Constellation Dogwood TreeCornus x rutgersensis 'Rutcan'
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Cornus x rutgersensis 'Rutcan'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Constellation® Flowering Dogwood is a vigorous deciduous tree growing to 20 feet tall, with a narrower and more upright profile than other dogwood trees. It begins to bloom in the middle of May, when the leaves are already out, but blooming is so prolific the leaves are mostly hidden by the large flowers. These are white, 5 inches across, with 4 petals making a star. Fruit is not produced, and in fall this tree turns stunning shades of deep red and purple. Plant this tree as a lawn specimen, at the edge of woodlands, or at the back of shrub borders.
The Constellation Flowering Dogwood grows in zones 6 to 8, and in warmer, sheltered spots in zone 5. It needs rich, moist and well-drained soil, that is acidic or neutral. Regular mulches with organic material, and deep summer watering, helps this tree do exceptionally well. It is a hybrid plant created specifically to be resistant to the lethal anthracnose disease of dogwoods, so it is a great replacement if you have lost trees to that disease. It is also resistant to unsightly powdery mildew, it rarely suffers from any other pests or diseases, and deer leave it alone.
Among plants, hybrids – seedlings from cross-pollination of two different species – are often more vigorous and healthier than either parent. This ‘hybrid vigor’ certainly applies to the Stellar Series of flowering dogwood trees created at Rutgers University. These combine the best traits of the American dogwood and the Asian dogwood, in a cross-Pacific meeting that has given us some wonderful flowering trees for our gardens. All are lovely, and, most importantly, resistant to the deadly anthracnose disease devastating both wild and garden plants of the American dogwood. That alone would be a great reason to plant them, but they are also gorgeous and different. Dogwoods grow wide, but if you have a narrower space available, the white-flowering hybrid dogwood tree from Rutgers called Constellation® is a winner.
The Constellation® Flowering Dogwood is an upright flowering tree that grows around 20 feet tall. Most flowering dogwood trees are at least as broad as they are tall, but this one is more slender, spreading to only 15 feet wide when mature, and considerably less in its early years. This means that it will slip into spaces where other trees of this type will become too large. Perhaps you have a spot in the angle of two walls, or a limited place between other large trees in your garden. Perhaps you want it as a lawn specimen, but the lawn is a little small. Whatever the reason – or just for its natural more slender grace – this tree is simply gorgeous. The branches remain low, so it always has a beautiful profile, and the flowers show well, not hidden on high branches above a bare trunk. Planted among other dogwoods, the more slender profile makes for an attractive contrast. The bark is handsome, with flaking and peeling pieces revealing ever-changing patterns of grays and tans, adding to the winter interest of your garden.
The leaves of the Constellation Flowering Dogwood are graceful, broad ovals, with a slender pointed tip. They are 3 to 5 inches long, with an attractive density and a deep green color. In fall they turn rich shades of deep reds and purples, making a wonderful display in your garden, and adding to the beauty of that special season. Flowering comes just after the American dogwood, and before the Asian dogwood, so this tree neatly bridges the time between them. It flowers after the leaves, but the flowering is so profuse that the leaves are mostly obscured by the large blooms. The ‘petals’ of the flowers are really modified leaves called ‘bracts’, and they are heart-shaped, with a long tapering point, making a four-pointed white star 5 inches across. The bracts in this tree are well-spaced, and not overlapping, emphasizing the star-like appearance. The true flowers are a small, greenish cluster of petal-less flowers in the center of the bracts, making the bright-point of the star. As often happens with hybrid plants, no fruit or seeds are produced by this tree. A tree in bloom is a glorious thing, and you will just love the beauty this tree brings to your garden. Flowering typically runs through the second-half of May, but that will vary a little depending on your location and the local weather each year.
The Constellation Flowering Dogwood is hardy in zones 6, 7 and 8. It can also be planted in sheltered spots in warmer parts of zone 5. For colder parts of zone 5 we recommend the Kousa Dogwood and its varieties. It grows best in moist but well-drained soil, which should be enriched with plenty of organic material, like garden compost, rotted leaves or even peat moss. This tree prefers soils that are acid to neutral, and alkaline soils, which are found, for example, in areas where limestone occurs, are not so suitable. Areas with moist, humid summers are best for dogwoods, and hot, dry summers like those on the Prairies or in the Mountain states are not so suitable for them. Even mature trees should be watered during longer dry-spells in the summer. This tree is highly resistant to the unsightly leaf disease called powdery mildew, and even more importantly, to the deadly disease called anthracnose, which has killed so many American flowering dogwoods, especially in the north-east. Other pests are not normally problems, and deer usually leave this tree alone.
The Constellation Flowering Dogwood is a hybrid tree created by Professor Elwin R. Orton, Jr., a biologist and plant breeder at Rutgers University, in New Jersey. Seeing the devastation caused by anthracnose on the American dogwood, he wanted to create new, disease-resistant trees. He began a long breeding program which produced the Stellar Series, and some other varieties as well. In the early 1970s Professor Orton took pollen from a plant of a variety of the American dogwood, Cornus florida `Cherokee Princess` and used it to pollinate a seed-grown plant of the Asian dogwood, Cornus kousa. He grew the seedlings for several years before selecting one particular tree. After testing it for almost 20 years, to ensure it was disease resistant and reliable, he patented it in 1990 with the name ‘Rutcan’. The patent was owned by Rutgers University, and the proceeds went to further research and breeding. That patent expired in 2010. This tree has always been sold with the registered trademark name of Constellation®. This great tree is reproduced by taking stem pieces and attaching them to the roots of seedling dogwoods, and not from seed. In that way the exact characteristics are transmitted without any change. With the spread of anthracnose, resistant varieties of flowering dogwood like this one are in high demand, so order your trees right away, as our limited stock will soon be gone.