The plant outside my window: native flowering dogwood

The dogwood tree outside my office window was one of the few plants on our property when my husband and I bought our house almost 19 years ago. The previous owners had planted it to commemorate the birth of their daughter five years earlier.

Initially I lamented that the tree had been planted in the wrong place—a full sun western exposure with additional reflected heat from the house’s brick siding. In the wild, flowering dogwoods are an understory tree in eastern North America, growing in the shade or at the edge of the woods. I was doubly concerned about the longevity of this tree since wild and cultivated native dogwood trees have been decimated by a fungal disease, Anthracnose. I pruned the young tree to enhance its natural elegant shape, fed it, and hoped for the best. I continue to coddle it with water during hot dry spells and feed it occasionally.

The tree has become more beautiful with each season. Its branches have spread horizontally into the classic graceful shape of flowering dogwoods. It has also grown taller so that now, from

side garden from above.JPG

The dogwood tree outside my window and a little shade garden beneath it in early spring.

my office window, I see into its upper branches. I marvel at this tree almost daily and in every season. It is a living presence, a feature of our home that we have come to love and cherish.

In late April, its flower buds awaken before the leaves, creating a cloud of white blossoms set against the blue spring sky. I have planted a little shade garden, a summer oasis for birds and chipmunks, in the ever-widening coolness of its spreading limbs. In autumn, the leaves turn fiery red and clusters of crimson berries dot the branch tips. I love watching the birds gobble those berries well into December. I keep a birdfeeder just beyond the furthest limbs, and the dogwood’s bare branches becomes a busy landing site for chickadees, cardinals, finches, blue jays, sparrows, titmice, and doves waiting to take their turn at the feeder. Squirrels make daredevil attempts to launch themselves onto the feeder from the tree’s bending branch tips. The furry scoundrels scurry up the trunk and scold me from above when I tromp outside to fil the feeders.

I never get tired of this glorious tree or the wildlife that enjoys it more than I do. Do you have a beautiful plant outside your window? I’d love to hear about it!

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