Companion Plants: Cornus capitata
Sidney, British Columbia
In the fall 1998 Journal I noticed the article and photos by Bob Zimmermann of Port Ludlow, Washington, about his trip recently to southern China where he had seen the beautiful yellow-flowered dogwood, Cornus capitata. As it happens, I have a tree of Cornus capitata growing in my garden. I was given this tree as a seedling by John Trawlany of Sidney, British Columbia, who had gotten seed for his two trees from his brother in Cornwall, England.
Being from the area of southern China and Burma, this tree is marginally hardy, although it seems to do all right here on the south end of Vancouver Island. My tree is now about 8 feet (2.4 m) tall and bloomed for the first time this spring in June.
Cornus capitata flower.
Photo by Bill Dale
As can be seen from the accompanying photo, it is a good yellow. As the flowers age, some turn a beautiful pink (or red) color. Another nice feature of this tree is the abundance of large seed pods. These seed pods, larger than a golf ball, are red in color and beautifully marked. When fully ripe they become quite mushy at which time the seeds, about ¼ inch long, can be extracted. If planted in the greenhouse or cold frame, they will germinate the following spring about June. Bob Zimmermann reports that his seedlings are 1½ to 2 inches tall, and mine are about 1 inch tall.
Cornus capitata seed pods.
Photo by Bill Dale
I look forward to sharing these seedlings with other ARS members to grow as a beautiful companion plant in their rhododendron gardens. I believe that they do require a mild climate (the Cornwall climate is similar to southern Vancouver Island's), and as they grow to a good size 12 to 15 feet (3.5 to 4.5 m) tall they also require plenty of space.
Bill Dale is a member of the Cowichan Valley Chapter.