Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Cloud of White Dogwoods Moves Northward

Bird-planted dogwood  I moved from the pumphouse edge when it was tiny.

Farther North Dogwoods will usher in Easter. They opened here to usher in Spring, great clouds of white in gardens and woods. Cornus florida are a Georgia native and grow in much of the Eastern USA.

Neighbors told me mixed stories of success in moving native dogwoods from the woods. On the road to the church, a line of large dogwoods march along the creek bank in the McVey yard. That neighbor and her MIL moved them from the woods. She had a terrible case of poison ivy to show for it. Another neighbor told me of never being able to get dogwoods to survive a move.

Dogwood here started with two that survived when her nephew helped my MIL move some from the woods after several failures some 60 years ago. The one above grows high into live oaks that came up around it. At right you can see the dark twisted multiple trunks of the second one which is obscured by a big red cedar. Seeds from these trees account for smaller dogwoods dotted around the garden.

The dogwood above is one that I grew from seed and moved
it and its twin across the way while it was small.
They are about 5 years old and blooming for the first time.
The one in the distance is bird-planted. The camellia at right is from seed.

Closer view of the big dogwood in the picture above.
I encouraged the self-planted oak before the dogwood appeared.

Online, there are many sources of information on stratifying and scarifying dogwood seeds gathered in autumn. My methods are simple. When the red seeds begin to fall to the ground I gather them and push them into the ground about an inch deep where I want them to grow. Sometimes it takes 2 or 3 years for them to self-stratify but they will come up eventually.  Bird-planted seeds stratify in the bird gut and readily sprout.

Another bird-planted dogwood in front of loropetalum.
This one is about ten years old. Their first years average about one foot a year.
The pale yellowish foliage behind is new growth of a live oak.

Seedling in the foreground from seeds in a bed. I moved its companions.
Dogwoods in the background are seeds I planted 15 or more years ago. 

 Bird-planted dogwood on the right. When I see the little heart-shaped veined leaves,
I can hardly bear to pull up a stray seedling and discard.

Waiting for azaleas to catch up.

Most of the literature states that dogwoods require an acid soil and that lime is sure death to them. I planted a Philadelphus and gave it a good dollop of lime its first year here. The next year a dogwood seed dropped by a bird came up in the middle of the planting spot and thrived.

Philadelphus inodorata growing in harmony with a bird-planted dogwood.
The dogwood blooms first. Blooms of Phildelphus follow and reach up into the
dogwood to keep white blossoms going for a longer time.

Information about more formal methods of growing dogwoods can be found in this Gardening Note from North Carolina State University.
 Legends and superstitions are connected with the dogwood. My friend asked the bulldozer operator preparing the site for their new house to leave as many dogwoods on the lot as he could. "Lady," he said, "I don't push up dogwoods. It's bad luck!"

In Jesus' time, the dogwood grew
To a stately size and a lovely hue.
'Twas strong and firm it's branches interwoven
For the cross of Christ its timbers were chosen.
Seeing the distress at this use of their wood
Christ made a promise which still holds good:
"Never again shall the dogwood grow
Large enough to be used so.
Slender and twisted, it shall be
With blossoms like the cross for all to see.
As blood stains the petals marked in brown
The blossom's center wears a thorny crown.
All who see it will remember Me
Crucified on a cross from the dogwood tree.
Cherished and protected, this tree shall be
A reminder to all of My agony." -- author unknown
This is just a legend: a nice poem without Biblical basis.


  1. When I think of dogwood my mind instantly turns to red stems for Winter interest. The dogwood which you show us I would love to try in my Aberdeen garden in Scotland. We have rather cool Summer temperatures and I wonder if it needs more heat to prepare for flowering the following year.

  2. It's just starting here. The cloud of white across the street is intertwined with wisteria. I just noticed it was blooming along a powerline down the street. Sure enough, the dogwoods and wisteria here are blooming too. I love this time of year.

  3. Oops. And a note about dogwoods from seed. I take the red husk off and rub them in sand before pushing them in the soil. I have about a dozen scattered around that might bloom in 3-4 years. Most germinated over the past two springs some taking one year, others taking two.

  4. what lovely trees those are with their slender branches and pretty flowers. The azaleas are competing with them though - it looks as though you are going to have a wonderful spring in your neck of the woods.

  5. What beautiful pictures! I am from Indiana so we are quite a ways behind you. I love dogwoods and would never think to start one by seed. I do have a pink dogwood I got about 4 years ago and it has never flowered. I need to do some research and see what's wrong.

  6. What beautiful pictures! I am from Indiana so we are quite a ways behind you. I love dogwoods and would never think to start one by seed. I do have a pink dogwood I got about 4 years ago and it has never flowered. I need to do some research and see what's wrong.

  7. What a great tribute to one of my favorite trees! I've always wondered how they would do being transplanted from the woods, as I would hate to buy one having so many around. Ours are just beginning to open here in NC... a perfect timing with the azaleas. Happy Spring wishes!

  8. I noticed today the dogwoods are blooming here, too. They are so pretty. Yours are just gorgeous.

  9. Nature is just so amazing with bird carrying the seeds and spreading the plants. Your dogwood trees are all so beautiful. All those self-sown seedlings made the weeding very difficult :)

  10. When I lived in the northeast I would see dogwoods in front lawns and such as specimen plantings, but never growing in light woodland like you have. They're so lacy and delicate in among the other trees like that - a completely different look than as one sad tree next to an asphalt driveway!

  11. Our dogwoods are almost at their peak. I can't imagine spring without them! Your post is excellent. I have found the best way to transplant wild dogwoods is to do it while they are still quiet small and to do it only when they are dormant. And keep them watered well!

  12. Your garden has grown so much over the years since I have been reading your posts. This post is really excellent, Nell. I am coveting those dogwoods. Alas, they do not like our soil. We are just too sweet!

  13. Hello Nell-Jean, the flowers of the Dogwood are certainly beautiful and your green thumbs seem to keep them going wherever they emerge!

  14. My dogwoods are loaded with buds, but I will have to wait a while yet for the blooms.

    One is near the drive and everyone tells me I need to cut it down, but I can't bear to do it.

    I have never had any self-seed here. I may try the seeds this fall.

    Great post as always.


I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.

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