What is the starry white tree that you see blooming everywhere these days? Most likely it’s the Kousa dogwood, native to Japan, China and Korea. This is the analog to our native dogwood, the Cornus florida. However, as dogwood anthractnose began to infect native stands, many people decided to plant the resistant Kousa dogwood instead. This tree is 20′-30′ tall and wide, has glossy green leaves and four-part ivory or pink flowers. It has a long season of bloom in June and July. Beginning life as an upright specimen, it gradually becomes more rounded and horizontal as it matures.
Recently, I visited the Wakefield Estate in Milton during a garden party to herald Dogwood Days, the week in early June when about 300 Kousa dogwood trees came into bloom. Polly Wakefield, the late owner of the estate, was a plant enthusiast who took propagation classes at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston. She went on to grow Kousa dogwoods from seed and patented seven cultivars including ‘Greensleeves.’ All the Kousa dogwoods on the estate were grown by Polly, as well as many other interesting woody plants. I enjoyed a long stroll through various garden rooms, connected by pathways lined with Kousas. When lantern-style lights came on at dusk, I had an entirely new experience of this tree in bloom!
I have a special interest in Polly Wakefield, as she was a graduate of the Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture for Women, which once operated on Main Street in Groton (1901-1945). Ten years ago I was invited to research and lecture on the history of the school and its graduates for the Groton Historical Society. That project sparked my interest in the fascinating early days of the field and fueled my intention to write a book on the school’s history in my retirement. There is much primary source information on the school in local repositories that has not been published.
You, too, can visit the Wakefield Estate. Plan your visit at www.wakefieldtrust.org