Use Kousa dogwoods to improve landscapes

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

The Kousa dogwood makes a beautiful tree-form with horizontal branches and is used in landscaping as a specimen plant, in borders and for accent plantings.

Even though they are usually grown for decoration, they make an excellent patio-garden plant that will attract birds into your landscape. They are also highly resistant to dogwood borer and dogwood anthracnose problems, which have been plaguing flowering dogwoods in recent years.

They grow best in partial shade and will tolerate full-sun, growing to 15- 25 feet with a 25-foot spread. Kousa dogwoods can be grown in climatic zones 5–8 and prefer being planted in a well-drained acidic soil.

This native to East Asia was introduced into the United States in 1875. Some of the best examples of Kousa dogwood plantings can be found at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pa., and at the Botanical Gardens at Sandhills Community College.

We have a specimen at the Brunswick Botanical Gardens in Bolivia that is just beginning to bloom. I must say it has been through a lot and was transplanted to a new location about two years ago as a medium-size plant. We have high hopes it will succeed here because of the many offerings this plant provides with flower form, color, texture, leaf and flower shape and its unusual fruit.

Although not as showy or as early as Cornus Florida, Kousa dogwood is in demand for its grower friendliness. Gardeners often wonder about pest problems that have limited the use of dogwoods in their area. Cornus kousa is an excellent substitute for the more common flowering dogwood, Cornus Florida, which has been plagued with a number of disease and insect problems. This handsome small tree adds year-round beauty. The bark is initially smooth and light brown, later exfoliating into small patches forming a tan and brown camouflage pattern. This mottled, exfoliating bark catches the eye creating interest in the wintertime.

White flowers then follow in May and June and give a “Milky Way” effect, which extends the flowering season of our more common native flowering dogwood, Cornus Florida. As an added bonus, the late spring flowers appear with the leaves and cover the tree. These pointed white petals are actually modified leaves called bracts. They surround clusters of tiny yellow true flowers.

An incredibly showy plant, Cornus kousa’s red strawberry-like fruit hangs down among the green leaves. The edible fruit persists into autumn, complimenting the purplish-red fall foliage. The fruit is sweet and edible but somewhat mealy. We have both types of dogwood growing in our botanical garden. Come and check them out and see if they could be a future addition to your landscape.