Milky Way Kousa Dogwood TreeCornus kousa var. chinensis 'Milky Way'
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Cornus kousa var. chinensis 'Milky Way'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Milky Way Kousa Dogwood is a beautiful flowering tree that will bring many seasons of beauty to your garden. It flowers in late spring, when the branches are smothered in a profusion of large, creamy-white flowers for almost a month. These are followed by interesting strawberry-like red fruits, and in fall the leaves turn spectacular and beautiful shades of reds, oranges and golds. Even the mottled bark is beautiful in winter. Growing to 20 feet tall and wide, this gorgeous tree is perfect on a lawn, at the edge of a woodland, by a stream, or indeed, anywhere at all you can grow it.
The Milky Way Kousa Dogwood is resistant to the deadly anthracnose disease that is devastating American dogwoods, and its is very resistant to powdery mildew too. Grow it in moist, rich, well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Alkaline soils and regions with hot, dry summers are less suitable. Deer leave it alone and it needs no trimming to develop its lovely form, with layers of outstretched branches display the flowers.
Although everyone loves and can recognize flowering dogwoods, with their beautiful white or pink flowers in late spring, few people realize there are actually two distinct types. It’s understandable, since they look similar, but one is from America and the other is from China and Japan. We might like to be patriotic, but the reality is that the Asian species is easier to grow, and significantly less sensitive to the disease that is killing many American dogwood trees. If you are looking to grow a dogwood, then it makes sense to choose an Asian form for the garden, and if you want the best, with profuse blooms of white flowers, a heavy crop of colorful berries, and spectacular fall colors, combined with good disease resistance, then you can’t go wrong with the Milky Way Kousa Dogwood. It’s a win-win for you and your garden.
The Milky Way Kousa Dogwood grows into a broad tree, 20 feet tall and wide. When planting, be sure to allow enough room for that spread, and plant at least 12 feet from walls or other obstructions. When young it will have a central trunk, but as it matures it develops several major limbs, and a very graceful form, with broad, flat layers of branches spreading outwards. The bark in winter is attractive, since on older limbs and the trunk it forms plates that shed in an irregular way, creating mottled colors of tans, oranges and soft grays, in a ‘camouflage’ fashion. The leaves are gracefully formed, broad and tapering to an elegant tip. They are a rich green, and in fall they take on brilliant reds, oranges and golds, that rival the best maples and oaks – if this was all the tree did it would be totally worth growing.
That fall coloring is fantastic, but its just a bonus compared with the spectacular flowering of this tree. It comes into bloom 2 or 3 weeks after the American flowering dogwood, so if you already have that, this flowering tree is great for extending the dogwood season in your garden. The large flowers, which are in reality modified leaves called ‘bracts’, are broad and flat, up to 4 inches across, and each of the four ‘petals’ tapers to a point. They are a gorgeous creamy-white color, and flowering, even on young trees, is so profuse that the leaves are almost completely hidden. A tree in bloom is one of those seasonal treats that makes gardening so very worthwhile, and blooming lasts almost a whole month. In the center of each ‘flower’ is a small greenish cluster of the true flowers, which have no petals. Once the bracts fall the flowers develop into a round fruit, about 1-inch across. This hangs on a long stalk, and turns red, looking like a strange strawberry, and these decorate the tree beautifully in late summer and fall. They are edible, but insipid and uninteresting. They become a valuable winter food for wild birds, and all too soon they will be gone.
Grow the Milky Way Kousa Dogwood as a specimen tree on a lawn – it has something to offer in all seasons, and its graceful charms will captivate you. Plant it on the eastern edge of a wooded area, or at the back of a large shrub bed. In larger spaces a cluster of 3 or even 5 trees would be glorious. Use it on the eastern side of your home, against a blank wall, or in a corner, allowing enough room for its final size when planting. It would look lovely by a pond, steam or lake, and the damper soil and cool air there would help it grow well. An avenue of trees flanking a long driveway would be simply amazing, but even if you have a smaller garden, try to find a place for this lovely tree, you will never regret it.
You might see from these suggestions that the Milky Way Kousa Dogwood grows best in full sun or partial shade. Full sun is suitable in cooler zones, and in hotter ones afternoon shade is appreciated. It is hardy in zones 5 to 8 and it grows well across most of the country, with the exception of the Prairies and south-west, where the summers are too hot and dry for it perform well. The ideal soil is moist, rich in organic material, and well-drained. Using plenty of rotted compost when planting, and every year or two as a mulch over the roots, will make a big difference to the performance of this plant in your garden. The soil should be acid to neutral, and alkaline soils are not so suitable. Regular watering is helpful in summer, even for well-established trees. On the upside, pruning and trimming are not needed, or advised, as the natural form of this tree is the best one. Just remove any smaller branches that may have died, and let your tree grow as it chooses.
The disease dogwood anthracnose (caused by the fungus Discula destructiva) has devastated natural areas where the native American dogwood, Cornus florida, grows. This disease has also spread to ornamental trees in gardens, particularly in the northeast. It is a great relief to know that the Milky Way Kousa Dogwood has good resistance to this fatal disease. As well, native trees are prone to develop the unsightly gray powdery leaf covering of powdery mildew, but your tree will also be resistant to that. Other pests and diseases are of little consequence, and deer normally leave this tree alone. Once you have a good location in suitable soil, there is little else to do to make your tree thrive and grow.
The Milky Way Kousa Dogwood is a selected garden variety of the kousa dogwood, Cornus kousa var. chinensis. That tree grows in China, and it is a form of a tree from Japan and Korea, so it is sometimes called the Asian dogwood. In the 1960s nursery growers at Wayside Gardens, then based in Menton, Ohio, decided to look for superior forms of this tree, which at that time was grown mostly from seed. They raised a large batch of seeds and selected the best 15, for superior form and prolific blooming. These plants were named ‘Milky Way’, and stem pieces from all of them were grafted onto seedling roots to produce trees. These plants are vastly superior to unnamed varieties just called ‘kousa dogwood’, and it always pays to grow the best. This tree has big ‘name recognition’ among gardeners, so the demand is always high, and regularly outstrips our ability to source supplies. You should order now, because we can’t guarantee when we will next have stock available – don’t miss out.