Dogwood reality question

blue3tooOctober 20, 2013

I am intrigued by some beautiful online photos about dogwood and planned to get one in my yard. The shapes of these online dogwood trees are very nice. However, all the small dogwood trees I found in nearby nurseries/homedepot are not that good. I suspect these trees I found could eventually develop those nice shapes in the photo

I enclosed the photos I took in homedepot. you can see that the shape doesn't look like it could develop that kind of crown shape I want.
Any commnet? should I try these small dogwood trees? can they grow or trained to grown into that kind of nice shape I want?


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Here is the pic itook at local homedepot. It doesn't look like to be able to grow into those nice shapes

    Bookmark   October 20, 2013 at 5:36PM
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The first photo looks to be a kousa dogwood, Cornus kousa. They are known for developing a rather horizontal, even layered canopy. But it doesn't happen immediately - this look is achieved with a good deal of age and maturity. And generally minimal pruning - dogwood trees tend not to react well to much pruning. It also makes a difference with the form you start out with - not all trees of the same type are created equally and some are just more naturally inclined to a very attractive, even sculptural growth habit. Not even pruning or a lot of training can necessarily create a silk purse from a sow's ear :-)

The eastern dogwoods, Cornus florida, can also develop more spread with age but IME, not as much as the kousas. And many of the hybrid flowering dogwoods have a totally different growth habit, plus they get much larger. Pick the right tree with the right early shape to begin with and you are off to a pretty good start of having a tree that winds up looking like your first photo.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2013 at 6:13PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

the short answer to gals answer is simple ...

you make a tree.. thru pruning... into the shape you want ..

it is NOT a matter of hope and prayer ...

and we can teach you .. if you have the drive to come back often ...

if i were planting the tree in your pic ... i would probably.. upon planting.. snip off every leafless branch below the first one with leaves ... as i like a bit of height on my trees for mowing reasons ... and in a decade.. the 2 feet i cleared up that trunk.. will be irrelevant to the mature tree you started with ...

do you have good pruning shears.. and know how to prune properly ... NO STUBS ...

and as to the planting itself.. read and follow all directions at the link .. no amending.. loosen roots.. no fert ... native soil.. special rules for clay ... and 2 years of PROPER WATERING ...

if i were to think about the bigboxstore plant.. i would pull it out of the pot.. and look at the roots prior to buying ...

finally.. late season bargains at BBStore... can be a big bargain ... but if they have been sitting there MIGHT be problematic ... but based on the bargain ... what the heck ... but without good roots... nothing is going to live long.. look for white root tips .. and circling roots that you will be able to unwind a bit.. if its so root bound.. that it is choking itself to death ... skip it ..


Here is a link that might be useful: lilnk

    Bookmark   October 21, 2013 at 7:39AM
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Hi, Ken and gardengal48, thanks for you answers.

Ken, what kind of shear should I get for this kind of gardening job? and where is the link for "and as to the planting itself.. read and follow all directions at the link .. no amending.. loosen roots.. no fert ... native soil.. special rules for clay " ? I live california and have heavy clay soil.

If I cleared the lower branches (without leaves) as you suggested, I guess it still cannot grow into the shape in my 1st pic, right? that tree in the pic branches almost on the ground. I am not paranoic to get that shape, I am just curious.

actually these maples and dogwoods just arrive at my local HD store, which seem don't give discount for trees even it is late season. Seems they just haul them away if they are not sold.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2013 at 7:45PM
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or any good suggested readings/videos on how to pruning for shape? thx

    Bookmark   October 21, 2013 at 7:47PM
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jimbobfeeny(5a IN)

Flowering dogwood really doesn't require pruning; Part of what makes it such a desirable tree is its natural architecture.

Photo courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden

It takes a while to recognize the integral beauty and architecture of wild trees and flowers; Once you do, it opens up a vast possibility of gardening choices and combinations.

Photo Courtesy University of Connecticut

And yes, I have seen them like that around here. Most often, they are fairly large (20-30 feet tall) trees in the understory or at the edge of the forest - They are fairly common around here. The key to good form with Flowering Dogwood is to find a tree of local provenance. Most of the problems with Flowering Dogwood (around here, anyways!) seem to stem from using plants that were grown in southern nurseries.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2013 at 9:02PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

"where is the link for...I live california and have heavy clay soil."

The information in the link is generalized and should work for all locations. Backfill in heavy clay soil should not be amended (if you just have to add something for your own peace of mind, don't add much). Section 7 of the document linked above should cover that information.

I also wanted to re-emphasize Ken's comments on checking out the root system. You may even want to consider partial bare rooting (a little less aggressive approach than complete bare rooting, where some potting medium is left on roots and therefor less small roots are compromised, but all circling roots can be addressed).

    Bookmark   October 21, 2013 at 11:19PM
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Sorry, maybe it is a stupid question, but where is the link?

    Bookmark   October 22, 2013 at 12:31AM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

The link is in blue at the bottom of Ken's post.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2013 at 6:03AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

the link was at the bottom of my post.. HIGHLIGHTED ...

and link was misspelled ... lilnk ....

it said: Here is a link that might be useful: lilnk

if you wanted one .. like your first pic.. then you should have chosen one with multiple trunks ...


    Bookmark   October 22, 2013 at 7:49AM
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Thanks guys. It is a good article and let me be aware of mistakes I made for some of my previous plants. My previous practice has been dig a big/wide hole and completely replace the original soil with compost/garden soil mix. I had thought it is better since the original soil is heavy clay.

Recently I have been thinking about using raised plant bed (1~1.5 feet high and 4~5 feet diameter) for japanese maple / flax / dogwood trees. do you think it is a good idea?

also, should I do any thing with the heavy clay soil? I also bought some gypsum planning to add it into my yard, but haven't done it yet. I was thinking to apply these gypsum to my yard/garden and the comming the rain season in california will help to make the chemical reaction happen. Probably next spring would be a good season to add most compost. Do you think I should plant trees this fall or next spring? I already have bought 2 jpanese maple and some flaxes still sitting in the pot. I would take your suggestion in account on deciding when to move them into my yard.

I still hope to amend the yard soil a little better to help the plants grow easily/heathily.


This post was edited by blue3too on Tue, Oct 22, 13 at 14:14

    Bookmark   October 22, 2013 at 2:10PM
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In CA, like most other parts of the west coast, you can plant pretty much anytime through winter. Therefore, there doesn't tend to be many "end of season" sales or discounts because there really isn't an end of season :-)) Except for some annuals.

Most recommendations are to NOT amend individual planting holes. That does not mean you cannot amend the soil overall - you just want to do so over the largest possible area so that the soil structure is uniform throughout. Clay soils are not always the horror they are made out to be - the primary concern is good drainage. As long as that is available, clay is great for holding nutrients and for moisture retention and many plants will grow very happily in unamended clay.

Unless you have heavily sodic soils, gypsum is not very helpful in lightening heavy or clay soil. What you want is organic matter, like compost, and a reasonable quantity of it, too. No reason not to work it in now. Unless you are in the southern, highly arid (desert) area of CA, you can probably skip the gypsum as unnecessary. Raised beds are always a great way of working around the issues of heavy or clay soils, including poor drainage.

In areas with warm, dry summers, fall plantings can be a real benefit for the plants being able to establish with the fall and winter rains. Since you already have the plants on hand, go with the raised beds and plant now.

One final comment on the dogwood. Other than trimming off the bare lower (and possibly dead) twigs, do no other pruning at this time. Dogwoods need an opportunity to grow into their mature shape and that happens with time and patience. And with dogwoods in particular, any pruning should be approached with a very light touch. They respond to heavy or frequent pruning with a plethora of shoots and stem growth at the cut, resulting in a medusa look. Not at all attractive and the opposite of what you are hoping to achieve.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2013 at 5:46PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

It often concerns me when I hear people agree with not amending the backfill when planting trees but then suggest that it's perfectly OK if larger areas are amended. There's some truth in that line of thinking, but there's also a HUGE possibility of misunderstanding this situation. I always worry that people won't think it through and believe that, as long as a larger area is amended, everything is fine.

The single biggest issue with amending soil (and, yes, there are others) is drainage. One of the main potential drainage problems occurs at the soil interface along the bottom of the planting hole (or amended soil region). Not all cases will result in drainage problems, but the wrong amendment, or excessive amount of amendment, can definitely lead to problems.

As Gardengal mentioned, check your soil's drainage before assuming that your clay soil won't work well. If you do have a drainage problem, amending the soil is not likely to improve that situation. Amending the planting hole in poorly draining soil causes what is often referred to as a "bathtub" effect. Amending a large area in poorly draining soil causes what I will call the "olympic-sized swimming pool effect" and is no better for your tree. Berms (a more natural looking version of a raised bed) may be a good choice for poorly draining soil situations (where you just must plant something that requires better drainage than what your site would normally allow).

    Bookmark   October 22, 2013 at 10:29PM
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