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a mixed year here for kousa dogwoods

kousa-branchI T’S NOT THE BEST KOUSA DOGWOOD YEAR EVER here, with only half-hearted blooms in most cases and some of the gang having taken a decided hit in the up-and-down weather. But it’s Cornus kousa (or Korean dogwood) season nonetheless, so time to visit the gang and celebrate them.

kousa-with-golden-yewI have an unnamed Kousa seedling near the front path (top and above), a favorite of the chipmunks when it’s in fruit because they live in a wall right beneath the tree (their post-feast debris, below). Its “feet” are hidden by two low-growing prostrate golden yews (above), which will show off the peeling Kousa bark nicely year-round as the trunk shapes up with age.

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My favorite Kousa, the variegated shrublike one called ‘Wolf Eyes,’ looks anything but happy right now, perhaps a combination of an extra-dry May with repeat late frosts tossed in for good measure. That’s it below, in the distance.

variegated-kousaMea culpa for not watering it properly, I guess; it looked good early on and then, poof, toast.  No brittle twigs, thankfully; just lots of crisp leaf edges. I’m watching for signs of what it wants to do next before I do anything but keep it well-hydrated (no food, no pruning, not yet).

weeping-kousa-flowersAnd then there’s the smallest: a weeping Kousa, the one called ‘Lustgarten Weeping’ that I almost tossed, as those of you who were here last year will recall. Despite the fact that my un-beloved yellow bellied sapsucker male apparently moved from the nearby lacebark pine that was his passion last year to the weeping Kousa sometime in the last few months, it’s flowering mightily (the appropriately smaller flowers, above), trying to carry on as if nobody turned its bark to a stencil pattern. Yikes, and just when I had finally gotten to like the plant (of course).

Admittedly, I have a wandering eye. I’ve been noticing a few pink-flowered Kousas nearby the last week in my travels and feeling almost tempted…maybe there will be another adoption soon, but I have some reading to do first on which varieties are best, or whether an intermediate hybrid between C. kousa and C. florida would be better. Which Kousa dogwoods do you grow, and how are they faring this year as spring turns to summer?

  1. kelly says:

    Oh dear, yes it sounds like dogwood anthracnose. Well over half the leaves have shriveled and turned brown and are starting to drop. I hope this doesn’t kill my poor tree! I think moisture and lack of sun could be to blame. This has been a terribly rainy year, in fact it is pouring rain here as I write, and we have really only had 4 days of sun this year so far. Also it probably did not help that I did not clean up last falls leaves from underneath it. Thank you for the reply Margaret!

  2. Bobbi Moyer says:

    Hi Margaret,
    I have a young Kousa Dogwood tree that I planted in 2009. It held up well during the hot dry summer and we’ve more than made up for our lack of rain during late summer and Fall. My question is this, last weekend we had temperatures go down to 28 degrees one night and the Kousa’s leaves went from dark green to curled muddy brown almost overnight. Should I be concerned? I do not see any “Red” leaves on the tree. It’s just the crown, the protected leaves below are still green. I must say that before this freeze, some of the leaves did have brown edges which I just attributed to the hot summer. Any suggestions?

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Bobbi. Fall color on everything is really dependent on the conditions being right much of the season and into fall (moisture, temp, other stresses it experienced…) so no, nothing to worry about probably. This year we are having a so-so year of color on many things here after some dry bouts…even some of my tried and trues are only so-so. A very hard freeze suddenly as the laves are already in that winding-down state seems to toast them. My Aesculus that always goes hot yellow is blackish-brown, got nipped before it could show off.

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