Dogwood under a dogwood

The variegated leaf ‘Samaritan’ dogwood (below) grows tall and upright, similar to the shrubby ‘Wolf Eyes’ nearby in foliage and flower except one is upright growing and tall and the other spreading and short. Unfortunately, with few low hanging branches the view of the tall ‘Samaritan’ is best from above, from our bedroom window looking over the downward sloping garden where the flowers and contrasting green and white variegation of ‘Samaritan’ beside a green leafed stewartia and an evergreen ‘Mary Nell’ holly is most evident.

‘Samaritan’ and ‘Wolf Eyes’ dogwoods have similar foliage and flowers, but ‘Samaritan’ grows tall and upright and ‘Wolf Eyes’ spreads.
A Pagoda dogwood now fills the void left when a cypress was removed. The Samaritan dogwood looms overhead.

A void beneath the dogwood was created several years ago (above) with the removal of a gold thread cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera) that grew far too large, spreading into the nearby patio and pathway. The cypress declined noticeably as taller neighboring trees shaded it, and after multiple reminders from my wife I finally heeded the call to cut it out. The improvement was notable even before new plantings began to fill the space, but all were low growing and something was missing.

As often happens, two Pagoda dogwoods (Cornus alternifolia, above) were purchased with hardly a clue where either could be planted, but knowing there must be someplace these could be shoehorned in since the native dogwoods can tolerate the shade of a tall tree canopy. Once the dogwoods were home it didn’t take long to figure spots, with both planted close to paths where a small, shrubby tree should be ideal.

One is planted in the void where the cypress was removed, which is beneath the ‘Samaritan’ dogwood. The Pagoda dogwood is a natural understory tree, so there should be no problem with one dogwood beneath the other. The two are quite different in foliage and flower, and of course in height so there should be no conflict. The Pagoda dogwood fills the space perfectly. Someday, a bit of pruning will be required to keep the path clear, but I expect the dogwood’s tiered branching will make this easy.

The other dogwoods

Once flowering of the trio of native dogwoods has faded, the dogwood season in the garden is just beginning. Yellow (Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’, below) and red twigged dogwoods (Cornus sericea ‘Baileyi’) are most appreciated in the winter months for their colorful stems, but also in spring for flowers similar to the Pagoda dogwoods’. They are challenged annually by leaf spotting, but this is a problem with appearance only, and not until late summer.

While the native dogwood and yellow and red twigged varieties are prone to leaf spotting, hybrid and Kousa dogwoods in the garden are not. As the flowers of the native dogwoods begin to fade, several hybrids are just coming on. ‘Stellar Pink’, ‘Celestial Shadow’, and ‘Venus’ are vigorous in growth, and even in shade there are abundant flowers though not quite as heavy as in more sun.

Flowers of Venus are double the size of any other dogwood in the garden. One in half sun flowers 50% better than one in shade, but the shaded ‘Venus’ makes splendid show outside the dinning room window.
Cornus kousa ‘National’ is a more upright growing selection.
While kousa dogwoods flower after leafing, the white blooms nearly obscure the foliage.
At its best, Stellar Pink has a blush of pink to its white blooms.

Newest additions to the dogwood collection are the red flowered ‘Scarlet Fire’ (Cornus kousa ‘Scarlet Fire’, below) and the evergreen Empress of China (Cornus eliptica). Along with other Kousa dogwoods, ‘Scarlet Fire’ flowers beginning in mid May, with flowers that persist into June. I’m guessing that its flowers are not as red as they will be after the dogwood has been in the ground for a year, but already it is much darker than the ‘Satomi’ dogwood that rarely showed more than a blush of pink.

I’ve searched for an evergreen dogwood of decent size for years, and finally found a stocky five footer that is now dressed head to toe in small flowers. I expect it to reach peak bloom in another week, and while that will end the cycle of dogwood flowers for the year, I expect it to be a glorious close to the season.

The small flowers of the Empress of China evergreen dogwood should get much larger over the next week.

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