New Dogwoods for the Spring Garden
By Fred Gerty
“The White Flowering Dogwood is considered to be the best ornamental of all trees.” This statement in the catalog for Musser Forests summarizes many gardening experts’ opinion of this wonderful species. The striking display when in full bloom in early May makes this tree stand out in the landscape. Anyone looking to add a tree to their homestead can’t go wrong with a dogwood.
Most dogwoods are of the white variety, but several interesting color variations are now widely available. Among the most brilliant is a red version, such as Cherokee Chief. A paler cultivar with a more pinkish color is also found in many nurseries and garden centers in the valley. While native dogwoods bloom in early spring, an introduced variety blooms later, after the leaves appear. Called kousa, or Chinese Dogwood, it features four creamy white pointed bracts, and grows seeds in a pink or reddish raspberry-like drupe in the fall.
The native dogwood blooms are four white petal-like bracts, surrounding the actual tiny flowers, and appear before the leaves do in the spring. In the fall, bright red berries occur in clusters, lasting into the winter.
Dogwoods prefer moist, well drained soil, typical of yards and gardens. They do fine in light shade, but reach impressive stature in full sunlight.
Over the years I’ve planted a dozen or so dogwoods, and enjoy the flush of color they bring to the home in spring. Elsewhere, a red dogwood I planted two years ago, at the start of the walkway for the Visitor’s Center of the Mohonk Preserve, provides a vivid and impressive sphere of color.
Dogwoods are relatively hardy, and seldom have severe disease or insect problems, but several may bother them from time to time. Among those to watch out for are borers and a wilt disease. Both may be prevented by judicious use of systemic and foliar sprays. Deer do not favor this species to eat, the only problem I’ve seen is bucks rubbing their horns on saplings in the fall. My daughter lost a fine dogwood I’d planted for her one winter due to this problem.
With Arbor Day arriving the last Friday in April this year, why not plan to plant a tree? You can’t go wrong if you choose a dogwood, white, pink, red, or kousa. It will add to the beauty of your homestead, and to the town of Gardiner.