On Wednesday, I introduced you to my new Terrace Garden, and featured the center “Shrubbery Row”. Today I will highlight the lower section of this bed, which I have christened “Dogwood Corner.”The centerpiece here is a Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa). I had really wanted a pink flowering dogwood tree, but my landscaper advised against it, telling me they really don’t do well in our particular area. Upon thinking, I realized that I indeed have not seen any pink dogwoods locally. Logic prevailed and I agreed to the Kousa.
According to the Missouri Botanical Garden plant finder website, and the Arbor Day Foundation, the Kousa dogwood is a small deciduous tree native to Japan and Korea, and features white, three to five-inch wide, four-petaled bracts in the late spring. It should slowly grow to fifteen to thirty feet tall, with a similar sized spread. As it matures, its branches will grow horizontally to form a canopy. In the summer, its flowers will develop into pink to red berries, and in the fall its foliage will turn scarlet. It is more cold tolerant and disease resistant than flowering dogwood. It prefers full sun or partial shade, and moderately moist, well-drained soil. It is deer resistant.
Being young and newly transplanted, my Kousa is still fairly vertical and sported only a few small, soft-white flower bracts early in the summer. The flowers did mature into berry-like fruits which are still green. The tree is nearly seven feet tall.
Knowing this tree will grow, spread, and provide increasing shade as time passes, I chose to populate the area around it with annuals that can be changed every year, rather than perennials. Of course my choices needed to be both deer and woodchuck resistant, as well as tolerant of full sun since the tree casts a small shadow this year!
I chose marigolds for the front. Over the years, my appreciation for this common, stinky flower has grown. They add bright color, nothing but slugs eat them (hasn’t been an issue this year!), and they really aren’t very fussy about moisture or soil quality. I’ve had very good luck with both ‘Bonanza Orange’ and ‘Bonanza Yellow’ French marigolds; they’ve developed into bushy, heavily flowered plants:A bit farther back in the bed, I planted a section of African Marigold ‘Inca Orange’, for its height. It blooms well, and has grown to more than a foot tall, but I don’t favor it as much as the ‘Bonanzas’. It is not as bushy a plant, and its flowers are larger, up to four inches wide. Their color is less vibrant than that of ‘Bonanza’. My dislike for ‘Inca Orange’ is a reflection of my personal taste more than a criticism of the flower!I’m also less happy with French Marigold ‘Hero Yellow.’ It is a smaller plant with a less bushy habit. I do like its lemony yellow color, though.Additionally, I had problems with ‘Hero Yellow’ developing red leaves and showing stilted growth. Upon research I found that marigolds may do this if they are planted too early in the spring before the ground is warm enough. The cold soil inhibits phosphorus intake, and the leaves turn purplish-red. Adding phosphorus to the soil is not recommended since the plant is unable to absorb it. The plants that suffered the most were the ones I planted earliest. It was early June, but with our late spring, the soil just wasn’t warm enough for them yet. As the soil has warmed, some have sent up new, green foliage, but others remain mostly red and stunted.
Also suffering are the Vinca ‘Cora Strawberry.’ I have been diligent in keeping the Kousa dogwood watered, and all of that moisture is killing the poor Vinca, which thrives in near-drought conditions. I chose it because I wanted some pink in the mix, but it clearly was a poor choice. I’ve love Vinca flowers and I grow them often, so I can’t believe I didn’t know better!Because I really like Gomphrena (Globe Amaranth), I chose to mix ‘Buddy Purple’ with the marigolds. It prefers hot weather, so was slow to start, but it is coming along now. I love it combined the ‘Bonanza Orange’ marigold, but I do wish the plants would bush out fuller!Over the past few years, I’ve come to really like the blue-flowering Salvias, so I chose both ‘Evolution’ and ‘Victoria Blue’. Some are doing well; others not so much. I would say that the plants I put in later, when the soil was warmer, are doing better than the ones I planted earlier. All of them are coming along more slowly than I would like, just now beginning to bloom, and barely spreading. Additionally, I believe ‘Victoria Blue’ is performing better than ‘Evolution.’To bring a little more pink to the party, I planted a row of zonal geraniums in three shades of pink. On the uphill side of the dogwood, they have not suffered from over-watering the way the Vinca have. They’ve bloomed consistently since planting, and are doing well here. I plant to overwinter them in the house this year to save some money next year!Finally, I have lined the back wall with one of my favorite flowers, Cleome. Unfortunately, the nursery tag did not identify the cultivar of these plants; I do know, however, that it is not the sterile ‘Senorita Rosalita’. These plants have slightly sticky, thorny stems, and the flowers form seed pods when they are spent.These Cleome range from 30 to 40 inches tall, and boast flower heads 6 to 8 inches across. I nipped their buds when I planted them, which delayed bloom by a bit, but resulted in well branched, heavy blooming plants. They self-seed reliably, and I am looking forward to a cost-free stand of Cleome next year and in years to come. The only thing I will do differently with the Cleome next year is extend the patch all the way around the curve of the wall to its end.
It makes me happy to look down from the house and see Cleome’s lovely heads gently bobbing about above the wall!I had such fun planning and creating this bed! After so many years of fitting things into existing, already crowded areas, it was exhilarating (and mildly daunting!) to have so much empty space to work with! I’ve learned a great deal in Dogwood Corner this year, and am already looking forward to implementing improvements next year. It will be great!