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Vermont Garden Journal: Dogwood

flickr/Mangrove Mike

Friday, May 31 at 5:57 pm & Sunday, June 2 at 9:35 am  The dogwood tree is a classic native of the Eastern American forests. The most widely known version is the flowering dogwood or Cornus florida. It grows up to 30 feet tall producing white or pink colored flower brachts in spring. The flowering dogwood is said to have gotten its name from its hard wood. Native peoples would make skewers or "dags" from the wood. Hence the tree was known as dag or dogwood.

Cornus florida graces many yards with beautiful flower displays all around homes and public parks a little further South of our region. Unfortunately, other than in protected spots, flowering dogwoods aren't quite hardy enough to grow in Vermont. Their flower buds will often get killed by late spring frosts. But there are some dogwoods that do quite well here and should be considered.

One of my favorites is the pagoda dogwood or Cornus alternifolia. Another native tree, pagoda dogwoods have tiered branches on 20 foot tall trees with alternating leaf patterns It gives a yard or garden a Japanese feel. Although not as showy as the flowering dogwood, pagoda dogwoods have flat, white flowers in spring, colorful red fruit stalks and black berries in summer and fall that birds love. It's a tough tree that can take part shade and still look attractive. There's an even more attractive version that's variegated, too.

Another dogwood is actually called a cherry. Cornelian cherry or Cornus mas, grows 20 feet tall and features bright yellow flowers that bloom early in spring, even before the forsythia open. The bright red fruits are loved by birds and can be eaten by us, too. Like the pagoda dogwood, this tough tree takes part shade and less than ideal conditions.

Now for this week's tip, when planting peppers, cover the transplants for the first few weeks with a floating row cover over wire hoops. Peppers are finicky plants about temperature and too cold or windy weather can slow flower and fruit production.

Next week on The Vermont Garden Journal I'll be talking about blueberries. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.

Cornelian Cherry
Pagoda Dogwood

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