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Dogwoods near the Cottage Garage.

Dogwoods are one of the most popular flowering trees in the tri-state area. They are native to eastern North America and northern Mexico and will grow in most of the northern hemisphere. Botanists are unsure how many different varieties or species of dogwood exist. Estimates run between thirty and sixty different varieties, the most common being Cornus florida. In the U.S., their range is from Southern Maine to Northern Mexico but can be grown almost anywhere in hardiness zones 5 through 8. Various varieties of C. florida have been exported to other countries.

The true dogwood flowers are actually tiny, yellowish-green and compacted into small clusters surrounded by four showy, white, petal-like bracts which open flat, giving the appearance of a single, large, white flower with four petals.

The flowers are self-fertilizing and will ultimately develop into brightly colored red fruit which becomes visible towards fall.

These fruits are a valuable food source for many types of wildlife, particularly songbirds. An excellent source of vitamin C, the fruits have been used in traditional medicines. Other parts of the tree have medicinal uses also, including the bark, which is rich in tannin and can be used as a substitute for quinine.

Wood from dogwoods has many uses because of its very fine grain and density. Craftsmen use it for intricate carvings and musical instruments. Because of its density, it has also been used to make wine presses and wooden golf clubs.

A pink dogwood grows next to the Main Driveway.

A magnificent Kousa dogwood borders the Reflecting Pool Terrace.

Dogwoods have become a beloved plant in our area and you can see many cultivated forms, ranging in size from fifteen to thirty feet, depending upon the species. Cornus kousa, commonly called Kousa dogwood (above) is an Asian species. It flowers in late spring with bracts that are pointed, rather than rounded like those on C. florida. The true flowers form red, berry-like fruits that attract songbirds.

Cornus 'KN30-8' (VenusŽ) is a hybrid dogwood (Cornus kousa 'Chinensis' x Cornus nuttalii Goldspot' x Cornus kousa 'Rosea') developed by Elwin R. Orton, Jr. as part of the Jersey Star series of dogwoods released by Rutgers University. It is noted for its vigorous habit, very large bracts, profuse bloom and resistance to powdery mildew and anthracnose, a disease that has plagued native species in our region. It is a small deciduous tree with a dense, spreading habit. The plant breeders declare it to be more vigorous than current known cultivars of Cornus kousa. Two Venus dogwoods grow in Greenwood Gardens’ Main Axis.

A small grove of Cornus florida ‘Appalachian Spring’ is part of the newly renovated Oval Garden located in the Forecourt of Greenwood’s 1950s house. This dogwood is a natural hybrid that was found growing in the wild on the Catoctin mountains in Maryland at Camp David, the presidential retreat, and was chosen for its disease resistance. Soon, these dogwoods will be underplanted with a variety of small-leaved evergreen rhododendron and graceful Pennsylvania sedge surrounded by a perimeter that will pop with colorful flowering winter heaths.

Scott Lamm is an internationally certified arborist who has been caring for trees in the Millburn-Short Hills community for 45 years. His passion for trees began as a young boy when he determined to spend his life working to preserve trees as a legacy for the future. Scott has helped save and care for Greenwood’s magnificent trees for many years. Working closely with Rutgers University, he shares his knowledge and skills as a consultant with garden clubs, arboreta, and shade tree advisory boards. “It is my life-long dream and ambition,” writes Scott, “to leave this world with more trees than when I began my career.”

Photographs by Vicki Johnson Greenwood Gardens Marketing & Communications Associate

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Greenwood Gardens' Dogwoods with Scott Lamm, Certified Arborist  

Greenwood Gardens' Dogwoods with Scott Lamm, Certified Arborist  

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