Planning your garden is a lot of fun and there is always so much to choose from, whether you are looking for vibrant flowering shrubs, fruit trees, things to attract bees, birds and wildlife or something that come fall will bring a burst of vibrant color to your landscape. If you are fortunate enough to have the space needed for a good size tree then it would be a shame not to utilize it, as so often we focus on the space immediately around us and forget we can extend our planting into the air above us, often providing privacy in overlooked spaces too. There are multitudinous reasons for introducing good sized trees onto your property and the right tree will bring you drama and interest, while also providing food for a wide range of wildlife – not to mention the much appreciated shelter that is to be found among the branches. The pagoda dogwood is just such an example with its very unique shape and delicate fragrant flowers.
The pagoda dogwood is native to eastern North America with a range covering Newfoundland, southern Manitoba and Minnesota then south to northern Florida and Mississippi. Their preference for moist, well drained soil means they are found along the edges of forests and swamps, and are also common in mature forests beneath the canopy of larger deciduous trees. This ability to grow in the shade of other plants makes them ideal for shady spots in the garden as they do not require full sun all day, even the very young trees as can often be the case. The pagoda dogwood will just thrive in the moist shady bit that many worry about filling with something spectacular. This is not an enormous tree and will not overshadow the rest of your garden; it has been known to reach 30 feet but is more often found at around 25 feet when fully mature, with a spread that can be almost as wide – so it is a good idea to take that into consideration when choosing what to plant beside it. To truly appreciate the horizontal growth this plant displays it is best to give it the room to do so.
Quite aside from the splendor of this tree’s form when seen from a distance, the foliage itself is highly ornamental with the ovate leaves growing alternately around the stem; each is deeply marked with veins that resemble a feather. A rich matt green with pale underside adds to the overall texture of the tree and this two tone look is one that really comes to life in a breeze. Late spring sees clusters of tiny, creamy white flowers with upward reaching stamens – the sort of flowers you want to reach out and touch – develop on the upper-side of the horizontal branches, accenting the unusual nature of pagoda dogwood. Highly scented, these are very attractive to bees and butterflies. At the end of summer these beautiful flowers will be replaced with a great many black berries that, although are not edible for us, are very appealing to a wide range of birds and mammals. One of these is the black bear, probably something worth thinking about if you are already near a stomping ground for these animals.
The annual swansong of this tree can be extremely dramatic, with fall bringing deep purples and burgundies interspersed with reds and lemon yellows. A lovely farewell to that year and leaving you with much to look forward to in the next.
As the dogwood is found along swamp borders and near the bottom of deep canyons this is a plant that likes moisture, so do not be afraid of putting in that wet but well drained bit as it will thank you in the long run. It is unfussed by the alkalinity or acidity of the soil and is quite content with loam, sand or clay; it does not even much mind whether it is exposed to the wind or not. This is not a demanding tree and can reach its full height as early as 10 years old, and will certainly be there by twenty. Without interference it will become bushy over time; if, however, you desire a standard look then the new growth can be pruned from the lower trunk to encourage top growth. If you wish you can also thin intermediary branches in order to maximize the impact of its natural shape.
The pagoda dogwood is a highly decorative tree that provides texture and interest that is difficult to match, especially when in full flower. Not only will it bring a real touch of uniqueness to your landscape, it will attract many different birds that will use it as both shelter and food. So a win-win situation that just cannot be refused.