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Dogwoods for your landscaping

Posted on 24 January 2011

May 11th, 2010
by Anna Bellamie for the Landscape Network

An extremely popular tree in many parts of the country, the dogwood is a fantastic pick to add beauty to any landscape. But their pleasing aesthetic qualities aren’t the only bonus to your setting, they also attract birds of all kinds, making for some great birdwatching. You’d be wise to add a few birdhouses in a large dogwood tree or feeders nearby to encourage our winged friends to hang around. A flowering dogwood is one of the first bursts of color in the spring, the most common varieties the 30-50 species that make up this genus being white and pink.

These trees love shade, and they love to give it. They will fare well in the shade of taller trees or building structures. Most species are true trees, but you can also get dogwoods in a shrub variety, if height is an issue. Two of the most common species are the “Cherokee Chief” (cornus florida) and Japanese varieties in general (cornus kousa), both come with many landscaping benefits. The Cherokee has a horizontal branching pattern, which makes it a great choice to add a different and striking quality. They grow to around 20 to 25 feet and will spread around 12 to 15; spring blooms are a deep pink to red with fall foliage turning bronze. Japanese flowering dogwood typical bear star-shaped, white blooms that appear later in the season than most other dogwoods. The red berries of these varieties (not to be eaten by humans) are a popular snack for our feathered friends, so expect winged visitors with the Japanese varieties, which will reach a height and spread of 15 to 30 feet.

A couple of planting tips: plant the root ball proud, meaning do not bury it completely, but in a hole just slightly shorter than the diameter of the root ball. Be sure to remove any plastic covering the root ball, as the roots could be damaged trying to burst through. Most dogwoods will come with a burlapped root ball, not plastic, and the burlap is fine to go into the ground, just as long as it’s of organic origin, not plastic. If you’re not sure what type of fabric covers the root ball, try the match test – take a lit match to it, if it melts, remove it.

The Dogwood has its place in history and our national heritage as well. There are many cities with the Dogwood as an insignia, nickname, or other cultural integration. It is the state flower and tree of Virginia, state tree of Missouri, state flower of North Carolina, the provincial tree of British Colombia, and Milwaukie, OR is known as The Dogwood City of the West. There are religious legends involving the dogwood branches as a symbol of crucifixion. Most etymology suggests the name came from “dagwood”, as in “dagger”, as the wood of these trees are very hard.

All things considered, this is a fantastic choice for any landscape. Dogwoods can be used to break up harsh lines created by structures, as property line dividers, encourage birds and other wildlife, and the blooms they provide each spring are absolutely gorgeous. Just remember this hot tree really actually likes to stay cool.

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