Our delightful dogwoods | Squamish Chief

Our delightful dogwoods

The dogwood or cornus tree/shrubs and even ground cover family are perhaps one of the most quintessential West Coast favourites in the garden. Even if you have never bought one at the nursery, if you live in Squamish and own property it is likely that you have some kind of indigenious dogwood nearby.

The hybrid cornus "Eddie's white wonder" is perhaps one of the best-loved and well-known trees in coastal gardens. As I write this I am looking out at my back garden where "Eddie" is full of generous clusters of huge, cross-shaped flowers.Nothing says spring more than Eddie's white wonder.

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The Eddie's white wonder tree has a local spin. The tree was grown and bred in 1940 by a Vancouver nursery owner Henry Eddie. He cleverly crossed the eastern dogwood (cornus florida) with our native western dogwood (cornus nuttalli). The final product was a superior of cross of both parents and this new dogwood went on to receive international acclaim. In addition to itsoutstanding pedigree, Eddie's white wonder is a wonderful tree for the home garden.

Dogwoods grow best in full sun or light shade in good, rich organic soil. They appreciate our soil's natural acidity and they like to have moist, well-drained growing conditions.

Dogwoods are prone to a fungal disease called anthracnose that is widely spread in our area of B.C. The good news is that cornus "Eddie's white wonder" is one of the most disease-resistant dogwoods grown today.

If you already have an "Eddie," take a look at cornus florida rubra, the very popular red flowering dogwood that produces pink flowers.Check out varieties like "Cherokee chief," which produce reddish flowers in the spring and its leaves turn red in the fall. Another red-flowering variety is "Cherokee sunset," with deep pink flowers early in the season before the tree leafs out, and yellowish-green variegated leaves which turn pink and white in the fall.

Cornus controversa "variegata" is an elegant addition to the garden as well.Often hard to find, it has green/white variegated foliage (which almost appear to shine when the sunlight is behind the tree), and a graceful open pyramid shape with delicate tiered branches.

The red-flowering and variegated types mentioned here also have a good resistance to anthracnose, so are the best choices of dogwoods for our area. If you happen to have the indigenous variety cornus nuttallii, or western dogwood, these can often be more prone to anthracnose.

Anthracnose presents itself as brown spots, blotches and wedge-shaped discolouration at the leaf tips. Leaves may drop early and twigs and branches may develop cankers and dieback. If you drive around town and see a dogwood where the blooms are only on the upper canopy of the tree and all the lower branches are dead looking, you may be seeing anthracnose.

Another sign of the disease is when you see dead terminal buds and leaves, remaining attached to dead branches in the spring. Unfortunately, the disease thrives in periods of wet weather and overhead irrigation in cool, moist springs.

The best plan of action to deal with the disease is to rake up any fallen leaves during the growing season and in the fall and dispose of them. Prune out the dead, diseased branches and put them directly in the garbage. If you have a small tree and it is in the beginning stages of the disease, you may want to try a fungicide application at bud break, and then 10 to 14 days later. If rainy periods persist after the first application, you may want to repeat later in the season.

Cornus trees can provide years of pleasure and are a wonderful addition to our coastal gardens.

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