Flowering Dogwood

Garden Clippings for May 27, 2023

A mere decade or three ago there were only a few Flowering Dogwoods to be found in Lambton County.  A few decades may seem like a long time, but if we consider Adam and Eve, Noah or whichever human first roamed the earth, a decade is but a blink in time.

It’s a scary thought, but thanks to climate change, Flowering Dogwoods are gracing the local landscape, something that until recently, could only be done on the West Coast or quite a few miles south of the 49th parallel.

Blaming climate change on the ability to grow Flowering Dogwoods may not be totally accurate, but you catch the drift.   There probably are a few mature Flowering Dogwoods in Sarnia Lambton, but they would be few in number, and growing under perfect conditions.

No doubt horticulturists and plant breeders have also played a role in the upswing of Flowering Dogwoods.  These scientists are in a constant quest to create plants with characteristics such as colour, height, hardiness, dwarfness, disease resistance and flowering time.

Gray Dogwood (Cornus racemosa) is a native large growing shrub commonly found in the bush in Southwestern Ontario.  Its white flower clusters appear on a haphazardly shaped bush in late spring.  Grey Dogwood is favoured by many birds who feast on the berries in early fall.  Easy to grow in any conditions, Grey Dogwood is a must for those wishing to promote native landscapes.

Red Twig Dogwoods are the name given to several Dogwood shrubs that are just as adaptable and easy to grow as Grey Dogwood, but with striking red stems.  Flowers are white, often not showy, followed by small berries in mid-summer.  All will grow in sun or partial shade, but the brightest red stems will be found on plants grown in full sun.

The lineup of ornamental Flowering Dogwoods is vast, and continuously increasing.  All have delightful long-lasting blooms appearing in mid to late spring.  Most cultivars bloom in white, opening up wide with 4 showy petals.  Flower petals are not actually petals but are coloured bracts with much smaller and less significant flowers in their centres.

Kousa Dogwood (Cornus ‘Kousa’) is an ornamental plant with 4 season interest.  It welcomes spring with white blooms.  Summer is noteworthy because of its layered horizontal branch pattern on a tidy small tree.  Red, raspberry-type fruit is favoured by many birds.  Fall foliage colour is bronzy red.

Closely related to ‘Kousa’ is ‘Satomi Dogwood’, which is similar in all respects but with pinkish red blooms.  Both are small growing trees rarely growing more than 15 ft at maturity.

Other highly ornamental Flowering Dogwoods include ‘Rosy Teacups’ with long-lasting rosy pink flowers in spring, and ‘Greensleeves’ which opens up greenish white in spring, turning creamy white as flowers develop.  For a narrow growing Dogwood that takes up little room, look for ‘Snowtower’, growing up to 15 feet tall with width of 4 to 6 feet.