What’s Blooming Now: In Seattle, Dogwood Trees!
May 24, 2018
These late spring bloomers are hardy crowdpleasers.
With species native to both the east and west coasts and a huge range of cultivars and varieties, Dogwoods (genus Cornus) are a powerhouse of landscape design. The genus ranges from beautiful stately trees to adaptable shrubs and low groundcovers. Most noticeable at this time of year are dogwood trees, showing off large blossoms ranging from deep mottled pink to white, from May to June.
We think dogwoods make some of May’s best blooms… but, it turns out, these showy flowers aren’t really flowers at all! Dogwoods tend to produce many blossoms at once and the blossoms, hardy to wind and rainfall, tend to persist longer than other late spring blooms (like Lilac or Magnolia).
So what makes dogwood blossoms so hardy? The petals of each flower are not actually petals — they are in fact “bracts” — leaves modified to look like flowers in order to attract pollinators to otherwise inconspicuous clusters of flowers at the center of each “bloom”.
Let’s look at a few of our favorite dogwoods.
Eddie’s White Wonder
A tried and true favorite that is becoming a popular street tree in Seattle is the hybridized Pacific Northwest native, Eddie’s White Wonder Dogwood. This tree was created in the 1950s in Vancouver, B.C. by hybridizing the west coast native Cornus nuttallii and the east coast native Cornus florida to create an exceptionally disease-resistant tree.
Shown Above: Eddie’s White Wonder Dogwood – Cornus x
We love it not only for its disease resistance, but also for its profusion of 4”-wide, creamy white blossoms, and its loose, yet narrow, growth habit. Blossoms emerge at about the same time as the leaves, creating a layered effect of lush blossoms and deep green foliage. Proven to be an excellent street tree, the narrow, upright growth habit is a perfect accent for any yard. Due to its hybrid parentage, it prefers light to open shade but will tolerate full sun if watered deeply and regularly.
A classic beauty, the Satomi Dogwood is a pink flowering cultivar of the kousa species native to Japan, Korea, and China. This species has been naturalized in the Pacific Northwest and this cultivar is highly disease-resistant. Brilliant pink flowers bloom later, and last longer, than other cultivars — at first emerging soft pink and aging to a deep, lustrous rose color. With leaves that emerge before the blossoms, the tree has a full canopy by May, with branches covered in flowers by June.
Shown Above: Satomi Dogwood – Cornus kousa
While this tree has the classic layered appearance of most other dogwoods, it tends to have a broader canopy that is sensitive to improper pruning, so always consult an expert before pruning this tree. Satomi dogwood does well in open shade to partial sun with regular water, and makes an excellent focal point in any garden.
A recently created species released in 2006, Venus Dogwood is a modern hybrid with three parent trees that are all specialized cultivars. Bred from Cornus kousa 'Chinensis', Cornus nuttalii 'Goldspot', and Cornus kousa 'Rosea', the Venus Dogwood is thought to produce the largest and most prolific bloom of any dogwood. Similar in appearance to Eddie’s White Wonder, Venus Dogwood flowers open a pale green-white color and mature to 6”-wide, lustrous white saucers, with elegant bracts that taper at the base. The growth habit differs from Eddie’s White Wonder, taking after its kousa parentage with a layered habit, growing wider than it is tall.
Shown Above: Venus Dogwood – Cornus x
In addition to its robust flowers, this hybrid is prized for its vigorous growth and hardiness — it’s a fast grower, resistant to anthracnose, powdery mildew, and drought. While this hybrid is considered drought-tolerant, it prefers open to dappled shade and may scorch in direct sunlight. This tree makes a perfect accent for shady woodland gardens as an understory tree or large shrub.
An up and coming cultivar we have been noticing at local nurseries this year is the Cherokee Brave Dogwood. The flowers emerge just before the leaves, making it a nice accent for staggered spring color and summer foliage.
Shown Above: Cherokee Brave Dogwood – Cornus florida
The flowers are compact, colored an unusual deep pink, with each bract tipped in bright white. Excellent red-to-orange fall color and a compact, upright growth habit make this a fantastic statement tree if planted alone, or a striking seasonal screen if planted in a trio. Since this tree is bred from the eastern Dogwood (Cornus florida), it can take full sun or open shade and may be hardier in hot weather and drought than the west coast species.
What else is blooming?
This post is part of our ongoing “What’s Blooming” series. As we add more, we’ll update the list here, so you can continue learning about the lovely plants blooming (or otherwise looking great) in the Seattle area each month.
What’s Blooming Now: A Quick Guide for Spring Plants in Seattle Wondering what's blooming in Seattle in the spring? Maybe you’ve noticed some flowers on your walks around town and don’t know what they are? We are certainly big fans of when the flowers start peeking out in the spring. Here is a quick guide to some of our favorites that you will find in Seattle.
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