Sunday 21 October 2018

Wedding cake tree could be a perfect match for your plot

Gardens

Hardy: The wedding cake dogwood likes good, rich soil
Hardy: The wedding cake dogwood likes good, rich soil

Gerry Daly

What's in a name? When it comes to a good, catchy name for a plant, it helps greatly to make a plant more popular.

Of course, the plant has to have its merits, as even a good name will not sell rubbish. The wedding cake tree is so named for the rounded layers of branches, reducing in size from bottom to top, wedding-cake style. The creamy-white variegation reinforces the image. It is looking especially well just now with the variegation fully developed and the season's new growth expanded.

The wedding cake tree is a form of dogwood, one of the tree dogwoods, capable of reaching about five or six metres. It is often planted as a lawn specimen because the level surface of a lawn emphasises the dogwood's flat-tiered branches and makes it appear even more impressive. If it is planted in a mixed border, it should be located near the edge where it can be seen with some level lawn or paving in the foreground.

Usually sold as a fairly large plant in a pot, about one metre or so, the wedding cake dogwood is relatively expensive to buy - another reason to give it a good spot. It is difficult to propagate by grafting and the tree itself can be quite slow to make much growth for the first few years in the nursery, and extra time and care add to the expense.

Choose a tree of good shape to start with. Some specimens that are offered for sale are somewhat one-sided and not well-shaped. A good specimen should have a nice, straight lead shoot from which the horizontal branches fan out and new tiers can grow. If a plant has no strong leader, a shoot can be gently tied into position on a strong cane after planting to encourage the development of the next layer. The branches are more supple in spring. If a plant is unbalanced with growth to one side, a branch or two can be tied into position, using string and canes, during the summer. Untied in autumn or the following year, the trained branches will stay in position.

The wedding cake dogwood grows in acid or limy soil but it likes good, rich soil that does not dry out in summer. It is hardy and withstands cold. The leaves are soft and easily damaged by strong winds so it should be given a sheltered position. Keep a broad circle free of grass and weeds and mulch the surface every couple of years. The wedding cake dogwood is very pretty with sunlight coming through the leaves, especially in late spring and early summer, and in autumn when the leaves colour to yellow with purple-red tinges.

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