case, my vote doesn’t count.
Now, I am supposing that the dogwood has grown tall enough that its upper branches reach more sunlight,and so there were a few scattered flowers in late spring. This does not explain why there were also flowers on some lower branches, but I’m reaching for an explanation, and this is as good as I can figure.
While flowers of the native American dogwood (Cornus florida) turn to clusters of red berries in early autumn (above), the single fruits of the Chinese dogwood are the size of a small strawberry, and similarly colored (below). The fruits are said to be edible, but either I have not sampled one with the proper degree of ripeness, or they are so bland that one should question why they are considered edible.
I notice that the fruits of Chinese dogwoods disappear once they are ripe, so birds must consider them edible, though also I notice that some just fall to the ground, so it seems safe to venture that they are not highly prized.
Before ending it should be noted that Chinese dogwoods (and hybrids that cross the Chinese and American dogwoods) are resistant to the diseases that commonly trouble our native, and for the gardener who desires dogwood flowers for more than a few weeks in April, planting natives, hybrids, and Chinese dogwoods will extend flowering from mid April (in my Virginia garden) into early June.
Regular readers will not be surprised that I have planted several colors of the native dogwood, several hybrids, and a handful of varied cultivars of Chinese dogwoods. Of variegated Chinese dogwoods, I judge the upright habit of ‘Samaritan’ superior to the shrub-like ‘Wolf Eyes’, though ‘Wolf Eyes’ flowers prolifically (above).