The dogwood genus, Cornus, contains around 40 species and many cultivars of deciduous trees and shrubs, mainly of north temperate climates. Dogwoods are grown for their showy flowers, colorful bark, and their architectural, nearly horizontal branching pattern. The flowers are actually very small and are surrounded by larger bracts that range in color from white to dark pink (bracts are similar in appearance to petals, but they are modified leaves).
This year, Governor Bill Haslam proclaimed April 21, 2018 as Tennessee Dogwood Day. This new proclamation is designed to recognize dogwoods across our state, as the trees begin to take full bloom, signifying springtime in the South. On Saturday, April 21, we will host our annual Dogs and Dogwoods event, a dog-friendly day in the gardens designed to celebrate Tennessee Dogwood Day and our significant dogwood collection, one that is unique of its kind.
The Carell Dogwood Garden at Cheekwood is the centerpiece of our Nationally Certified Cornus Collection. It is also the very first collection of its kind to be recognized by the Plant Collections Network, a collaborative effort between the American Public Gardens Association and the USDA-Agricultural Research Service. What began as just a few specimens donated to us in 1982 by Mr. and Mrs. Monroe Carell Jr. has expanded into a trail located between the Daffodil and Burr Gardens, complemented with other woodland vegetation common to Middle Tennessee.
Plant collections relate to a garden’s mission. Cheekwood aims to be a primary source for horticultural display, education, research, conservation, and enjoyment. Dogwoods are well suited for Cheekwood because not only are they undeniably beautiful but also, Tennessee native Cornus florida provides visitors with a sense of place. Currently, we display 343 specimens of Cornus. Cheekwood’s 23 cultivated varieties of Cornus florida have been selected to represent an emphasis on varieties exhibiting superior blooms, foliage, growth habit, vigor, hardiness, as well as disease and insect resistance.
Other than the picturesque flowering dogwood, Cheekwood is also the proud home of several Cornus officinalis (Japanese Cornel Dogwood), which blooms in February, and the evergreen Chinese dogwood (Cornus angustata), which blooms in early June. Growing along the shaded trail beneath the dogwood canopy, visitors will also see spring bulbs, hostas, hydrangeas, trilliums, ferns, gingers, and heucheras.