Maybe I’m just longing for spring, but I’m convinced that
California gardeners could hardly do better than to choose a Pacific dogwood, a
California native, or the more widely known Eastern dogwood, as a focal point in
the garden. Both produce grey branches
that grow in a pleasing horizontal pattern in winter. Both burst into spectacular bloom in April or May, with a second
flowering possible in September. As if
that wasn’t enough, the leaves turn a glowing red, yellow, or pink in
fall. After the leaves drop, clusters
of scarlet fruit provide a feast for the birds into winter. Dogwood berries are favorites among over
ninety different birds, including cedar waxwings, song sparrows, and

The dogwood trees in my
neighborhood grow in the shadow of a tall house where they are protected from
sunburn. The Eastern dogwood will only
reach about twenty feet tall, while the Pacific dogwood can reach fifty feet. Both prefer the company of high-branching
trees that can offer them a little shelter from the sun in hot climates. Coastal gardeners may also want to consider
planting a dogwood in a sheltered spot to protect fragile blooms from strong
winds and late spring storms. If you
have the space, consider adding a flowering dogwood to a stand of cedars, oaks,
or the majestic Pacific madrone. 

The Pacific dogwood, like many
California natives, demands very little in the way of routine care. In fact, it is downright offended by regular
garden watering, fertilizing, and pruning. Its bark is tender and any cuts along small branches could provide a way
in for diseases or pests. Plant your
Pacific dogwood in well-drained soil and water infrequently once established.