Pacific dogwood (cornus nuttallii - Barrick)

nw_gardener(8 (WA/Kirkland))March 14, 2011


I am hoping to plant a flowering tree in section of yard that gets South/SE exposure for about 4-5 hours a day (between my house and my neighbor). The area has these characteristics:

1. More shade close to the ground

2. Low chance of being watered during the summer drought

3. Typical clay/glacial till soil under an inch or so of organic material

4. Largely protected from winds in all directions.

A native Pacific Dogwood seemed to the criteria for that area, specifically the Barrick cultivar that appears to also rebloom in September or so (a bonus!)

I was hoping to get feedback from the experienced folk here on the feasibility of growing a native dogwood (in particular in conditions like I outlined above) - in particular, the Barrick variety. How concerned should I be about anthracnose affecting the tree?

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There is always the possibility of anthracnose with a native dogwood, maybe even more so in a cultivated setting where the tree is likely to encounter stresses not necessarily found in its native environment. Instead, I'd suggest you consider the hybrid 'Eddie's White Wonder' which offers all the attributes of our native with the important bonus of being very disease resistant as well as offering larger flower bracts.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2011 at 12:05PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Not sure the highly disease susceptible pure native species would like a heavy soil either. The hybrid that was suggested is a much better choice.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2011 at 12:23PM
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nw_gardener(8 (WA/Kirkland))

Thanks, gardengal and bboy.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2011 at 1:24PM
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As pretty as the Natives are, I'd opt for a Cornus Kousa or other species since once you get anthracnose in a native tree, it is pretty hopeless to save it. They do not like to be disturbed, and a home garden is not likely to be quiet enough for them.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 2:41PM
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mariev_seattle(PNW Z8 Sunset Z5)

There's actually a dogwood called Starlight, which is a hybrid between a Cornus kousa and a Cornus nuttallii by Rutgers University (Starlight dogwood information page). There's also a similar hybrid called Venus (Venus dogwood information page).

Last spring we planted two Starlight dogwoods in a parking strip with amended, well-draining soil on the East side of our house near Green Lake. They get morning and early afternoon sun, and they seem to be doing well. We did have to water them about once a week during the summer when the leaves began to droop. I'm hoping they'll become more drought tolerant when they're more established, but even if they aren't, they're fairly low maintenance and have wonderful spring blooms and beautiful fall color.

I've included images of our trees below.

Starlight dogwood spring bloom in late May (just two months after planting in late March)

Zoom in on Starlight dogwood blooms

Starlight dogwood fall color

Zoom in on Starlight dogwood fall color

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 2:03AM
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nw_gardener(8 (WA/Kirkland))

mariev_seattle: Thank you, that was terrific information (and beautiful plants). Your dogwoods look pretty young and I am impressed they are already blooming. From the pictures it looks like they put quite a lot of height between May and fall?

Also, would you mind sharing what kind of soil you had in this planting strip? Did you amend it much, and did you have to take permission from the city of Seattle to plant these trees? I know that Kirkland has regulations on what can and cannot be planted in planting strips.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 4:12PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Grafted stock blooms sooner than seedlings, as it has the sexual maturity of the parent plant (budwood source).

Never amend individual planting holes, this was being seen to be counterproductive over 40 years ago.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 4:34PM
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Great photos of Starlight, mariev_seattle! I just planted a small one in the fall. Hope it's as pretty as yours!

    Bookmark   March 28, 2011 at 9:42AM
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mariev_seattle(PNW Z8 Sunset Z5)

NW_gardener, we just mixed in some compost with the soil in the parking strip then topped the area with a few inches of compost when we planted the trees in March. During summer we mulched with a lot of dry holly leaves then added more compost at the start of fall. If they grew, it was probably only a few inches. The photos were taken at different angles, so that may have been why they look taller.

bboy, I know amending planting holes may discourage root growth past the amended area, but it's a really hard habit to break after 12 years of living in the Southwest where the soil had no organic matter. At least most of the soil here generally has organic matter and can be improved with compost over the years. We also dug the planting holes to be twice as wide as the root balls, so hopefully, the roots grow out and down.

Seattle also allows only certain trees to be planted as street trees, but they include Cornus kousa 'Chinensis'. When I spoke with the city arborist about our tree application and indicated that we'd like to plant the Starlight dogwoods, she approved them. The city arborist also approved other trees not on the list, so we were able to plant Crepe Myrtles.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2011 at 12:28AM
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mariev_seattle(PNW Z8 Sunset Z5)

NW_gardener, I forgot to mention that the soil in the parking strip was actually pretty decent (a mix of sand and silt with quite a bit of organic matter) even before we amended it, so it drains pretty well. Our neighbors have a Cornus kousa that was planted in an area with poor drainage for a few years, and it didn't do very well. They moved it last year, and it still doesn't look very good and hasn't really bloomed, so drainage is important.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2011 at 1:02AM
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