Friday, April 15, 2011

English Dogwood

Bordering the back property line of our flat, long-neglected, wildflower and mushroom filled backyard runs an old, misshapen, fairly ugly chain link fence. Growing in, through and among the fencing are volunteer trees and brambles and rambling plants. The hubs began whacking back the growth last winter but gave out and gave up way before spring. Thankfully. Because two rambling plants turned out to be English Dogwood.

Regular readers may recall this discovery last year as well as a shout-out asking to help identify these flowers. Since we'd recently moved all my gardening books were packed up and I'd no way to ID these beauties. My "Twinnie," Carroll shot me an e-mail, telling me that these grew in her grandmother's house in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Her grandmother Bess called them English Dogwoods, and by cracky that's exactly what I have growing in my backyard.

These two English Dogwoods of ours are blooming this week like crazy. Each one is at least 10-12 feet high, cascading overhead, dancing on the wind and covered in white blooms. They are so beautiful and captivating. I've fallen in love with them and have given them names - Hattie and Bess, after Carroll's grandmother Bess in Hattiesburg.

The blossoms carry very little to no scent. There are no thorns. When the blooms fade the towering greenery provides a soft green background.

Wednesday morning Carroll sent me an e-mail. "FYI. Today is the anniversary of my grandmother, Mom Bess's death in 1968. Tell Bess and Hattie I am thinking about them today."

I did just that, and took these photos to share. Because I always photograph these beauties this time I tried to channel Georgia O'Keefe as much as possible.

My usual MO is to take closeups of the blossoms but I want to try to give you an idea of their overall beauty. Above is Bess, whose shape is really the best because the hubs never got far down the fence line with his whacking. If you look closely you can see Baylee meandering to the left.

A garden bench would be perfect beneath either or both. Delicate limbs support a gazillion white flowers overhead, texturing the ground beneath with dimpling, dancing sunlight. A perfect place for reading, journaling or pondering.

I found a delightful article about English Dogwoods on by Debbie M. Lord. If you have time and are interested in knowing more about these plants she offers terrific background on them and shares their wonderful history. "Whatever Happened to English Dogwoods?"

On this day the breeze was cool and blustery, and during the rare times of stilled wind the sun was warm on my face. Because this was Grandmother Bess's birthday and these plants are named in her honor the time spent with them felt sacred and special. I thought of Carroll, knowing how she would have loved to have been with me, sharing stories of Bess and her family, her childhood.

However, knowing Hattie and Bess are just outside, in the backyard, visible from my windows, lends a connection to my friend in joyous fashion. One simply cannot be wistful when Hattie and Bess are blooming their hearts out. I'm reminded instead of glorious walks in gardens, adventurous road trips and heartfelt conversations for hours.

Friendships are such gifts. I feel blessed to have found such wonderful women all over the county, the world, who teach me so much. Sharing plants, sharing stories connect women. There are the occasional man who enjoys the practice as well, so I should not generalize. However, my experience has been that women trading plants connect them on a cosmic, organic level.

English Dogwood is reported to be easy to grow in the South, and by the looks of these thick, green, wildly-blossoming examples I would say that's true. These look like they were planted and forgotten. Indeed, pruning is not necessary and I dare say would spoil the natural beauty of its dancing branches. I can personally attest to this plant growing in extremely poor soil, in mostly shady conditions, forgotten completely by whomever planted them. Likely, you could plant one and then just stand back, grab a glass of wine and watch it grow.

English Dogwood. My new favorite plant.


Bo Mackison said...

So beautiful, Debi, and you caught so much of their delicacy, their freshness, their simplicity. One of my favorite flowers id their cousin, the "other" dogwood. the tree. Different in stature and custom, but with such a similar flower.

These are a lovely way to start my morning before a day of travel. Thank you.

Gaelyn said...

Such a wonderful tribute to Bess and a reminder of friends. Your captures are Magnificent. I can see Georgia in these. So glad spring has arrived for you to enjoy your new surroundings. And that hubby didn't get a chance to wack these off.

Hilda R.B said...

Wonderful! Like them a lot!

Julie Magers Soulen said...

Lovely photos! I'm so glad your hubs didn't remove the dogwoods.

Julie Magers Soulen Photography

Anonymous said...

Really pretty. I'd never heard of English Dogwood. Thanks for sharing and teaching me.

The Garden Ms. S said...

What a lovely post. Beautiful blooms and beautiful sentiments. :)

jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

A beautiful plant indeed, Debi, and lovely sentiments. One of your wonderful, heartwarming posts, perfect for a cool Sunday.

bunnits said...


Jan@Thanks for today. said...

This is a lovely dogwood. You have lots to keep you busy in your new yard...and lots to take in and savor, as well. I do hope you are safe after the horrible tornadoes that wreaked havoc & devastation. Please let us know how you are. I am so sorry for the loss of life and destruction and hope you and yours are ok, Debi;-)


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