Good trees for urban gardens: Which dogwood is right for you?

Cornus Florida
Cornus florida, Eastern dogwood

We continue our series highlighting trees that work for gardens in Edmonds. It’s presented by Master Gardener Barbara Chase, who serves on the Edmonds Tree Board.

Most gardeners have experienced great blooms on their trees and shrubs this year. Dogwoods have been no exception. In early May the eastern dogwood (cornus florida) began its show. What we see as flowers are actually bracts which can range from white to soft pink to red. Their spectacular beauty in bloom makes these dogwood s a popular choice. They are usually 20-30 feet tall.

Cornus kousa, Korean dogwood

The native dogwood, cornus nuttallii also blooms in early spring. It grows quite tall and has large white bracts. Unfortunately both the eastern (cornus florida) and our native cornus nuttallii (50 feet tall and 20 feet wide)are susceptible to the fungus anthracnose, which causes leaf damage, stem cankers and decline of the tree. Quite often after the blooms fade the gardener is left with an unattractive tree for much of the season.

Satomi (pink form of cornus kousa)

Cornus kousa blooms later in May and has heavy flowering. The dense white bracts bloom above the leaves. In late summer and fall red fruits appear and hang below the branches. There are many white varieties such as “Milky Way.” Satomi is one variety which has rose red bracts. Fortunately Kousa Dogwood is quite resistant to anthracnose.

Because of the beauty and desirability of dogwoods, hybridizers have worked hard to develop dogwoods which are more resistant to disease.

Stellar dogwood
Stellar dogwood

“Eddies’s White Wonder” is a cross between c. florida and c. nuttalli. Many other crosses have used cornus kousa to develop beautiful disease-resistant trees. A group of trees called cornus x rutgersensis or Stellar Dogwood have produced some beautiful trees which bloom between the early spring cornus florida and the later cornus kousa. They grow to about 20 feet tall and 25-30 feet wide with great fall color. “Aurora” and “Stardust” have white bracts; “Stellar Pink” produces pink bracts.

Dogwoods have much to offer in the Northwest garden. Think about where a dogwood would add great beauty to your garden. Choose carefully and you will have many years of enjoyment

  1. The first picture is showing the soft pink bracts ( which look like flowers) of cornus florida, the Eastern dogwood. That is usually one of the first to bloom in early May and is finished blooming.

    The second picture of a mature tree covered with white bracts is the Korean dogwood, cornus kousa which is blooming right now all over town. It is very disease resistant.

  2. Thank you Barbara, for this very informative piece. You are a welcomed addition to the Tree Board.

  3. I am needing a new tree to replace the old blue spruce cut down due to disease. Looking at the Satomi Kousa Japanese Dogwood. I wonder if this is the one I’ve seen that begins with white flowers but then adds a tint of pink to the blossom? It’s one I’d had in an earlier home and thought it magnificent. I also need disease resistant as I’ve also had to take out a weeping blue spruce recently which also got diseased. I’m 75 and don’t want to bother with taking out more diseased trees. This will be very prominent, right at the curb/driveway entrance and I want it to be nice. Hopefully I’ll also have a dry stream bed of cobbles. It will join existing azaleas and a low-growing Japanese maple already in that spot. I’ll also need to add a couple of extra things and more large rock. Thanks so much live in Mill Creek

  4. The Satomi dogwood which is a cornus kousa is quite disease resistant. We have one near us and it is pink when it opens. I have noticed that the white Korean dogwood often turns a soft pink but it starts white. It takes a while to turn a soft pink. Cornus kousa is a good choice especially because of its disease resistance.

    The pink blooming dogwood tree in our neighborhood is quite prominent, very near the sidewalk and seems to do well there.

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