Celestial Shadow Dogwood TreeCornus x rutgersensis 'Celestial Shadow'
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Cornus x rutgersensis 'Celestial Shadow'
Outdoor Growing zone
The Celestial Shadow Dogwood Tree is a spectacular small tree, which has something beautiful to offer all year round. In spring it begins with dramatic creamy-white and green variegated leaves, and in May and early June these are overshadowed by masses of huge, pure-white blossoms. The variegation holds well all summer, and in the fall the tree blazes with pink and red fall coloring. This tree can reach 20 feet tall and wide, and it is ideal on a lawn or along the edges of a wooded area. It makes a colorful backdrop to other shrubs, and it also would look wonderful around your home.
The Celestial Shadow Dogwood Tree is easily grown in zones 6, 7 and 8, and in sheltered spots in zone 5. It should have afternoon shade in warmer zones, and it grows best in moist, well-drained soil, although established trees have some drought resistance. This tree has been specially bred to resist the deadly dogwood anthracnose disease that is so destructive in some parts of the country, and it is not attacked by dogwood borers. Other pests or diseases are rare and insignificant. Pruning is not needed, and once well situated, this tree is easy to grow, and endlessly rewarding.
Flowering dogwoods are among the most beautiful of all trees for the garden, with fantastic form, powerful and beautiful blooms, and often with vibrant fall coloring too. It is a shame that between flowering and fall, they are simply green – a pleasant background, but nothing more. At least, until now. With the Celestial Shadow Dogwood Tree, its magnificent variegated foliage ensures it is always eye-catching, even when it is not smothered in pure-white blooms, or vibrant with pinks and reds in fall.
The Celestial Shadow Dogwood Tree grows to be a small rounded tree, sometimes with several main trunks, growing to about 20 feet tall in time, and being 15 to 20 feet wide. Its smooth, rounded contours, with a dense form, look wonderful in the garden, and they are greatly emphasized by the gorgeous foliage. The leaves are 3 to 5 inches long, smooth ovals with a tapering tip. Each leaf is marked slightly differently, green, with creamy-white margins. The margins are always broad, but they vary in width, creating an attractive, irregular green center. The foliage variegation is held well, appearing on the new leaves in spring, and remaining bright and distinctive throughout the summer. This tree sparkles and glows in the shade, standing out from the crowd of green around it. Dogwood trees are known for their fall color, and in the Celestial Shadow Dogwood Tree it is especially outstanding, since when red is laid over the variegation, two shades are instantly created, with pink margins and burgundy centers.
This tree literally blazes with color in fall, and even if that was all it did, it would be enough to earn it a place in any garden. But there is much more, because in the second-half of May and into June, after the leaves have opened, the large white flowers appear in clusters all along the branches. These flowers, a full 4½ inches across, have 4 overlapping ‘petals’, with a small, knobbly green center. In fact, that green center is the flower cluster, and the ‘petals’ are modified leaves, called bracts. Like the bracts, the flowers too overlap each other, making a carpet of pure white across the cream and green foliage. The overall effect is stunning, and a tree in bloom is a joy to behold. This tree is sterile, so the red berries which can briefly occur on flowering dogwoods will not be seen, but they are fleeting anyway, so their absence is not of much concern.
Grow the Celestial Shadow Dogwood Tree as a lawn specimen – it is certainly worthy of a showcase spot in your garden. It is also perfect in beds, behind shorter shrubs, or planted along the margins of a wooded area. It can be planted in groups of 3 or even 5 in a large garden, or as a row along a boundary or fence. It is also perfect around your home, between windows, or against a blank wall on the north or east side. Allow enough room for its final width, and don’t crowd its beauty.
The Celestial Shadow Dogwood Tree should be carefully sited in your garden. A spot with morning sun and afternoon shade is important, and the roots should be in full shade, if possible. An east-facing position, with trees to the west, will usually give the best light conditions. Choose carefully, as hot afternoon sun, especially during dry periods, can scorch and damage the beautiful foliage, especially in zone 8. In zone 5 this tree needs a sheltered location, and full sun is ideal, as long as the soil is damp in summer. The best soil conditions are rich, moist, well-drained soil, with a neutral to slightly acidic pH value (7.0 or less), but with plenty of organic material added to the soil it will tolerate a few points of alkalinity. Mulch each spring with organic material to keep the roots damp and cool. Once you have a good site and suitable soil this tree is easy to grow, needing no special care. This particular variety has good resistance to the fatal dogwood anthracnose disease, which has killed many trees in some areas, so if you have lost a tree before, this one should be fine. It is also resistant to dogwood borers, and other pests and diseases are rare, and not particularly significant. Normally pruning is not needed, but you may want to remove a few lower branches to develop a good clear trunk, while the tree is growing. Wash pruners and saws with alcohol before pruning, if you are also pruning other dogwoods, to reduce the risk of spreading anthracnose.
Dr. Elwin Orton spent 50 years at Rutgers University, New Jersey, breeding dogwoods, and teaching. He wanted to create beautiful trees that were resistant to dogwood anthracnose, and the series he created is a tribute to his success. He took the American flowering dogwood, Cornus florida, and crossed it with the Japanese dogwood, Cornus kousa. That tree grows in Japan, China and Korea, and flowers later than the American dogwood, which grows from Maine to Florida. His hybrids between these two species are vigorous, disease resistant, and they flower in between the times of their parents, so that growing all three will give you a very long dogwood season. In 2015 his hybrids were officially designated as Cornus x rutgersensis, and one of them, from the 1980s, is a tree called ‘Rutdan’, sold as Celestial®. One day a plant of that variety produced a unique, mutated branch, with variegated foliage, which when separated and rooted became ‘Celestial Shadow’, the beautiful and vigorous tree we have found a supply of. This outstanding tree is in great demand, so order now, as our stock will soon be gone.