Of all the trees that flower in spring, the flowering dogwood, an American native tree, stands out as very special. Not only does it bloom profusely, but even when the blooms are over the foliage is handsome, and so is the stately, sweeping form of the tree. In fall the deep-red colors of the leaves are beautiful too and given how easy this tree is to grow in most gardens, no garden should be without at least one.
When choosing a variety, the Cherokee Chief Dogwood stands out, especially for its large, richly-colored pink blooms, but also for the rose-tinted foliage, and the vigorous growth of this tree. As well as being ideal for a lawn specimen, the Cherokee Chief Dogwood will thrive planted beneath large deciduous trees in a more natural setting, or in a woodland garden.
Growing Cherokee Chief Dogwood Trees
The Cherokee Chief Dogwood grows into a small tree, between 15 and 30 feet in height. It has a broad pyramid-shaped form, and a flat top, with branches low down on the tree which sweep outwards, making a magnificent specimen. Plant this tree on a lawn, and always leave plenty of room for it to develop its full width, which is usually as much as the tree is tall – up to 30 feet wide. Plant well away from buildings, as you don’t want to have to prune such a beautiful tree. This tree comes into bloom early, usually in April, with or shortly after the blooming of trees like the Appalachian Redbud and Forest Pansy Redbud, which make beautiful companions for this tree, and grow in similar situations.
The blooms of the Cherokee Chief Dogwood are not really flowers. In this tree the true flowers are tiny, yellowish-green, and look like a small button. But surrounding them are four large bracts – modified leaves – that are a rich rosy-red color, much redder, darker and more striking than the color of other pinky-red dogwood trees. Spreading out around the small central cluster of insignificant flowers, these bracts create a beautiful ‘flower’ 3 to 4 inches across, and these crowd the branches densely, hiding the bark and creating a stunning display in your garden. You may have seen the common white flowering dogwood, or other light-pink varieties, but once you see the Cherokee Chief Dogwood you will never forget its unique beauty.
As the blooms begin to fade the new leafy shoots emerge. In the Cherokee Chief Dogwood these are vigorous and tinted magenta-rose. As the new leaves are also covered with a fine coating of silvery hairs, the overall effect is spectacular. Even when the leaves are fully open the magenta coloring persists, giving the leaves a deep, rich green color, darker and more striking than is seen in other forms of this tree. The flowers are replaced with a cluster of berries, green in summer, but turning bright red by late summer and fall. The leaves in fall turn deep, powerful shades of red too, making this tree an outstanding addition to your garden, with every-changing features, from early spring until the last leaf falls.
Planting and Initial Care
The Cherokee Chief Dogwood is a vigorous and tough tree, and it grows well in most ordinary garden conditions. It will grow in both full sun and partial shade, preferring partial shade (especially in the afternoons) in more southern gardens. It will grow well in ordinary garden soil, and it thrives best in moist, well-drained soil that has been enriched with organic material. Mulch your tree each spring with organic material, to conserve moisture and feed your tree as well.
Although not highly drought-resistant, the Cherokee Chief Dogwood is more resistant to periods of drought than other varieties of dogwood, so established trees will find normal periods of summer drought no problem at all. It is also very vigorous, so it is less likely to be affected by the pests and diseases that dogwoods can suffer from. No pruning is needed, although you can remove lower shoots to create a single trunk, or to allow just two or three trunks to create a multi-stem tree form. Any dead branches should be removed but allowing your tree to develop and mature naturally will give the best results.
History and Origins of the Cherokee Chief Dogwood
The Cherokee Chief Dogwood is a selected form of the flowering dogwood (Cornus florida). This American tree grows naturally from Maine and southern Canada through Illinois west to Kansas and south into Florida, Texas and Mexico. It grows in open woodlands and near lakes and rivers. The wild tree has white blooms that are a beautiful sight in wild areas every spring, before the leaves appear on the trees.
In the early 1950s, Isaac J. Hawkersmith found a chance dogwood seedling growing at his nursery, the ‘Ike Hawkersmith Nursery’ near Sweetwater, Tennessee. He noticed its unusual appearance, and he took some buds to grow by grafting them onto seedling dogwoods. When he realized how unique and special the wonderful flower color and the rose-tinted foliage was, he named this outstanding plant ‘Cherokee Chief’. In 1958 he was granted a patent (PP#1710), which expired in 1978. The discovery of this tree began the development of a large industry in Franklin County, Tennessee, producing dogwood trees of many kinds for sale across the country.
Our plants of the Cherokee Chief Flowering Dogwood are grown by attaching buds from the correct tree onto seedling dogwoods and growing them into sturdy plants. Of all the flowering dogwood trees, this one is a perennial favorite, and our stock will not be with us long. Don’t settle for less than the best – order now.