Wolf Eyes Kousa DogwoodCornus kousa var. chinensis ‘Wolf Eyes’
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Cornus kousa var. chinensis ‘Wolf Eyes’
Outdoor Growing zone
Partial Sun, Shade
The Wolf Eyes Kousa Dogwood is a large shrub or small tree, 8 to 10 feet tall, maturing in time to as much as 20 feet tall and wide, in ideal locations. The leaves have a unique rippled edge, and they are bordered with a bold stripe of creamy-white. The green center has slightly smoky-gray overtones, and the leaves turn stunning shades of pinks, light and dark, in fall. The mottled bark has muted tones of gray, pink and tan, and older plants have attractive spreading and layered branches. Large, pure-white blooms smother the branches all through June, and red, strawberry-like fruits develop by late summer.
Full sun is great for the Wolf Eyes Kousa Dogwood in cooler zones, or afternoon shade in warmer ones. This variety grows better in full shade than others, keeping its white variegation well. Plant it in rich, moist, well-drained soil, preferably acidic or neutral, and avoid dry soils and very alkaline ones. This tree is resistant to the deadly anthracnose disease that troubles the American dogwood, and it is generally free of problems and untouched by deer. Soak well periodically over the summer.
Most of our garden trees and shrubs have one main feature, often flowers or foliage colors. Some lucky plants seem to have it all, and that is nowhere truer than with the Wolf Eyes Kousa Dogwood. The beautiful rippling leaves with a broad band of creamy white all around their edges make it beautiful, and also perfect for brightening shady corners (where it thrives), while the spectacular large white flowers of early summer are a thrill that lasts a full month. Add in the red strawberry fruits for interest, and then in fall those leaves take on the most striking and unique tones of glowing pinks. All this is more than enough for any one plant, but we must also add the fascinating mottled winter bark, and the graceful layered look the branches develop with maturity. Bring this tree into your garden and it will instantly enter your heart and become your absolute favorite – your other plants will be giving ol’ wolf eyes the green eyes of envy.
The Wolf Eyes Kousa Dogwood is a large shrub or small tree, whose ultimate size can vary considerably, depending on the location, growing conditions and where you garden. For some it develops into a compact shrub around 8 feet tall and wide, but in other locations it can become a multi-stem tree, 15 or even 20 feet tall, and just as wide, with the branches developing a graceful, layered look. Choose a location where there will be enough room should it decide to develop fully – a specimen like that deserves a showcase spot.
While waiting for it to mature, you can enjoy the beautiful leaves from day one. These are long, heart-shaped ovals, that are held pendulously, with an undulating edge that creates a unique rippling look. The center of the leaves is a bright green softened by a smokey hint of gray, surrounded by a broad line of creamy white. In fall the leaves turn multiple shades of glowing, smokey pinks, brighter around the edges and more reddish in the center of the leaf. When the leaves fall, feast your eyes on the gorgeous mottled bark, in shades of muted tans, pinks and grays – a great winter feature of this tree.
Around the end of May, and continuing for a full month through June, this tree will bloom. This is 2 or 3 weeks after the American dogwood flowers, so this is a great tree to extend the dogwood season. All along the branches large flowers, 3 or even 4 inches across, open, spreading out 4 leaf-like ‘petals’ around a greenish central knob. Blooming is followed in late summer with strawberry-like red fruits on long stems. These are edible – some say the taste is like papaya – and also attractive to birds.
This gorgeous tree deserves a special spot in your garden. Grow it as a striking lawn specimen, in sun or partial shade, or plant it along the edges of a woodland area. Grow it in a large shrub bed as a backdrop, or plant it on a bank, where the layered branches can be very effective, visually.
You can grow this tree across many zones, from zone 5 to zone 8, or zone 9 in the Northwest. It grows best in areas with cooler, damp summers, and not so well where the weather is hot and dry for long periods.
In northern zones the Wolf Eyes Kousa Dogwood grows well in full sun, but in other areas some afternoon shade is beneficial, although this variety has better resistance to sun scorch than other variegated kousa dogwoods. It also grows better than most with less light and even in full shade, without any greening or reduction in the bold pattern of variegation. The ideal soil for this plant is rich, moist, well-drained and neutral to acidic. Dry soils and strongly alkaline soils are not so suitable. All soils should be enriched with plenty of lime-free organic material, like rotted leaves or peat moss, Use more as a mulch over the root-zone, avoiding direct contact with the trunk and branches.
Because this tree is a variety of kousa dogwood, not of our American dogwood, it has the great advantage of being much more resistant to the deadly anthracnose disease that has killed so many of our native trees. If you love dogwoods but live in an area where this disease is common, then kousa dogwoods are the solution. This tree is generally unbothered by other pests or diseases, including deer, too, so apart from some deep soaks during summer, no other care is needed. It doesn’t need much pruning either – best to let it develop naturally. You can, if you wish, do some training to develop a small number of main trunks – 2 or 3 perhaps – and open up the branching a little, by removing crowded branches while they are still young.
The Kousa Dogwood, Cornus kousa, was first known in the West from trees brought from Japan and Korea. These proved hard to grow outside their homes, but a variety found later in Western China by the plant collector Ernest Wilson turned out to be more adaptable. This plant, Cornus kousa var. chinensis, is the parent of almost all today’s garden varieties. The variegated variety called ‘Wolf Eyes’ was discovered at the Manor View Nursery in Monkton, Maryland, in 1988. It was a single variegated branch on an unknown variety of kousa dogwood.
This unique tree has been recognized by experts as something very special. Dr. Paul Cappiello, the Director of Yew Dell Botanical Gardens in Kentucky, wrote a book with the plant-expert and nurseryman Don Shadow. In it they described this tree as a “true standout” among the best varieties of kousa dogwood available. Yew Dell Gardens gave it their Theodore Klein Plant Award in 2006. These kinds of recommendations mean a lot when choosing that special plant for your garden. Don’t pass up this opportunity to buy the Wolf Eyes Kousa Dogwood, and order now, while our supply remains available – it won’t be for long.