The Cornus alternifolia group
The C. alternifolia group comprises trees and shrubs with outstanding architectural attributes; their branches appear to grow in graceful tiers, often with slightly upturned tips—hence the common name of pagoda dogwood. Many are native to North America. These underutilized small trees prefer moist, slightly acidic soil and protection from hot afternoon sun. Plant in spring.
The less common giant dogwood (C. controversa), which is native to Japan and China, and bigleaf dogwood (C. macrophylla), which is native to China and Korea, are also included in this group.
Height and spread: 5 x 6 m
Though often slow off the mark, it’s worth the wait for a form that’s often less like a tree and more like a large, multi-stemmed shrub with leaves edged in white. Small, creamy yellow flowers in early summer are followed by blue-black berries; variable red fall foliage. Prefers a partly shaded location and may need additional watering until established and during hot,
dry summers. Zone 3
‘Wstackman’ (a.k.a. golden shadows)
Height and spread: 3 to 4 m x 2 to 2.5 m
A new introduction with iridescent, lime green leaves, broadly edged in gold. White blooms in early summer, followed by blue-black berries and reddish purple fall foliage. More vigorous and faster to establish than ‘Argentea’. Zone 4
The Cornus mas group
The C. mas group contains the Eurasian Cornelian cherry dogwood (C. mas), as well as the tender Chinese dogwood (C. chinensis), Zone 8, and Japanese cornel dogwood (C. officinalis), Zone 6. Members of this group are renowned principally for their very early, sulfur yellow spring flowers, which usually upstage forsythia by several weeks. C. mas may suffer from C. florida bract-envy, but it’s handsome in all seasons, and seen to best advantage when grown as a large, multi-stemmed shrub. One of the easiest dogwoods to cultivate, it transplants readily and is tolerant of a wide range of wet or dry soils and pH levels. It withstands heavy pruning and can be used for hedging. The fruit makes an excellent jelly.
Height and spread: 6 m
A golden-leafed form; more yellow in full sun, greener in shade; red fruit. Hardy to –34°C. Zone 4
Height and spread: 7 x 5 m
A prolific, early bloomer, though more tender. Zone 5