Arguably the most beautiful of the flowering trees, (especially in Ian’s eyes – hence why he used them in his last landscape design entry at Chelsea), the Cornus florida, commonly known as Flowering Dogwood, is a wide spreading, small deciduous tree that is perfect for cooler areas of Australia. Typically growing to 10m tall, it is often wider than it is tall when mature, with a trunk diameter of up to 30cm. A 10-year-old tree will stand about 5m tall. It is low-branching, broadly-pyramidal but somewhat flat-topped. Blooming in early spring, its flowers are actually tiny, yellowish green and insignificant, being compacted into button-like clusters – however, each flower cluster is surrounded by four showy, white, petal-like bracts which open flat, giving the appearance of a single, large white flower. Oval, dark green leaves turn attractive shades of red in autumn. Bright red fruits are bitter and inedible to humans but are loved by birds. Fruits mature in late summer to early autumn and may persist until late in the year.
Flowering Dogwood thrives in moist, acidic soil in a site with some afternoon shade, but good morning sun. It’s important to plant in a protected position as it does not do well when exposed to intense heat sources such as adjacent parking lots or air conditioning compressors. New plantings should be mulched to a depth of 5 to 10 cm, avoiding the stem. Dead wood and leaves should be pruned and completely removed and destroyed yearly. Plants should be watered weekly during the hot summer months or in drought conditions, with watering done in the morning, avoiding wetting the foliage.
We’ve chosen to use Flowering Dogwood in some of our past garden designs for their sheer beauty and subtle colourings. When planted next to a grand, period house, it allows the exterior of the property to really shine.