An Extraordinary Dogwood Season

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An Extraordinary Dogwood Season

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru

Missouri’s state tree (the hawthorn is the state flower) is currently in bloom! Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) is probably the most beloved of flowering trees and rightfully so as its flowers are surrounded by showy bracts that outlast petals of other spring flowering trees. We expect peak bloom to last for another week here at Powell Gardens. This classic white dogwood is a tree we grew from seed and can be found behind the Chapel Trolley Stop.

Our butterfly bench is surrounded by the pink-bracted forms of Flowering Dogwoods a.k.a. “Pink Dogwood.” We planted Pink Dogwoods around the Visitor Center because their spring color contrasts with our limestone walls better than regular white Flowering Dogwood.

Pink Dogwood’s botanical name (Cornus floridaRubra‘) is really a catch all phrase for dogwoods with pink bracts. Typically it is a soft pink when in bloom as depicted. This is the second dogwood tree along the dogwood walk from the Visitor Center and is our best Pink Dogwood. The bract color on pink dogwoods can vary from almost red to light pink.

There are select cultivars of “pink” dogwood that are clones. This is the cultivar ‘Cherokee Brave,’ which has exceptional disease resistance and vigor. The bracts emerge almost red and fade to a rich pink — this one also has a soft heliotrope fragrance that is very noticeable on warm, sunny evenings. Look for it as the third dogwood tree along the dogwood walk from the Visitor Center. It is becoming readily available at local nurseries too.

The “Red” Dogwood is usually the cultivar ‘Cherokee Chief’ depicted here. The bracts emerge almost ruby red but fade to deep pink as they age. Most visitors barely notice the subtle variations in bract colors but as a designer it is fun to play with the color variations.

Our “reddest” Flowering Dogwood at Powell Gardens was purchased as a Pink Dogwood! It has smokey rose mature bracts that are even deeper colored than ‘Cherokee Chief.’ Look for this dogwood right outside the Cafe. If you are in the market for a dogwood, go to your local nursery now and buy them in bloom! You are sure to get the flower color you want that way.

We have a very diverse collection of Flowering Dogwood cultivars along the Dogwood Walk outside the Visitor Center. The uniquely double bracted cultivar depicted is ‘Springtime Double.’

Springtime Double Dogwood looks almost like a gardenia but without the scent. I think the double dogwoods are very beautiful but they do not set fruit for birds and wildlife.

Our seedling dogwood depicted in the previous blog with peachy young bracts has now aged to a beautiful pink blushed white. I am very fond of this plant behind the Chapel Trolley Stop. You can’t find a dogwood like this at local nurseries!

This is a bird planted seedling dogwood growing near the dogwood walk. I had the gardeners save it because its spring foliage is almost purple. I knew it would have dark colored bracts and here it is for its first bloom! The flowers are almost red with a white center. Our gardener Barbara Fetchenhier has labeled it ‘Rich’s Red Hot’ after Horticulturist Richard Heter who is in charge of maintaining the dogwood walk. We have two golden leaved dogwood seedlings also growing near the dogwood walk.

We are always on the lookout for unusual garden seedlings–that is how new cultivars of plants are discovered and introduced into the nursery trade. Dogwoods are not the easiest of flowering trees to transplant but are definitely worth the challenge. Balled and burlapped trees are easier to establish so I recommend purchasing them.

Established dogwoods are relatively carefree and are exceptional four season plants. They have beautiful sympodial branching, alligator hide-like bark; red fruit in the fall that is an important fuel for migrating songbirds, and the best reliable and long lasting fall color of any tree here. Come out and enjoy young dogwoods planted throughout Powell Gardens — they are putting on quite a show this year!