Every Dogwood Has Its Day

Every Dogwood Has Its Day

The flowering dogwood is considered a treasure in the landscape. Native to the eastern half of the U.S., this Virginia state tree can soften the vertical lines of a home or provide background for other plants like azaleas by providing striking horizontal structure.

Dogwoods are a standard tree in many gardens where they are used to shade patios, add spring or fall color or provide lovely floral accents with their pink, white or red blooms.

Dogwoods also attract wildlife; because they produce fruit, they are favorites of birds. 

The popularity of this tree could be why the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum in Tennessee is establishing a Dogwood Nature Trail - a more than quarter mile walking trail through a raised canopy oak woodland, featuring a unique collection of native flowering dogwood and disease-resistant cultivars of the tree, otherwise known as cornus florida. The trail is set to debut this August.

"We're trying to put Knoxville on the map as a pretty place to visit, and dogwoods are a piece of that natural beauty," says Steve Seifried, executive director of the Knoxville Botanical Garden & Arboretum.  

This year, Wolf Tree made a donation, with a contribution from The Davey Tree Expert Company, to the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum for establishing this trail. The partnership grew from a relationship between the Wolf family and the gardens. The botanical gardens are located on 44 acres of what was once Howell Nurseries, which dates back to the late 1700s, and feature walking trails, finished gardens, unique and historic horticulture and 4 miles of distinctive stone walls and timeless buildings. Wolf Tree has worked with the Howell family since Jacob and Margaret Wolf started Wolf Tree Experts in Knoxville in 1926. Prior to starting that company, Jacob Wolf worked for Davey. The two companies came together again when Wolf Tree became a division of Davey in 2008.

On April 16, 11 Wolf Tree volunteers helped to build a trail through the new dogwood garden portion of the arboretum. They moved more than 15 tons of heavy stone, ranging from 20 to 150 pounds per rock.

WOlf Tree1 - low res
Wolf Tree professionals volunteer at Knoxville Botanical Garden & Arboretum.

"It is one thing to help contribute funding to a great project like this, but it's even more meaningful to be able to stand back and look … and see what we were able to get done here in a day," Wolf said.

In addition to collecting as many different varieties of dogwoods from the original 14 that the Howells are famous for bringing to market, another area of the space will feature special anthracnose-resistant cultivars - combinations of native and Asian varieties, Seifried says. Anthracnose can tarnish a dogwood's image by producing tan, blotchy leaf spots and dead leaves and twigs.

When the Dogwood Nature Trail is complete, a plaque in front of it will commemorate the partnership saying, "The great appreciation of trees valued by Howell Nurseries, Davey and Wolf Tree is part of the history of Arboriculture that continues with the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum."

So if you need a break this summer, put this secret garden paradise in Knoxville on your list … it's a great place to admire the dogwood and get lost in nature. The gardens "welcome all dreamers seeking an escape from the every day."


FUN FACT: Bruce Howell, one of the family owners of Howell Nurseries, which is today the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum, discovered the pink flowering dogwood in Prosser's Woods behind Chihowee Park in Knoxville around the turn of the 20th century.

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